To sleep, perchance to dream
Management of insomnia should first address lifestyle and behavioural factors such as poor sleep hygiene, caffeine intake, and regular daily exercise. Melatonin supplements have been shown to be effective in treating insomnia associated with jet lag, the withdrawal of benzodiazepines, in autistic children and the institutionalised elderly in short-term studies (up to six weeks), although more long-term studies are required.2-11 Bright light therapy also shows promise according to a Cochrane review.12
Researchers postulate that efficacy of herbal sedatives may be due to the flavonoid compounds in plants that bind to benzodiazepine receptors. Hence they may have an additive effect when used alongside other sedatives.
Overall, the herb valerian (Valerian officinalis) has the best evidence for insomnia.13-17 A recent randomised control trial (RCT) of 100 post-menopausal women (aged 50–60 years) experiencing insomnia found a