Shifting hormones have led to some sleep disruption this past year that I am not jiggy with. Sorry if you’ve always been a bad sleeper, but I’ve always managed a solid 8-hours my whole life. Now I have this thing where I’m wide awake between 4:30 and 5:15a most mornings, and I have a lot of trouble getting back to sleep. As any busy mom will attest, getting up at 4:30am and then still being functional for the 3-9pm afterschool/bedtime crunch is no pleasure. And as any insomniac will attest, the more you stress and worry about not sleeping, the less you sleep.
I have tried a bunch of remedies. It’s really hit or miss, some nights some of these things have worked. On other nights, not so much. It seems that with any sleep aid, herbal or medical, one needs to rotate as they become less effective with repeated use.
(1) Melatonin. I usually reserve 5mg melatonin tabs for overseas travel, they are my miracle cure for jet lag. I have several over-50 lady friends who take it nightly and swear it evens out their sleep patterns. I haven’t tried it nightly, but on occasion it does help me get a good night’s sleep.
(2) “Deep Sleep.” This is a tincture by Herbs Etc. I often use 1 dropperful in a little water before bedtime. It’s a combination of soothing herbs and it can be very effective.
(3) Rhodiola. I buy the New Chapter “Force 300” at my naturopath’s recommendation. It addresses adrenal burnout and for a while it really helped when I took it nightly.
(4) Hyland’s Calms Forte Sleep Aid. This is a homeopathic sleep aid. You swallow 2 of them 2-3 times throughout the day. I have had some relief from them, and two of my kids say that the children’s’ calms forte helps them get to sleep when they’re anxious. Whether it’s a placebo effect or not, who cares when you have a 9 year old staring at the ceiling at 10p?
(5) GABA Calm by Source Naturals. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid derivative that relaxes the nervous system. You take 1 tablet sublingually. I have found it can help me get back to sleep sometimes at 4:30am.
(6) Magnesium. This mineral helps with muscle tension and relaxation, I usually take 500mg at bedtime. It also helps with calcium absorption.
(7) Valerian. I have tried a couple of natural products featuring valerian, which is supposed to be a natural relaxant. I haven’t found it very effective, however.
(8) Skullcap and Passion Flower. These are further herbal remedies for sleep and relaxation. I have both in tincture form and will sometimes squeeze a dropperful of each into a small amount of water before bedtime.
(9) Benedryl. During allergy season, I often will take 1/2 a benedryl before bed. It helps with my hay fever and also gets me through the night. I do hate relying on a drug, so I try to avoid it whenever possible. It’s pretty reliable, though, and some nights I just need the sleep so badly that I don’t care.
(10) Tylenol PM. Similar thoughts on this. I also have several older friends who just pop 1-2 of these every night and swear by it. Haven’t tried it yet, but I do keep some in the house just in case!
Finally, no matter which supplement you’re using that night, or if you’re not using anything, extended-exhale breathing is a major relaxant. See my post on Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise, but also know that any focused breathing where the exhale is longer than the inhale will slow down your nervous system and promote deep rest and relaxation. If you can stop your mind from racing long enough to focus on your breath for several cycles, the next thing you think about may be the sound of the alarm clock waking you up hours later.