Insomnia May Be A Partly Genetic Condition + 5 Natural Remedies For Insomnia

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Insomnia May Be A Partly Genetic Condition
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Image © shutterstock.com (under license)

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night (and we mean not just tossing and turning a couple of nights a week, but full-blown insomnia), your genes may be at fault. Out of all the hereditary conditions our parents pass down to us like heart conditions, diabetes, and even cancer, insomnia is another condition to add to the ever-growing list. Back in 2012, Warwick Medical School from the University of Warwick conducted a pan-African and Asian study on sleep problems, finding out that over 150 million people in developing countries suffered from insomnia and other sleep-related conditions. In 2016, Bhaskar, et al. sampled adults in Bangalore in India and found that 33 percent of the adults included in the study suffered from insomnia. In the study’s review of various studies worldwide, they found that as little as 10 to 30% and as much as 50 to 60% of different populations worldwide has insomnia. [1][2]

Genetic Research Into Insomnia

In 2017, a study was published by researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) identified a specific gene that made someone more likely to suffer from insomnia compared to people without it. The researchers background study on insomnia reports that it is the second most prevalent mental disorder, characterized by difficulty falling asleep and/or waking in the night or early morning, which then leads to problems with normal daytime functions. Hammerschlag, et al. based their study on the heritability estimate that 38% of males and 59% females were genetically predisposed to developing insomnia. [3]

Using a type of study known as a genome-wide association study (GWAS), the researchers were able to identify factors that support the theory of genetic predisposition to insomnia. The top gene associated with insomnia, MEIS1, was also associated in a previous study with restless leg syndrome (RLS), as well as increased risk for anxiety disorders, depression, and neuroticism. While the presence of these genes does not definitively cause insomnia, the likelihood of developing insomnia or similar sleeping disorders rise in their presence. The results of the study show that there is a positive correlation between MEIS1 and other genes and insomnia. [3]

Natural Remedies For Insomnia

The results of Hammerschlag’s study should not discourage you from doing what you can to help improve your sleeping habits. While the study has shone light on how genetics play an important factor in insomnia, you should not discount your active role in keeping yourself and your loved ones healthy and sleeping well. In fact, if you are genetically predisposed to insomnia, the more you should look for ways to help fight it. Genes are only one part of the problem; there are plenty of natural methods you can turn to manage sleeping disorders.

Time published a list of “science-backed” remedies you can try [4]. Here they are with our commentary:

1. Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone produced by the brain in order to regulate your sleep cycle. You can get them in pill or liquid forms from your local health store or pharmacy, depending on what works for you. Taking melatonin works on the premise that your brain isn’t producing enough of it. This is what usually happens when a person stays up late with the lights on or using computers, phones, or tablets – that in turn trick the brain into thinking that it’s still light out, hence decrease melatonin production.

2. Valerian Root

Valerian is a well-established “cure-all” for sleep and anxiety disorders, due to its sedative properties. While it won’t be able to get rid of your insomnia completely, it is one remedy that is backed by several studies on being beneficial for people suffering from insomnia. However, valerian root may be too strong for others, who experience feeling too sleepy and groggy throughout the day. Be sure to seek medical advice before taking valerian root.

3. Lavender And Chamomile

Lavender and Chamomile are two herbs that are quite famous for their relaxation properties. These two are quite popularly taken as tea before bed to help with sleep. Lavender essential oil may be diffused in the bedroom and another common trick is leaving a standard essential oil bottle with the lid off somewhere near the bed, allowing a small amount of the aroma into the air. Both lavender and chamomile have been historically used as a sleep aid, without unwanted sedative effects such as those of valerian root.

4. Meditation

A time-tested relaxation technique is meditation, which can help you focus and get rid of all your anxieties before bed. Take note, meditation is not a one-shot deal, or are any of these remedies. Meditation works best with practice over several days to weeks, during which you will notice improvement in your sleeping habits.

5. White Noise

Certain noises, like sounds from nature (e.g. rainforest, raindrops, waves, etc.) can also help you sleep by triggering a relaxation response in the brain; other people sleep better with background noises to help them relax. Typically these nature sounds contain a high proportion of “white noise” which is a broad-spectrum / random soundscape. You can easily download music online or find an app that has these kinds of sounds.

Further Reading:

Herbs For Insomnia

9 Causes Of Insomnia Plus 10 Herbs And 10 Essential Oils That May Help

Top 10 Essential Oils for Sleep And Insomnia

3 All-Natural Sleep Aid Drinks

References:

[1] Blackaby-Warwick, A. (2012). In developing world, 150 million can’t sleep. https://www.futurity.org/in-developing-world-150-million-cant-sleep/

[2] Bhaskar, S, et al. (2016). Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353813/

[3] Hammerschlag, A, et al. (2017). Genome-wide association analysis of insomnia complaints identifies risk genes and genetic overlap with psychiatric and metabolic traits. https://www.nature.com/articles/ng.3888.epdf

[4] Macmillan, A. (2017). 6 Science-Backed Sleep Remedies. http://time.com/4732464/natural-sleep-remedies-insomnia/

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