More people than ever are having trouble sleeping. There’s even a new word – coronasomnia – coined to describe the incidence of insomnia due to the coronavirus.  According to Angela Drake, a UC Davis Health clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, “It’s a problem everywhere, across all age groups.”

“Insomnia was a problem before COVID-19,” said Drake. “Now, from what we know anecdotally, the increase is enormous.”

There are a number of ways to support sleep. One of them is with sleep-promoting teas and beverages.

Safe, time-tested herbs known for their relaxing properties

  • Ashwaganda is an adaptogen that has many benefits for the body and mind including reducing symptoms of anxiety. It reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. When people with chronic stress took ashwagandha for a study, they reported a 60% reduction in symptoms, including insomnia.
  • Chamomile has been used for centuries throughout the world as a tranquilizer or sleep inducer.
  • Passion flower combats insomnia and anxiety (should not be taken with antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors).
  • Rhodiola is an adaptogen that can be used to treat occasional stress, anxiety, mental and physical fatigue, and a depressed mood.
  • Schisandra is a traditional Chinese remedy for sleep.
  • Skullcap is an antispasmodic that eases anxiety, muscular pain from stress and fights insomnia.
  • Valerian is most commonly used for insomnia. It seems to act like a sedative on the brain and nervous system.

New relaxing beverages

  • Driftwell by PepsiCo – sleep-promoting water with magnesium and theanine
  • Chill Out by Coca Cola, a hemp-based beverage currently available only in Japan but a sign that Coke is looking into this category
  • CBD tonics and syrups

Studies are showing that CBD and cannabinoids may improve sleep. A large case series at a psychiatric clinic followed 103 adults after they were given cannabidiol (CBD) to help reduce anxiety and poor sleep. The conclusion found that of the 72 adults who stuck with the study, anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration. Sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients (66.7%) but fluctuated over time. CVD was well tolerated in all but 3 patients.

 16 Tips for Better Sleep 

  1. Refrain from drinking caffeine after 1:00 pm.
  2. If you need to visit the bathroom during the night, limit your fluid intake after dinner.
  3. Do not resort to alcohol to help you sleep. It usually impairs sleep, and you might wake up with a headache.
  4. Try valerian, passion-flower or skullcap herbal tea at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
  5. A cup of warm milk with a small pinch of cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric and cumin, and an 1/8 of a tsp of ghee is a tasty and relaxing bedtime drink. The calcium in the milk is a muscle relaxant and the Indian spices help induce relaxation. Experiment to see which spices you like.
  6. Turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This is difficult for most people so it will take some effort. Instead, listen to soothing music or read a relaxing book.
  7. Do not watch the news or listen to the radio with current news before bed. World and political events can be upsetting and unsettling.
  8. Make your bed as comfortable as possible. Cotton sheets are usually more comfortable than synthetic. Is it time to replace your mattress? When is the last time you turned it over?
  9. A cool bedroom is usually more conducive to sleep than an overheated room. On the other hand, feeling cold will not help you sleep, either. If you feel cold at bedtime, warm up some neck wraps in the microwave and place them in your bed so it’s toasty when you get in. Then when you feel warm and are starting to fall asleep you can throw them on the floor. Or, warm up your bed with a heating pad. One of my favorite thing to do is to put on pajamas that have been heated in the clothes dryer for 5 minutes.
  10. Get black out curtains. It’s easier to sleep when there is no light coming through the windows.
  11. Eat a banana. Bananas contain potassium and magnesium that help reduce risk of muscle cramps. These two minerals also support heart health and cognitive function.
  12. A drop in blood sugar during the night can cause us to wake up. Although it’s better to not go to sleep on a full stomach, a small protein snack such as a slice of cheese or smear of peanut butter on a cracker can help maintain balanced blood sugar.
  13. Exercise during the day to get your heart pumping and to maintain overall health. Just don’t do it too close to bedtime because you will get energized.
  14. Go to sleep when you get sleepy but make sure it’s before 11:00. According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healthcare system, it’s best to be in bed by 10:00.
  15. Melatonin supplements help some people, but you might have to experiment with the dosage. I like Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm, a powdered magnesium supplement that you put in water or juice. I also like the homeopathic remedy Hyland’s Calms Forte.
  16. Use ear plugs if it’s noisy in your neighborhood. Again, you might need to experiment in order to find the product you find is most comfortable.

As in all chronic health disorders, if sleep issues continue it is always advised to consult with a physician or health care expert to learn more about causes and treatments.

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Barbra Cohn


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