by Dr. Bill Rawls
Can herbs really help you get a better night’s sleep? Dr. Bill Rawls weighs in and explains how herbal therapy works compared to sleep medications and how they reduce inflammation, relax muscles, and bring about a greater sense of calm for a more restful slumber. Get an essential guide to sleep here.
Question: What are the best herbs for sleep disturbances?
This is always a tough one because what everybody wants is something that you can take at bedtime, that gives you a perfect eight hours night’s sleep, and doesn’t have any side effects, and isn’t habituating, and it works perfectly every time. And unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist. There isn’t anything strong enough in nature to induce sleep. And the things that we have as pharmaceuticals, like Ambien, and Valium, and all the rest, are extremely habituating, and they don’t give you really natural sleep. So there’s no perfect answer there. So what you do during the day is as important as what you do during the night.
So it’s a matter of rebalancing the various different hormones. So part of the sleep problem in Lyme disease is just the fact that we’re stressed, and when we’re stressed, we activate adrenaline. So during the day, we build up a substance called adenosine that increases sleep pressure, so the more we’re awake, the more adenosine we build up. Caffeine and adrenaline block adenosine.
So if you’re pumping out adrenaline in the evening, and you’ve disrupted your normal circadian rhythm, that’s what disrupts sleep. So part of it is keeping your adrenaline levels down throughout the day and normalizing your system, balancing that stress that’s being driven by the microbes and the illness. Now, for my sleep — and sleep was a huge issue for me — the things that worked the very best were the antimicrobial and immune balancing herbs because they suppressed the inflammation and the thing that was driving the sleep.
So I knew that when the herbs were working, I was going to sleep better. So interestingly, it’s those herbs that are often the ones that help out the very most. Other herbs that can be very good: L-theanine from green tea is good for making a calm day. Going for walks. Exercising builds up adenosine, really important for helping sleep. Helping your system calm down through the day helps set the stage for better sleep at night.
Other things that can help sleep in the evening just to have a mild capacity to induce sleep, passionflower is excellent, has some muscle relaxing qualities. Lemon balm is very good. Gaba can sometimes be beneficial. A little bit of melatonin can be helpful, but there are many, many herbs. I tend to stay away from some of the stronger herbs, like valerian and kava, because they tend to have more drug-like effects, and you develop tolerance to them a little bit faster. But lots of good information on the website Rawls MD. And so there’s good information about sleep there also in the book.