Sleep and the ‘pause: valerian and lemon balm?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in herbal medicine, sleep disturbance | 0 comments

iStock_000000640535XSmallHere’s a sobering thought: by the year 2030, over one billion women worldwide will be affected by menopausal symptoms, and that number is projected to increase by 47 million women annually. Sleep issues, namely disruption in sleep patterns caused by hormones, stress, hot flashes, night sweats and aches and pains affect roughly 81% to 83% of women in menopause. Of these, more than half report insomnia.

If you do the math, the sleep issue suddenly becomes very, very big!

Short of going the prescription route, there are a variety of strategies that reportedly help. You can read about some of those here. And, I’m happy to add one more: valerian/lemon balm.

Valerian is an herb used in variety of forms since the time of Ancient Greece. Its use in insomnia was first reported in the second century and it was even used during WWII to alleviate stress during air raids. Today, it is widely used for stress and sleep issues. While few adverse effects are associated with valerian, it may interact with benzodiazepines (e.g. xanax), barbituates or drugs that suppress the central nervous system (morphine, propofol); caution is also advised if you are taking St. John’s Wort, kava and melatonin.

Lemon balm also has a long history in traditional medicine, and as long ago as the middle ages, was used to combat stress and anxiety, promote sleep and calm nerves. While it is relatively benign, experts say that caution should be used if you are also taking sedatives or thyroid medications, or antiretroviral agents.

A few safety issues aside, the combination of the two is potentially explosive! According to new study findings, a combination — 160 mg valerian/80 mg lemon balm — in capsule form significantly improved sleep quality, patterns of sleep and sleep duration in women experiencing menopause symptoms by as much as 36%. In fact, over a month one month period, these improvements were as much as 28% higher than findings in women taking placebo capsules. What’s more, the amount of valerian used in the capsule was more than two- to four-fold lower than doses traditionally used in sleep studies demonstrating significant sleep quality improvements; this speaks to the addition of lemon balm. Additionally, the benefits appear to occur without side effects; no adverse effects were reported.

Sleep and the ‘pause….valerian and lemon balm might just do the trick!

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