Recently, after I had general aesthetic for a wisdom tooth operation I went to bed and found I slept like a baby. Now perhaps a general anaesthetic is a bit over the top if you’re after a good sleep aid, so I decided to look at several of the more common sleep supplements out there to find out how they work and what works the best and I’ll be posting and article about each of these over the next few weeks.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America. The roots are commonly used to make supplements and teas that have been known to assist with insomnia, nervousness, headaches, trembling and heart palpitations.
(Picture thanks to wikipedia)
How does it work?
According to the US Office of Dietary Supplements, a possible mechanism by which a valerian extract may cause sedation is by increasing the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter) available in the synaptic cleft. However as a sleep aid, it is not known whether this is the only reason for why Valerian works.
Does it work?
One medical trial deemed there was inconclusive evidence to support any effect of Valerian root on test subjects. BUT don’t be dismayed, this may have been due to the techniques used to assess its effectiveness on test subjects. Another showed statistically significant impacts on sleep quality and latency (the time it takes to fall asleep,) particularly among those who already found it hard to fall asleep.
Looking to the Internet community, there are several blogs and forums that suggest Valerian works for some people, and not for others. My guess is that it’s probably affected by the reason you can’t sleep, as well as your individual biological make-up. Some users have complained that it causes serious grogginess in the morning, so may not be a good idea if you have to drive or operate heavy machinery soon after waking up.
As with all sleep supplements, whilst they may or may not help you get to sleep, it’s always wise to talk to a doctor about the root cause of your sleep issues. Most doctors will recommend other means of sleep prior to taking supplements, and—as the root cause of insomnia can vary wildly, from the mental to the physical—I’d suggest this would be the most sensible option.
For more information on Valerian you can visit:
Want to buy it? Here’s one that’s had the best reviews on Amazon.