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.