Natural sleep aids vary in effectiveness for insomnia sufferers
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
1/15/13 at 4:01 AM
Dear Doctor K: I'm a woman in my 60s who struggles with insomnia. A friend recommended melatonin. What do you think of this and other natural sleep aids?
Dear Reader: The most commonly used herbal sleep aid is valerian root. But the evidence is mixed. An analysis of studies published in 2010 concluded that people fell asleep only about a minute sooner than with a sugar pill. There also is some risk of liver damage from valerian, and some women report headaches after using the herb.
The manufacture of herbal treatments, unlike conventional drugs, is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Impurities have been found in some herbal preparations. For all these reasons, I don't recommend valerian.
Another popular natural sleep aid is melatonin, which is a hormone made in the brain. It influences body temperature, sleep and daily body rhythms (circadian rhythms).
Over-the-counter melatonin is sold as a food supplement, and like valerian, its manufacture is not regulated.
One condition where melatonin may help sleep is in older adults. People over 60 with insomnia often have lower levels of nighttime melatonin (as measured in the urine) than those without insomnia. I would check with a sleep specialist if you're interested in pursuing this treatment.
If melatonin and valerian root don't help, acupressure appears promising. In acupressure, pressure is placed on acupuncture points without needles.
Tai chi and yoga may help you fall asleep faster and improve your quality of sleep. Both have the added benefits of promoting mental relaxation as well as muscle relaxation.
An excellent, short and inexpensive e-book about treatments for women battling insomnia is "Successful Sleep Strategies for Women" by Harvard Medical School's Dr. Julia Schlam Edelman. You can learn more about this book at tulsaworld.com/DrK
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106