Tag Archives: insomnia

Good News Monday: You’ve Got Some Nervines!

Got stress? Lately I’ve seen several mainstream press mentions of nervines, natural herbs that are reported to help support the nervous system.

These include tonics made from organic skullcap and oat tops, mildly calming herbs such as catnip and chamomile, and stronger relaxants such as valerian root and hops.

Lavender and chamomile tea are pretty mainstream these days but here are several I didn’t know about, per a few websites. Many are staple folk remedies that have been used for centuries.

Have any of you tried any of these? I can’t personally vouch for them and since herbs aren’t regulated the way drugs have to be, it’s always wise to consult a physician about dosing and possible side effects. Still, I’m intrigued. Any recommendations?

Organic skullcap in bloom with purple flowers

  • Oat tops – Although they may not produce an immediate physical feeling of relaxation, oat tops are called a superfood for the nervous system, meant to support nerve functioning over time. Suggested for anyone who is overworked or relies on caffeine to get through the day, this herb is said to calm the nerves, reduce fatigue, relieve emotional instability, and help restore peace and tranquility to over-stressed and chronically upset people.
  • Skullcap – Helps relieve occasional tension and stress, circular thoughts, and nervousness. Can be used throughout the day during stressful situations or at night before bed to calm worried thoughts. I’m curious to try this one. Considered to have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, herbalists recommend skullcap for muscle tension, insomnia, chronic headaches and relaxation.
  • Chamomile – A classic, relaxing nighttime tea, the herb is also helpful for relieving mild daily mental stress.  If you don’t like the taste, try adding a little lemon and honey.
  • Lavender – This lovely calming herb is often used in aromatherapy applications. Wonderful in the bath or shower, massage oils, pillows, room sprays, and fragrance.
  • Lemon balm – Sunshine in plant form, this citrusy herb helps with nervous exhaustion, gloom, and restlessness, while also providing pure aromatic pleasure. Rub a leaf between your fingers and inhale deeply for an immediate mood boost.
  • Catnip – Gentle, calming herb suggested for sleeplessness in children and the elderly. Are we all cats at heart?
  • California poppy – Used for its calming properties, this plant helps promote relaxation in those seeking rest. Picture that wonderful scene in The Wizard of Oz!
  • Passionflower – Considered helpful for relieving general tension, occasional nervous restlessness, and supporting restful sleep.
  • Hops – With a distinctive flavor and action known well by beer drinkers everywhere, this plant supports relaxation and helps calm a nervous stomach.
  • Valerian – When sleep seems impossible thanks to nervous energy and a brain that won’t shut off, this potent herb encourages relaxation. Caution: for some people, valerian can have the opposite effect, causing stimulation and even more anxiety.  If this happens, an herbalist can suggest something else.

Wishing you all a relaxing, stress-free New Year.  We all deserve one! xx Alisa

A Sleep Trick

I just read about a brilliant way to lull yourself to sleep — or back to sleep if, like me, you tend to wake up in the middle of the night.

  1. Think of a letter — either at random or start at the beginning of the alphabet.
  2. Visualize a word beginning with that letter, e.g. “apple” for A.  Don’t choose anything you’re phobic about, such as clowns, heights or spiders.
  3. Keep thinking of new words beginning with the same letter (“avocado”, “armadillo”…) and take time to picture each one.
  4. When you run out of images, move on to a new letter.
  5. Keep going until you nod off.

I tried this in the middle of the night and bored myself back to sleep in record time!

Have a great, sleep-filled weekend, and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers, about-to-be mothers, or have ever had a mother.

Perchance to Dream

FullSizeRender(5)As I was tossing and turning the other night, I started thinking about how sleep has become the Holy Grail for a lot of people our age.

Whether it’s the result of menopause, stressing about retirement, anxiety over your kid’s latest relationship, or the fettucine alfredo you knew you shouldn’t have eaten, getting your zzz’s can be a challenge.

So I started reading (yep, at 3 a.m.) about tips for a better night’s rest. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Don’t exercise right before bedtime (unless it’s sex-ercise, which will knock you out faster than Muhammad Ali). Working out raises your body temperature and being cool, not hot, helps you sleep more soundly. (Exercising earlier in the day on a regular basis helps tire you out by bedtime.)
  1. Don’t watch TV, use your computer or check e-mail right before bed. Blue light from these screens signals your brain to shut off melatonin production – that’s the sleep hormone – and messes with your circadian rhythms, your normal sleep/wake body clock.
  1. Keep your bedroom cool and dark – add shades or curtains or wear a comfy sleep mask to shut out the light.
  1. Use a humidifier to avoid getting congested.
  1. Insomniacs secrete more cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone our bodies release when we’re stressed. One way to shut down obsessive thoughts? Make your to-do list or write down stuff that’s bothering you an hour or so before bedtime. Rub your neck, arms and shoulders when you get into bed and take some deep, calming breaths to help relax.

Another trick that seems to work is to eat a little peanut butter on whole wheat toast or crackers an hour before bed. Apparently the combination of complex carbs and protein provides enough fuel to keep you from waking up hungry, but isn’t hard to digest. Plus, it boosts levels of feel-good serotonin.

Sweet dreams, my friends!