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Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Try these natural solutions

Most of us have struggled to sleep at some point in our lives. Tossing and turning, brain whirring and watching the hours slowly tick by. Sleep is so crucial to our physical and mental health, and a lack of it can leave us feeling exhausted, run down and struggling to concentrate.

“The average person needs around seven to nine hours of good quality sleep a night,” says Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, Director and GP at Your Doctor (www.your-doctor.co.uk). “Research has shown that getting good sleep can help in the fight against diseases such as heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. Having less than five hours of quality sleep a night over a long period of time can seriously increase risk of disease. Sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure and possibly cause increased inflammatory processes which could lead to heart disease for example.”

Natural sleep solutions

“Sleep is the foundation that the rest of our sleep is built upon, but often poor sleepers struggle to improve their sleep,” says James Wilson, aka The Sleep Geek, (www.thesleepgeek.co.uk). “Start off with your sleep type. Are you an owl, a lark or somewhere in the middle? Ensure your sleep time matches your sleep type. We are often trying to force sleep. All poor sleepers know this as they have spent hours in bed desperately trying to go to sleep. If you are in bed for 30 minutes and not asleep then you should be getting up and starting again, resetting your mind and letting sleep come.

“Sleep comes from a drop in heart rate and a drop in core temperature. Ensure your pre-sleep routine includes activities that achieve this. Have a consistent wake up time, with a lay in of no more than an hour and a half. This allows your sleep pressure to build up efficiently and will drive a consistent sleep time. In terms of our environment it should be calm, consistent in terms of light and noise, comfortable in terms of products and most importantly the temperature in your immediate sleep environment (between the mattress and duvet) needs to be right. If you are a hot sleeper try having a separate duvet/sheet to your partner and consider materials like bamboo, silk and Alpaca fleece.”

Switch off your stresses

“Change your bedding once or twice a week and make your bed as soon as you get up,” says nutritionist Rob Hobson, author of The Art of Sleeping (HQ). “Nothing helps to induce sleep better than fresh bed linen. Totally declutter your bedroom and not just what you can see on the surface. Organise your wardrobes and under the bed as even knowing there is disorder behind closed doors can make it hard to settle the mind for some people – remember that mess equals stress!

“The most obvious tip is to put a curfew on all electrical equipment. A nightly digital detox is essential not only for the natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin but also to help you to switch off from the stresses and demands of your daily life.”

Herbal healing

“The best kinds of herbal remedies to aid sleep largely depend on what the problem is,” says medical herbalist Hannah Charman (www.physichealth.uk). “If pain or muscle tension is keeping you from drifting off, valerian may be a good choice, but should be avoided if you suffer from depression. Chamomile and lemon balm can be safely used for children who are restless sleepers and tend to wake you several times a night, and a warm bath with a drop of lavender or Roman chamomile essential oil in some milk will help both parents and children. Besides herbs, a hot Epsom Salts bath or footbath for 40 minutes at bedtime really aids restful sleep.”

Nature’s tranquilliser

“Sleeping issues and anxiety can both be improved with the use of magnesium,” explains Henrietta Norton, leading nutritional therapist and founder of Wild Nutrition (www.wildnutrition.com). “Known as nature’s tranquilliser, magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in your body and is leached by factors such as alcohol, stress, coffee, antacids and the contraceptive pill. Nourish yourself with magnesium-rich foods including pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, oats, millet, buckwheat, avocado, barley, brown rice, kelp, collard greens, kale, figs and dates, or support yourself with a good multi-nutrient supplement.

A note on caffeine, whilst many people are aware of the effect caffeine has on their sleep, it’s important to know that caffeine: intake also increases the body use and excretion of magnesium. For regular coffee drinkers, I recommend they have their last caffeinated drink before 3pm and to take a natural magnesium supplement at night. Even decaffeinated versions of coffee and standard tea can contain other stimulants such as theobromine and should be avoided.”

Homeopathic help

“Homeopathy is a safe and gentle system of complementary medicine mainly using plants and minerals prepared to traditional homeopathic methods,” explains Roz Crompton, a qualified homeopath and Trade and Marketing Manager at Helios Homeopathy (www.helios.co.uk). “It can help with a variety of complaints that contribute towards difficulty sleeping such as stress, hormonal imbalances, physical symptoms and a whole lot more. Being homeopathic, there are no known side effects.” The following remedies may be helpful:

Avena Sativa, Coffea, Passiflora and Valerian 30c – The number one combination remedy, with a long history of traditional use, to help sleep disturbances.

Aconite/Arg-Nit/Arsenicum 30c – This combination has a long history of traditional use to help mild stress and anxiety, one of the main causes of sleeplessness.

Arnica/Rhus Tox/Ruta 30c – A great combination remedy for sleeplessness from physical aches and pains and arthritic complaints, when the person just can’t get comfortable and is very restless.

Cocculus 30c – For sleeplessness from physical or mental exhaustion and disturbed sleep patterns associated with jetlag, with constant drowsiness.

Pulsatilla 30c – For disturbed sleep in children who cry and want attention all the time.

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