Easing into restful sleep can be a fraught endeavour for some, with official statistics showing that 36 percent of Britons report struggling with sleep, at least once a week. Researchers seeking to combat sleeplessness have found that some herbs have antidotal effects against insomnia. One tea, in particular, has been shown to act as a sedative.
While the effects of a sleepless night on our mental abilities will be blatant, insomnia can silently inflict long-term damage on cognitive health.
One study published in the journal Nature Communication showed that people who regularly reported sleeping six hours or less on a weeknight were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, than those who slept seven hours.
While the causes of restlessness are largely unknown, pre-bedtime habits are strong determinants of sleep quality.
Lemon balm is citrus-scented herb that has long been used for reducing stress and improving the quality of sleep.
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The use of lemon balm extends to a wide range of medical conditions including anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and digestion.
The herb contains a compound called romarinic acid, which has both antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
This compound is also believed to be responsible for improving sleep in patients with insomnia or sleep apnea.
A study that investigated the effects of the herb on peri-menauposal women, found it made a significant difference with reduced levels of sleep disorders.
The 2003 study determined that lemon balm combined with valerian root, significantly improved sleep quality in 100 women with menopause, when compared with the placebo.
Researchers found that the herb supported the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps manage the body’s reaction to stress.
This also delivers mild sedative effects, while stimulating the production of serotonin in the brain, which triggers a ‘feel-good’ effect.
Study subjects who were given lemon balm also described increased feelings of calmness, which induces sleepiness.
Another study showed the tea reduced insomnia symptoms by 42 percent after participants received 600 mg of lemon balm extract per day for 15 days.
When administered to the mice, researchers observed that the herb acted as a sedative.
While consuming the herb as tea has prominent effects, it can also be taken as a supplement or rubbed on the skin in a lotion.
This line of evidence suggests that the botanical herb could be used as an alternative to prescriptive sleep aids for individuals with sleep disturbances.