June 13, 2022
Sleeping is necessary for life, like eating or breathing, and can be easily affected both by the physical environment and by age. Sleep disorders are common in the population and can generate problems with both sleep quality and overall health. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders-3 classifies these problems into 7 categories: insomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders, central disorders of hypersomnolence, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, sleep-related movement, parasomnias, and other sleep disorders. One of the most common disorders is insomnia, which is defined as “difficulty in falling asleep or maintaining the sleep state during the night” and affects a significant percentage of the general population.
The condition is considered chronic when insomnia occurs at least 3 times per week for at least 3 months. This type of chronic insomnia is estimated to affect 5 – 10% of the population and is associated with numerous adverse effects on function, health, and quality of life. On the other hand, short-term insomnia manifests itself for less than 3 months and affects a greater percentage of people–approximately 30% to 50% of the general population. Sleep disturbances, especially insomnia, are quite common in people suffering from anxiety, especially GAD, which is a persistent state of anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and is often a consequence of different psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression or post-traumatic stress disorder).
Treatment of chronic insomnia often involves prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and hypnotics, but these have many adverse side effects such as dependency, headaches, nightmares, daytime fatigue, nausea, confusion, and a loss of balance resulting in falls. Other pharmacological treatments such as antipsychotics and antidepressants likewise have significant adverse effects.
Recent studies focused mainly on clinical trials, includes research on 23 medicinal plants and their combinations. Essential oils and their associations have also been reviewed. The efficacy of medicinal plants depends on treatment duration, types of study subjects, administration route, and treatment method. According to these studies the 3 plants with the most potential are valerian, passionflower, and ashwagandha, with the combination of valerian with hops and passionflower giving the best results in the clinical tests.