Insomnia is a symptom of disorder, not a diagnosis or disorder itself. Characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep, insomnia also typically affects a person’s functionality while awake in addition to their quantity and quality of sleep. In the United States, studies from the Department of Health and Human Services estimate that over 64 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year and that insomnia is more common in women than in men.
Those who have insomnia can suffer myriad psychological and physiological complications. Sufferers can experience lower cognitive performance, slower reaction times, and risk depression and anxiety disorders. Additionally, those with insomnia may develop poor immune system function, high blood pressure, and risk of heart disease and diabetes. Insomnia may also lead to one becoming overweight or obese. Some studies have shown that severe insomnia, characterized by sleeping less than 4.5 hours in men and 3.5 hours in women, led to a 15% increase in mortality.
While many rely on pharmacological medications, such as benzodiazepines and other sedatives, to help curb insomnia, there are non-pharmacological strategies when searching for treatment. Some patients successfully cure insomnia through hypnosis, while others find treatment with cognitive behavioral therapies in which improved sleeping habits are taught. Still further, some find help in natural remedies.
Natural remedies for insomnia include medicinal herbs such as chamomile, hops, lavender, passion flower, and valerian. Cannabis has also shown to be an effective treatment for insomnia in clinical studies and in some states can be obtained with a doctor’s prescription, but it is otherwise illegal in the United States. Recent short-term studies and cultural heritage have shown kava kava to be an effective sleep aid and cure for insomnia in some; kava is said to be particularly effective in improving sleep quality and decreasing the time needed to fall asleep. The main active ingredients in kava are kavalactones, which have been studied extensively in animal laboratories and have been found to reduce convulsions, promote sleep, and relax muscles.
Whatever the cause of one’s insomnia, it is important to consult a heath care professional when determining diagnosis and treatment. If one is already taking prescribed medication, it is highly advised to consult a doctor concerning any interactions that might occur between said medication and any herbal supplements one plans to ingest.