valerian root

  1. The cherry on top of a good night's sleep

    People looking for a little help getting to sleep used to drink a glass of warm milk.

    That, or maybe a little brandy.

    But there's another drink that might help you get off to dreamland quicker -- and it's not what you'd expect.

    It's tart cherry juice -- and a new study finds that just two cups a day can help you sleep an average of 39 minutes longer and get a 6 percent boost in sleep efficiency.

    That's the amount of time you spend in bed actually asleep, instead of wondering when you'll fall asleep.

    Twenty volunteers were given either two cups of tart cherry juice concentrate diluted in water or two cups of ordinary fruit juice every day for a week -- one in the morning, and one at night.

    And along with more time asleep and better sleep efficiency, the cherry juice drinkers had dramatic bumps in melatonin levels. That's the "sleep hormone" that some people take as a supplement -- and apparently, tart cherries will work almost as well.

    On the other hand, it's probably easier -- and cheaper -- for most people to just add a melatonin supplement.

    Whatever you do, make sure a good night's sleep is on your agenda -- because poor sleep has been linked to erectile dysfunction, hypertension, cognitive decline and even an early death.

    Don't look to sleeping pills for help -- they can make matters worse, with some of the most popular meds linked to horrible side effects, including sleepers who get up and engage in bizarre behavior while still actually asleep.

    Go natural instead -- and if cherry juice isn't your cup of tea, try a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium in the evening. This combination can help you get to sleep quicker, and sleep better once you're out.

    In addition, a supplement of valerian root or valerian tea has also been shown to help bring about a good night's sleep -- try it about 30 minutes or so before bedtime.

  2. Simple solution for post-menopausal sleep disorders

    If you tell your doctor you're having trouble sleeping, the first thing he'll do is reach for his prescription pad -- especially if you're a woman going through menopause.

    Feel free to visit the drugstore -- but don't head for the pharmacy, and don't fill that prescription.

    Make a beeline for the supplements aisle instead, and reach for an inexpensive remedy that's been used for centuries by men and women alike to help ease anxiety and get better rest.

    It's valerian root -- and a new clinical trial finds that it can help beat the sleep problems that often accompany menopause.

    Iranian researchers randomly assigned 100 women to either 530 milligrams of valerian root twice a day, or a placebo, for a month and found that 30 percent of the women who got the supplement had better sleep.

    Thirty percent may not sound impressive -- but it's a dramatic improvement compared to the 4 percent of women on the placebo who reported relief.

    What's more, the women who took the supplement reported no side effects -- unlike the sleep meds that can not only leave you groggy in the morning, but can also cause addiction as well as bizarre and often dangerous behavior.

    If valerian doesn't work for you, there's still no reason to fill that prescription: Other studies have found that yoga, tai chi, acupressure, and cognitive behavioral therapy can all help men and women alike overcome sleep problems.

    In some cases, you may need to experiment a little until you find a natural treatment that works best for you. In others, you may need to combine two or more.

    For more tips on how to get better sleep – whether you're a man or woman of any age – explore the Web site of the Health Sciences Institute. Enter "sleep" into the "find a cure" box and then find a comfortable spot to finally get the rest you need.

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