After a hectic day, it is sometimes challenging to wind down and switch off.  There might be stresses or things on our minds that prevent us from falling to sleep, and even when we do finally drop off, our sleep might be broken and unrestful.

The health benefits of good sleep are many and essential.  A sound night’s sleep is important in ensuring we have good mental performance during the day, with prolonged poor sleep resulting in a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and mood swings.

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There are many things we can do to help us fall asleep and stay asleep. Not eating too much before bed, and not eating too close to bedtime, turning off electrical devices two hours before bed, trying to go to bed and waking up at the same time every day, avoiding drinking caffeine late in the day, and taking a warm bath or shower are all ways that can help to calm our minds and prepare us for a good slumber.

Unless you are suffering from chronic insomnia, there might also be some herbs that can help to calm you down and lull you into a sound and peaceful sleep. Depending on the herb at hand, your better sleep might be a result of a mild sedative effect, or that the herb is acting as an aid in reducing anxiety and stress.  Simply drinking a warm non-caffeinated tea before bed itself has a calming effect on the mind.

Take a look at this list of gentle sleepytime herbs that are easily bought as teas or supplements.  Better yet, many can be grown in your garden or in pots on your porch.

Lavender

Lavender

Source: elminium/Flickr

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Lavender has long been used for its aromatherapeutic qualities.  It is known to help calm the nerves and destress the mind.  Taking a warm bath that contains a lavender bathtime teabag, or using a lavender massage oil before bed can help to relax your mind.  A warm cup of lavender tea can be of comfort, or you can put a few drops of lavender essential oil onto your pillow.  Lavender is a gorgeous and easy plant to grow in your garden. You can have all the lavender you want to make herbal teas and tinctures right on your doorstep.

Valerian

Valerian

Source: Lisa Elliott/Flickr

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Valarian is a plant native to Europe and Asia which also grows in the USA.  Valerian root contains powerful compounds that research suggests may have a sedative effect on the body that promotes sleep.  It is also thought to help calm nerves and reduce anxiety.  Sleepytime teas that are bought at grocery stores often contain valerian.  You can also buy it in capsule form.  It is a plant that can be grown as a beautiful ornamental while providing you with important tea fodder. Be sure to learn about safe dosage before using valerian in any form.

Chamomile

Chamomile

Source: Toshiyuki IMAI/Flickr

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Chamomile is probably one of the most well-known bedtime herbs.  It can be easily grown in the garden and is a pretty perennial (Roman chamomile) that will keep you stocked in herbal tea year after year. Steeping chamomile flowers in hot water makes a soothing a relaxing tea that can be sipped before bed. Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that is thought to work as a mild sedative. Some research suggests that chamomile also improves overall sleep quality.

Passionflower

Passionflower

Source: Kathy/Flickr

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a gorgeous flowering vine that grows wild in the USA.  It works in the same way as chamomile, acting as a mild sedative that helps promote sleepiness.  Some research suggests that it might also help to calm anxiety.   Many teas sold as sleep aids contain passionflower. There are also capsules and liquid extracts available. 

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Source: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

Here is another aromatic herb that works as a mild sedative.  Lemon balm has an intoxicating smell and is delicious as herbal tea. It has a mild lemony flavor that is very pleasing, and its aroma has a calming effect.  It is very easy to grow and can be grown from clippings or seeds.  Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, so it grows abundantly leaving you with plenty of leaves to dry and save for a jar of homemade herbal tea.

It is vitally important that you seek advice from a medical professional before using any herbal remedies, especially if you are taking any pharmaceutical medicines.  Research all herbs and essential oils thoroughly, and always abide by dosage recommendations.     

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