A health treatment that is not classified as conventional Western medical practice is referred to as an "alternative" or "complementary" therapy, although a strict definition of complementary medicine suggests that it is taken along with conventional treatments. Alternative medicine, also called alternative therapy, encompasses a variety of disciplines that include everything from diet and exercise to mental conditioning and lifestyle changes. Examples of alternative therapies include acupuncture, guided imagery, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage, and many others.
By Gretchen Rubin
I'm a real gold-star junkie. One of my worst qualities is my insatiable need for credit; I always want the recognition, the praise, that gold star stuck on my homework. Recently, I was grumbling to my mother about the fact that some extraordinarily praiseworthy effort on my part had gone unremarked upon. My mother wisely responded, "Most people probably don't get the appreciation they deserve." That's right, I realized — for instance, my mother herself! I certainly don't give her...
The effects of the root of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) have been examined in people with sleep disorders. Some studies have suggested that valerian helps with the onset of sleep and with sleep maintenance. However, more research is needed into valerian root's safety and effectiveness.
Chamomile and passionflower are other herbs commonly used in the treatment of insomnia. Although there has been no clinical investigation to support their use and long-term safety, there are considered mild sedatives that may help with sleep in the short term.
Other herbs promoted as effective sleep remedies include hops, ginseng, lemon balm, and skullcap. The German government has approved certain herbs (valerian, hops, and lemon balm) for the relief of sleep problems. However, clinical studies to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of herbs are scarce; in some cases, there is evidence of common, traditional use. More information is needed before these herbs can be recommended as a first line of treatment for insomnia.
Melatonin is a hormone that is synthesized by the pineal gland in humans and produced in animals and in plants. Although the effects of melatonin are complex and poorly understood, it plays a critical role in the regulation of your sleeping and waking cycle and other circadian rhythms. Melatonin has been studied as a possible treatment of circadian rhythm disorders and may be helpful in reducing sleep disturbances caused by jet lag.
Adverse effects of melatonin are minimal, but more long-term studies examining the effectiveness and toxicity of melatonin supplements are needed.