Insomnia (Sleeplessness)

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It may cause a number of sleep problems including trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, or waking very early in the morning. It may also be a sleep that is not restful. Insomnia can be a short-term problem, or it can be chronic. Chronic insomnia lasts for more than 4 weeks.

Insomnia can occur for many reasons. Short-term insomnia is often caused by temporary situations or problems with the environment. They may include:

  • A life crisis or stress, including the loss of a life partner, divorce, or loss of a job
  • Environmental noise
  • Extreme temperatures, such as a room that is too hot or too cold
  • Change in the surrounding environment
  • Sleep/wake schedule problems, such as those due to jet lag

There may be no clear reason for chronic insomnia. It may also be due to other medical or psychiatric conditions. Examples of conditions that can lead to sleep problems include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or ulcer
  • Chronic pain

There are steps you can take to improve your chance of a good night’s rest. You may be advised to reduce intake of certain items or avoid them to see if your sleep improves. You may be asked to:

  • Reduce or avoid caffeine, especially late in the day.
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol and avoid drug use.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, avoid doing so near bedtime.
  • Avoid eating or drinking close to bedtime.

Your sleep habits can also affect how well you sleep. Steps that may help you sleep better include:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • If you must take naps, keep them short.
  • Only use the bedroom for sleep or sex. Avoid watching TV or worrying in bed.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and dark. Minimize disruptions, such as pets.
  • If you work at night and sleep during the day, make sure to block daylight from the room. Decrease the amount of noise. Use a fan to block out noise.

Some people use the herb valerian to reduce insomnia. Others take melatonin.

Quality sleep is essential to both mental and physical well-being.

 

How Lavender (Lavandula Angustifola) Works

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Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. Other members of the mint family include rosemary, sage, peppermint, skullcap, and catnip. Botanical characteristics of lavender include a stalk that is square and simple with irregular flowers. The calyx or sepals is five-toothed and two-lipped. The calyx (bud) is the tubular structure that remains to produce seed. The calyx color is what gives dried lavender buds their color. It flowers between July and September and the seeds ripen between August and October.
 
Synapse Graphic for Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)Lavender is considered easy to cultivate especially for someone who is new to growing a medicinal garden. Stem-cutting is one method of propagation. Lavender flowers contain volatile oil containing linalyl acetate and linalool, geraniol, cineole, imonene, and sesquiterpenes.
 
The purported therapeutic actions of lavender are as a carminative which means it affects gastrointestinal gas production. It also affects muscle tension and mood. Lavender is thought to dilate capillaries and increase blood circulation via topical application and inhalation, provide gastric soothing properties, and is additionally categorized as a nervine meaning it supports the nervous system. Interestingly, the essential oil of lavender is noted in the Materia medica as one phytotherapeutic not to be used internally. However, newer research offers a contrary point of view with human clinical trials supporting the use of oral lavender essential oil.
 
The mechanism of how oral lavender works is a matter of conflict. In contrast to initial speculations that the anxiolytic action of lavender oil is caused by an effect on the GABAA receptors similar to conventional agents a more recent study did not identify any interaction of oral lavender to known targets of conventional agents such as the GABAA-receptor, norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine transporters, or monoamine-oxidase-A (MAO-A). Instead, oral lavender caused a potent inhibition of voltage dependent calcium channels (VDCCs) in synaptosomes.
 
Voltage-dependent calcium channels regulate the intracellular calcium concentration and contribute thereby to calcium signaling. The opening of these channels is primarily regulated by the membrane potential, but is also modulated by a wide variety of hormones, protein kinases, protein phosphatases, toxins, and drugs. These channels are an essential part of many excitable and non-excitable cells.
 
The term “synaptosome” was first mentioned in a paper published in 1964. Synaptosomes are membranous sacs that contain synaptic components. They contain the complete presynaptic terminal, including mitochondria and synaptic vesicles, along with the postsynaptic membrane and the postsynaptic density (PSD).
 
The primary action of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) which supports mood is thought to take place in hippocampal neurons. This mechanism of action when stated in this way may sound familiar to conventional agents which are known to support comfort. However, upon closer evaluation, it is now known that the mechanism of action of lavender is, in fact, unique as it does not bind to certain binding sites that the conventional agents do.
 
The stress response of the central nervous system and of the hippocampus in particular where the inhibition by oral lavender was shown to be mainly mediated via N-type and P/Q-type VDCCs is linked to mood.* In another clinical trial in healthy volunteers, oral lavender significantly reduced the serotonin-1A receptor (5-HT1A) binding potential in the brain clusters encompassing the temporal gyrus, the fusiform gyrus, the hippocampus, the insula, and the anterior cingulate cortex.