We recently saw poppy flowers pinned on the shirt of people, laying in big containers in shops and painted on newspapers to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers on WWI. However, this nice red poppy flower, covering the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli but also growing in spring throughout Europe, is not only respected for being associated to battles of 1915 but is of value as well in the world of herbal medicine. Poppy is in fact one of the many herbal remedies against insomnia and sleep troubles.
Sleep is a major component of health. Not only during sleep the body is restored of its fatigues and efforts of the day; sleep has also important parts in the management of emotions, in the deepening of daily learning, and in the sorting of events to forget (unimportant in the management of life) and those to keep and remember (they carry good lessons of survivorship). Sleep further regulates the production of several hormones (growth hormone, insulin, leptine etc.). Sleep also supports a well functioning immune system.
In general, an adult ‘needs’ about 7-7.30 hours of sleep. However this estimate is very generic and the amount of needed sleep is individually variable between 6 and 9 hours.
MAIN FUNCTIONS OF SLEEP
When one cannot keep the regular amount of sleep, has problems in falling asleep or staying asleep, a debt in sleep can accumulate and this can lead to health troubles like anxiety and depression but also diabetes and obesity! In fact there is a correlation between lack of sleep and feeding disorders like nibbling and gain of weight. Lack of sleep leads also to difficulty in learning and memorizing.
Lack of sleep is triggered by several factors among which are : nicotine, caffeine or alcohol use; stress; jetlag, anxiety and depression, sleep apnea, prostate problems, some medications (antidepressants, stimulants, etc.) , digestive reflux and more.
Many people try to fight insomnia by taking benzodiazepines or sleeping pills, although they have a limited effect and stop working beyond one month of usage. However, most people use them for years with the necessity of having to increase the dose in order to feel the effect after a while.
These somniferous (carrier of sleep) drugs have also some troubling side effects like loss of memory and loss of attention and can cause balance problems increasing the risk of falls.
Herbal remedies to treat sleep troubles with NO side effects are varied and should be selected according to the main reason of insomnia.
In order to prevent the issue from becoming troubling and worsening (lack of sleep makes you anxious, anxiety prevents you from falling asleep or staying asleep and so on in a cycle) a few behavioral rules should be followed :
- Do not eat large meals at night and always leave 1.5 hour minimum between the end of your meal and time to go to bed
- Avoid fatty food, fried food, mushrooms which require long time for digestion
- Avoid coffee, tea, guarana and alcohol that lead to a light and bad quality sleep
- Practice your physical exercise in the first half of the day
- You can enjoy a nice gentle walk or relaxation before going to sleep
- Go to sleep and get up always at the same time, if your job allows you
- Make sure you have total darkness in your room and turn off all blue-light devices like pcs, Ipads, androids etc. Blue light has a negative effect on the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone
- Practice meditation or relaxation or cardiac coherence exercises that lower stress and increase production of melatonin, physiological coherence, calmness
Back to the poppy flower » the petals of this plant contain molecules of sedative (make you sleep) and anxiolytic (lower your anxiety) effect by acting on GABA (chemical messanger that lowers the nervous activity) brain receptors.
Poppy can be coupled with lime tree, valerian, or other plants depending on the main trouble causing insomnia: anxiety, depression, jetleg and so on.
Furthermore from the plant world » Some components of plants that are concentrated in essential oils have regulative action on the autonomic nervous system and facilitate sleep: bitter orange and lavender are such type of essential oils and can be used topically, inhaled or in a bath before sleep. In a study lead to test the power of such plants scientists, proved that lavender was more effective than a specific benzodiazepine taken as antidepressant.