We’ve all had those nights when we’ve tossed and turned in our beds, desperately trying to catch a few winks before the alarm goes off.
But what happens when nights turn into weeks, or worse, months?
According to statistics, one in 10 people suffer from insomnia in the UK and there are more than 10 million prescriptions for sleeping tablets written out every year.
But is popping pills the answer?
Non-drug treatments like meditation and herbal supplements can work just as well, and without the side effects or risks of addiction.
Try some of these natural remedies for a good slumber...
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1. Switch off
According to research more than a quarter of us skip sleep to find time to do things like work – especially high achievers.
But it’s vital to wind down for a few hours before bedtime, so try not to work or check your emails after 8pm, and switch off your phone.
2. Tune in
Listen to your favourite soothing music before you hit the sack.
There’s evidence to show that taking time out to listen to music you enjoy reduces anxiety and lowers your blood pressure through the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
3. Breathe deeply
Meditation relieves stress and improves the quality of sleep.
Try this exercise: close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nostrils to a count of three while expanding your stomach.
Hold for three seconds then exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to six whilst flattening your stomach.
Repeat five times.
4. Use affirmations
Affirmations – positive statements you make about and to yourself – have been shown to be useful aids for changing beliefs and behaviours.
One good ‘sleep’ affirmation to try is the phrase ‘I sleep soundly every night’.
Repeat this in your head during the day and at bedtime.
Imagine yourself sleeping soundly and feel the energy you’ll have after a good night’s sleep.
5. Pick a good pillow
The importance of having a decent pillow shouldn’t be underestimated.
Choosing the right pillow can make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep.
It must provide adequate support for the neck and head and keep your spine in line with your neck.
The Sleep Council advises using a soft, fairly flat pillow if you sleep on your stomach.
If you sleep on your side, use a medium-soft one and if you sleep on your back, use a firm pillow.
6. Routine counts
Reducing the level of light you’re exposed to in the evening helps to ease your body into sleep mode by encouraging the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone.
So, if you can, get a dimmer switch and turn the lights down lower in the evening.
7. Be tired
Don’t force yourself to go to bed if you aren’t tired enough to sleep.
If you are wide awake you’re unlikely to fall asleep or may wake up early.
If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and go into another room until you are tired enough to fall back to sleep again.
It’s better than tossing and turning and worrying about your lack of sleep.
8. Eat right
Try not to overeat before bedtime as it may cause you discomfort and can also cause a surge in body temperature, making it hard to fall asleep.
But don’t eat too little either as your body needs nutrients to repair itself, and hunger pangs may keep you awake or wake you during the night.
Snacks such as bananas and turkey slices are perfect as they contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body uses to make the calming hormone serotonin.
9. Take supplements
Supplements like calcium and magnesium can aid sleep.
Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ and helps the body deal with stress more effectively by calming the mind and relaxing the muscles.
Calcium deficiency has been linked to sleep problems so eating foods rich in this mineral, such as parsnips, figs, oats and Brazil nuts, is a good idea.
10. Curb your caffeine
Caffeine is a strong stimulant and its effects can last for hours.
Just one cup of coffee at bedtime can cause problems in getting off to sleep and affect the quality of slumber – especially that of deep sleep.
If you have trouble dropping off, it’s best not to drink it after 2pm. Try relaxing teas likes camomile or valerian instead. By Nilufer Atik