Please help me sleep better after trying Valarian root and failing
December 27, 2016 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Can people suggest some ideas or trinkets I can make to help me get a better nights sleep please (as I have non-restorative sleep issues). (More info inside).

So..... I've had sleeping problems for about seven years now. It's non-restorative sleep, where I go to sleep and wake up in the morning feeling like I've only slept for a couple of hours. I then feel tired for the rest of the day and have felt like this for about seven years.

I get up to go to the toilet once or twice during the night, which I can't do anything about due to a small bladder (I don't drink anything past about 8pm and go to bed at 10pm). I get up in the morning for work at 6:30am.

I've tried going to the NHS about it and they were completely useless, so I can't go there as an option. I've also tried all of the basic stuff like using Lavender oil on my pillow, varying sleeping times/habits, different calming teas. I've found that from all the different sleeping times I've tried, I get the most benefit from getting 8 3/4 hours sleep. I've had a partner for the last year or so and it hasn't made my sleep any better or worse.

The best result I've had so far (I tried this about six months ago) was from making a tincture using Valerian root, which I took a standard dose of (1 tsp) every night half an hour before bed. I noticed an improvement in my sleep quality after using it every night for about a month. After about 2 1/2 months, my sleep was so good I started to feel like I had a good level of energy, but I started to get diarrhea quite frequently, which got more frequent and worse towards the end of the 2 1/2 months, so I had to stop taking the tincture. I have tried taking the Valerian root since on separate occasions, but it only seems to give me a positive effect when I take it every night for a period of time.

Does anyone have anything that has worked for them or something that has better side effects that works etc?
posted by sockpim to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked into sleep apnea?
posted by fshgrl at 9:33 AM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Not a supplement like valerian root, and maybe obvious, but do you exercise? Exercise is absolutely the number one determinant in my sleep quality. Also, I know that many people suggest the opposite, but I find eating dinner about two hours before sleep rather than earlier helps me sleep better.
posted by aerobic at 9:34 AM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Try a 200mg capsule of L-Theanine along with the Valerian.

Also, kava kava instead of Valerian, on occasion. Or, a homeopathic sleep aid. I find it helpful to mix the supplements up a bit.
posted by elf27 at 9:35 AM on December 27, 2016

It sounds like you've tried a lot of stuff, but since you are in the UK, I wonder if you have tried melatonin? It is available over the counter in the US, but I believe it is available only by prescription in the UK, as Circadin. Melatonin (comes in 1, 3, 5, 10 mg) is one of the first-line treatments for insomnia, has minimal side effects, and can be very effective for some people.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 9:37 AM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Oh hai, I have this issue. Maybe this old ask will help?

FWIW, right now I am in a phase of sleeping through the night (between 5 and 7.5 hours), for the first time in, like, decades. The difference was bumping up from two to three benedryl tablets. I don't have the world's best energy level during the day, which is probably a combination of vitamin D deficiency and benedryl hangover, but for me, benedryl hangover grogginess is infinitely preferable to only getting 4 hours of sleep a night.
posted by instamatic at 9:40 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best nondrug remedies I've found are environmental:

-- completely dark bedroom (I also use a tempurpedic sleep mask and it works like a charm)
-- complete quiet or, if that's not possible, a white noise machine (surf sounds work best for me, which is weird because the sound of the actual ocean is stressful for me -- I think the electronic surf sound works because it helps make my breath even)
-- NO SCREENS for at least 30 minutes before sleep -- no tv, no cell phone, no tablet.
-- the right pillow -- I use a memory foam neck pillow. It took a while to get used to it after decades of down pillows, but now it's the only pillow that's comfortable. It helps me breathe properly and it holds my head and neck.
-- using the bedroom exclusively for sleep (okayokay, you can use it for sex, and I do read in bed, but absolutely no working in bed, no laptop, no tv, none of that). My body knows that bed = sleep.
posted by janey47 at 9:42 AM on December 27, 2016

I do a hot foot bath with Magnesium Flakes, and it really helps. I do it right before going to sleep, going so far as to sit on my bed while doing it, so I can move as little as possible afterward. Magnesium is known to help with sleep, and the skin is incredibly good at absorbing it. The hot water helps me relax too. I've been recommending it left and right, to the point of being annoying, but it's really helped me.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2016

I take magnesium glycinate at night (400mg). I also take melatonin and trazodone at bedtime--I'm unfamiliar with the workings of the NHS, so I don't know if you can try those, nor whether you can get tested for sleep apnea. But "I 'sleep' for hours and wake up tired" is a pretty classic symptom; in fact, it's the one that resulted in my being tested for (and diagnosed with) sleep apnea.
posted by wintersweet at 9:59 AM on December 27, 2016

Melatonin has been great for me for falling asleep, but it's pretty short-acting so I don't know if it will help you with restful sleep.

