Get the Sleep You Need Naturally

Get natural sleep with gentle, soothing herbs that deliver restful slumber. Plus instructions for making a hops pillow.

| February/March 2005

Sleep is essential to optimal health, helping our bodies and minds to recharge, re-energize and successfully navigate the day’s activities. The amount of sleep needed for a person to best function varies among individuals, with eight hours being the average. It is said that Thomas Edison thrived on only four hours of sleep each night, but that Albert Einstein required 12 hours for a good night’s rest.

But if there’s one thing we probably all have in common, it’s that we could use more sleep. With the stress of modern, busy lifestyles, it’s not uncommon to have a hard time falling asleep or getting enough rest. Sleep difficulty ranks third as a common complaint for individuals seeking medical advice, right behind headaches and the common cold. Each year, a third of Americans reportedly suffer at least occasional difficulty in falling asleep, and between 10 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population has habitual or severe difficulty in falling asleep.

More women are affected by sleep disturbances than men, and, statistically, sleep disturbances are known to increase with age. With little or no treatment, sleep disturbances can evolve into an increased risk of physical and mental disorders such as depression.

When most of us think of problems associated with sleeping, the word “insomnia” often comes to mind. Insomnia refers specifically to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. It can manifest in different patterns, including awakening frequently during the night, waking up too early in the morning or just poor sleep quality. To describe insomnia, herbal practitioners prefer the phrases “sleep disturbances” or “sleeping difficulties.”

Call it what you will — anxiety, stress or just plain excitement — the ups and downs of daily life can lead to sleep troubles. As a result, many people turn to prescription medications, which are potent drugs that may involve health risks including habit-forming behavior and even overdose. These drugs may often react with alcohol, as is the case with barbiturates, or lead to clumsiness or drowsiness the next day. Over-the-counter drugs are available, too, but they also may cause side effects such as grogginess, dry mouth and constipation.

For many consumers who do not need a physician’s attention, herbs may successfully help them achieve better sleep without unwanted side effects.

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