Although you might feel as if you’re the only one who can’t get a good night’s sleep, the truth is that one in every three people complains about insomnia. Fortunately, there are a variety of safe, natural ‘lullabies’ that can ease you into dreamland – without the risk of side effects.

What is it?

Though many people think of insomnia as the inability to fall asleep, it also involves not beign able to stay asleep or continually waking up earlier than planned. Sleep problems that last just a couple of nights or a few weeks are often ralted to stress or to excitement. But insomnia can become chronic, lasting for months or even years.

What causes it?

Insomnia is considered a symptoms or many underlying conditions or situations that may be hard to identify. Dietary and lifestyle factors, physical pain, a majory illness, medications, even a bad mattress, can all contribute to sleeplessness. For most people, however, tension, anxiety and depression lie at the root of insomnia. Discovering the basic cause or causes of your sleep problems may take some detective work, but it is ultimately the best way of finding a cure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Difficulty in falling asleep.
  • Inability to sleep all night.
  • Waking up too early.

Are there any natural therapies?

Numerous studies have found valerian, among the most researched of all herbal supplements, to be an effective sleep aid. It works best when rotated with other sedating herbs, such as chamomile, kava and passionflower. These herbs, taken in the form of pills, teas or tinctures, promote relaxation and reduce stress, making it easier to fall asleep.

An alternative to valerian is the prescription hormone melatonin, which is a synthetic version of the body’s own sleep hormone. It may be especially beneficial for people who can’t sleep because of chronic pain. Valerian or melatonin can be rotated with the herb St John’s wort or with the somewhat controversial supplement 5-HTP (a form of the amino acid tryptophan), both of which raise levels of the sleep inducing brain chemical serotonin.

In some instances, a nutrient deficiency, especially a lack of calcium, magnesium or vitamin B6, can lead to sleep problems, so replenishing those nutrients can be beneficial. The B vitamin niacinamide, taken with B6, is useful as well because it helps ease anxiety. It may be especially helpful to try magnesium or B6 along with 5-HTP.

What else can I do?

  • Stick to regular sleep pattern, even on weekends.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping, not for reading or watching television.
  • Exercise regularly (though not in the evening) to help reduce stress.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

Did you know?

One reason many people feel so tired and often nap after a traditional Christmas dinner is that turkey is especially rich in the amino acid tryptophan, a natural sleep inducer.