Almost 50 percent of postmenopausal women are troubled by insomnia and other sleep difficulties. However, a recent study found out that an herbal remedy like valerian extract may have potential positive effects on these problems.
For four weeks, 100 postmenopausal women plagued by insomnia were randomly divided into two groups and were given either 530 milligrams of concentrated valerian extract or a placebo twice a day.
Green Med Info reports:
“A statistically significant change was reported in the quality of sleep of the intervention group in comparison with the placebo group … Also, 30 percent of the participants in the intervention group and 4 percent in the placebo group showed an improvement in the quality of sleep … Findings from this study add support to the reported effectiveness of valerian in the clinical management of insomnia.” (link)
A 2010 poll from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that at least 60 percent of the U.S. population suffers from poor or insufficient sleep (link). Before light bulbs were used, people slept at least 10 hours a night. Today, the average American gets less than seven hours of sleep on weekdays and a bit more on weekends.
Reasons Why People Experience Insomnia
Dr. Rubin Naiman says sleep comes from two variables: sleepiness and “noise.” Noise can be any type of stimulation that inhibits or interrupts sleep, and is classified into three zones:
- Body – Physical pain, indigestion, discomfort, side effects from prescription drugs, and caffeine.
- Mind – The most common kind is called “cognitive popcorn,” which are unstoppable thoughts going through your mind at night.
- Environmental – These include noises in your room, as well as music, lights, or temperature.
To get a good night’s sleep, your sleepiness level should be high, while your noise level should be low. Ideally, your sleepiness gradually increases throughout the day, peaking before you go to bed at night. But if noise is conceptually greater than your sleepiness level, you will find it difficult to sleep.
Herbal Remedies and Melatonin May Help Treat Insomnia
As mentioned in the study above, valerian extract may be effective in reducing insomnia among post-menopausal women. Other studies support claims that valerian also improves:
- Deep sleep
- Speed of falling asleep
- Overall quality of sleep
Herbal remedies are better than taking sleeping pills, which may have dangerous side effects. Herbs affect people differently, and one proof is that 10 percent of people who take valerian are energized and awakened. However, Dr. Mercola says that these natural supplements may only be “symptomatic Band-Aids.” He says that it is better to treat the root of the problem instead.
Melatonin is also beneficial for a good night’s sleep. This is a hormone created by the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland in the middle of the brain. The pineal gland is affected by light and darkness. At night, your pineal turns “on” and starts to create melatonin that is released in your blood. This makes you feel sleepy.
A well-functional pineal gland gives you melatonin levels that stay elevated for 12 hours (usually between 9 am to 9 pm). When the sun rises, your pineal gland turns “off” and the melatonin levels in your blood go down. The pineal gland is sensitive to light and dark, which is why using light emitting electronic gadgets or even simply turning on a light in the middle of the night may disrupt your sleep for the rest of the night.
Research says that the amount of melatonin you make and release at night depends on your age. Children usually have higher levels of melatonin than adults, which explains why older adults often experience more disruption in their sleeping patterns, and may require melatonin supplementation.
However, Dr. Mercola says that finding the root cause is still the best option to help you treat insomnia.
Common Factors that Cause Poor Sleep
Light is a common factor that prevents people from getting sufficient sleep. Dr. Mercola recommends turning off your computer, TV, iPad, and other light-emitting technologies an hour before bedtime. Keeping your bedroom in pitch darkness is also recommended. You should also get rid of night-lights and refrain from turning on any light during the night. The only advisable light is a “low-blue” light bulb, which you can put in your bedroom and bathroom.
Another factor is your bedroom temperature. Keep it between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal temperature for sound sleep. A bedroom that’s too cold or too hot may lead to restless sleep, because it drops your body’s internal temperature to its lowest level four to five hours after you sleep.
Additionally, you should keep your bedroom free from electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) that may disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Remove alarm clocks, cellphones, cellphone chargers, wireless routers, and other electrical devices from your head. Do not run electrical cords underneath your bed and put your wirings in the wall in metal-clad conduit, if possible. Never sleep with your head against a wall that has electric meters, circuit breaker panels, televisions, or stereos, on the other side.
Read Dr. Mercola’s 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep for more useful tips.