a woman getting a good night's sleep, sleep better, sleep more soundly

Who has not had the experience of tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep? Anxiety about a new job or an upcoming trip often keeps people awake for a few days. Others find that ruminating about relationships, past or present, prevents them from drifting off to dreamland. Would an herbal medicine help you sleep better?

Valerian Root to Help You Sleep Better:

Q. I read your article about sleep aids, but you did not mention valerian. I use it and feel that it helps me sleep well.

A. Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) has traditionally been used to overcome insomnia. Unfortunately, there are few well-controlled studies confirming this folk remedy.

One recent study of a combination product containing valerian, hops and jujube did find that it helped people get to sleep more quickly and sleep longer (Palmieri, Contaldi & Fogliame, Nature and Science of Sleep, May 26, 2017). A review of nondrug approaches for easing insomnia found that valerian holds promise (France et al, Sleep Medicine Reviews, online July 29, 2017). The authors recommend more rigorous study of valerian.

Valerian root appears to ease anxiety as well as insomnia. Doctors have even used it to counteract the side effects of an HIV drug (Ahmadi et al, Annals of Pharmacotherapy, June 2017). One advantage of valerian over sleep medications: it doesn’t seem to interfere with driving (Thomas et al, Accident; Analysis and Prevention, July 2016). Nonetheless, we think it would be prudent to treat it with caution. If you use it to sleep better, take it at bedtime and not while you are driving around.

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  1. Elizabeth

    I use liquid valerian when racing heart prevents sleep, and it works within minutes–no side affects just calmer.

  2. John

    Valerian is an ancient folk medicine,and modern pharmacists have been selling it for decades,so it must have some benefits

  3. Jeffery

    I use this erbal tea with a large percentage of Valarium.And I sleep like a baby.Never fails….

  4. Leesa

    Valerian gives me horrible nightmares, I’d rather have insomnia. I work in a health food store and have heard the same from several of my customers- other people swear by it, maybe start with a small dose or trial size if available until you know how you will react. Passion flower helps me relax without the nightmares- chamomile is good too.

  5. Michael

    Valerian almost always works like a charm for me when I can’t sleep. When I can’t sleep, my thoughts whir. When my thoughts whir, I get anxious. When I get anxious, I feel adrenaline. When I feel adrenaline, my thoughts whir. Valerian seems to stop the adrenaline and break the cycle. Similarly, valerian works like a charm if I have “butterflies in my stomach,” like before an important meeting or presentation. where the butterflies make me anxious which produces more butterflies.

  6. Patti

    I took valerian years ago and it helped me sleep. Only problem was after a few weeks or months ? it seemed to make me tired in daytime. I saw a comment on a thyroid forum say it builds up on you. I’d still be taking it if that hadn’t happened.

  7. Deb

    I am one of the people who has an opposite reaction to valerian. I get agitated and my heart feels like it is pounding. I have heard that maybe 10% of people react to it this way and certainly could not use it for insomnia.

  8. Brooke

    I took it and had no effect at all. I was disappointed to say the least.

  9. Susan

    I have successfully used standardized valerian for years as a sleep aid. My late mother-in-law, who was a physician trained in Ukraine in the 1930s, was quite familiar with it, saying that it was commonly used in Ukranian hospitals as a sleep aid or sedative.

  10. Patty

    Years ago, my chiropractor recommended valerian to me to get a good night’s sleep. I tried using it as a tea on two separate occasions before going to bed. Both nights I tried it were filled with nightmares I could not wake from. The dreams were quite frightening, and I’m not one who is normally prone to bad dreams. I became aware I was in the middle of a very bad dream, and usually if I do actually have one, I can wake myself to stop it. When I took the valerian, as hard as I tried, I could not rouse myself to wakefullness. I think my case is probably unusual as I’ve heard many people use it successfully. I am curious if anyone else reading here has experienced nightmares when taking it.

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