I know this sounds pretty woo, but have you considered getting acupuncture and/or talking to a Chinese medicine specialist. I get acupuncture for a neck injury, but he is very concerned about my overall health including sleep. I take a couple different Chinese herbs that have been very helpful for sleep and stress. In the US the visits are covered by my insurance.
posted by radioamy at 10:35 AM on December 27, 2016

Oh also I am not sure what the availability of medical marijuana is in the UK, but a lot of people take a CBD tincture (CBD is not the chemical that gets you high) for sleep. My husband has found it effective.
posted by radioamy at 10:36 AM on December 27, 2016

Do you ingest much caffeine? Coffee, tea, chocolate? In my 30s I discovered that I have to avoid caffeine after 2pm to get a good night's sleep. It helped me a lot.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:53 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Immediately before bedtime, put an overcoat over your nightclothes and go for a short walk if that's feasible where you live so that you're slightly chilly when you come back inside. Make sure your room is cool and that you're nightclothes aren't too warm. No socks to bed. Nighttime temps should always be quite cool, so your core temps go down.
posted by Elsie at 11:10 AM on December 27, 2016

I haven't read all the responses yet, but thanks for your input so far.

To answer a few of your questions:

i) I exercise regularly by doing 20-30 minutes of stretching every day when I get home from work and walk/cycle on the weekends.

ii) My room is nice and dark when I go to sleep.

iii) I drink 1-2 cups of instant coffee during the day (I don't drink coffee after 2pm) to keep myself awake.

iv) I can't listen to any sounds as my partner snores, so I have to wear ear plugs to get to sleep (I need silence to be able to get to sleep.

v) I don't do anything other than sleep and sex in bed.
posted by sockpim at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2016

Get iron (hemoglobin and ferritin) and thyroid levels checked, since deficiencies can cause fatigue and sleep issues. Same with Vitamin D and Zinc.

Melatonin might also help you, and you could also try some good screen discipline--shut any backlit screens off at least an hour before you want to be asleep (TVs, tablets, phones).
posted by Autumnheart at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2016

As always, L-Glutamine Powder is what you want for this. Total game changer!

Nthing iron, Vit D, and getting your thyroid checked.
posted by jbenben at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

If valerian root tincture is working for you, holy tomato, stick with it and see if you can't adjust other things around it to address the side effect. Is it definitely the valerian, or could it be the coffee? (Some people react to any coffee on an empty stomach - have it with some food? Or some people don't respond well to instant, try another kind? Or just ditch it and see what happens? For staying up afternoons - try going for a brief, brisk walk, or doing some kind of quick exercise [burpees or jumping jacks for 60 seconds].)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:53 AM on December 27, 2016

> I exercise regularly by doing 20-30 minutes of stretching every day when I get home from work and walk/cycle on the weekends.

That wouldn't be enough for me. Can you make time for more, more strenuous exercise? Weight lifting, in particular, makes me tired (in a good way).
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:30 PM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding Cranialtorque's nod to reducing caffeine. As I've aged I've become more sensitive to caffeine and now I can only drink decaf. You mention you drink 2 cups/day -- try changing to a mixture of 50% regular and 50% decaf -- since you drink instant coffee this should be fairly easy.

In addition to valerian and kava kava, here are some other herbal sleep aids:
- bacopa monieri
- Passion flower
- Sour jujube seed (this is a Chinese remedy. If you have a Chinese herbal pharmacy nearby consult with them. It's called zaoren or 酸枣仁)

I personally have had good luck with kava, bacopa, and the sour jujube. I'd rate the jujube as the most effective.
posted by duoshao at 2:10 PM on December 27, 2016

Others have great ideas for supplements, etc., but I came in to recommend:

1. Getting screened for sleep apnea, as so many have suggested. A diagnosis and proper treatment has made a huge difference for my husband.

2. Doing some bedtime yoga. There are lots of free yoga videos on YouTube. I particularly like the two Yoga for Bedtime sequences by Yoga with Adriene (1, 2). No guarantee that they'll help, but I don't think they could hurt.

Good luck!
posted by bananacabana at 9:12 PM on December 27, 2016

Would you consider your stretching "moderate-level exercise" to be on par with walking briskly or ballroom dancing?

Given what you've said, I would try
- cutting the caffeine (as well as chocolate and refined sugar)
- an hour of vigorous exercise every day

According to Spark, if exercise came in a pill, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.
posted by aniola at 9:34 PM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would try changing your excercise. Stretching is great, but actually tends to wake me up more than tire me out maybe because the blood is flowing better and the muscles are more relaxed, but I havent had to increase my heart rate or breathing. Try something like running around the block, doing some squats, push ups, hold a plank, and some light dumbells for like 15 minutes and see if that helps.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:35 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain. These are the things that help me:
1. Yoga. Either a night time restorative DVD before bed, or a class earlier in the evening.
I personally recommend Sara Ivanhoe's Crunch
Candlelight Yoga.
2. Getting a long walk in to really tire me out.
3. Putting away my smart phone/ computer an hour before bed.
4. Meditation. If you're new to it, the headspace app is great, and has a free trial run so you can try it out.
5. A nice relaxing bubble bath with Epsom salts to relax before bed.
6. Sometimes a cup of herbal tea is nice, if you like lavender, there's a great lavender honey yogi tea makes.
I've also just started reading Ariana Huffington's book The Sleep Revolution. It has alor of food for thought, and you just might find something that appeals to you.
One last thing, my mom used to do a relaxing Alexander technique exercise other me when I was younger. It starts with getting into a comfy position in bed and then thinking "relax your head", and repeating every possible body part until you get to your toes. If you haven't fallen asleep by then, it's still incredibly relaxing.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 9:48 PM on December 28, 2016

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