Sleep restores our bodies and minds and allows us to keep functioning during waking hours. Insomnia describes either difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. 33-45% of adults sleep either inadequately or for not long enough most nights, leaving them feeling tired and irritable the next day.
If you are one of these people, here’s some tips to develop better sleeping habits. Firstly, try to identify what is causing the sleep problem and write down your worries. On average, adults should sleep 7.5-8.5 hours a night, but this varies from person to person, usually decreasing with age. Trying to sleep longer than this or napping through the day may decrease your quality of sleep at night. Practice relaxation techniques and try to exercise 20-30 minutes a day. Watching the sunset is a beautiful way to stimulate melatonin levels needed for a healthy wake-sleep rhythm.
Some medicines can keep you awake if taken close to bedtime. Ask your pharmacist about medicines you may be taking that could be the reason you stay awake at night. If you suffer from pain, having adequate pain relief is important for a good night sleep.
Practice good sleep hygiene to create a habit for yourself around bedtime. Establish a pattern of only going to bed when you are ready for sleep, and only trying to go to sleep when you get into bed. Make your bedroom a sleep haven, lovely and dark, quiet, cool and comfy. Remove stimulants, such as bright lights, televisions, phones and computers from the bedroom and turn them off an hour or two before bed. It is often helpful to remove clocks as repeated checking of how long you have taken to fall asleep generally worsens the anxiety about being able to sleep. Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol in the evening, rather try chamomile tea or milky drinks.
If this isn’t successful in allowing you to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, then get up and do something in another room and return to bed after a period of quiet reading, de-stressing or relaxing exercises. If these self-help suggestions don’t work, medicines may be required for short periods of time to break the habit of sleeplessness. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about which medicine will be best.
Herbal supplements may be useful for people who have trouble unwinding or are experiencing insomnia due to stress or hormonal imbalances. Rescue Remedy with White Chestnut can help sleep when you have busy thoughts that you can’t shut off. Magnesium may help to relax and soothe any muscle tension, Passiflora Incarnata (Passionflower) may help to relieve restless sleep in times of stress, and Tart cherry supplements can be useful to help getting off to sleep and/or staying asleep. They contain high levels of naturally occurring phytonutrients to help regulate and support a deep, restful sleep. There are also a range of herbs to support you with sleep if your insomnia is due to menopausal symptoms, such as Zizyphus Jujuba for hot flashes. An herb for useful for insomnia due to inflammation is Withania Somnifera which translates to “strength of the horse”. This herb is a tonic which helps with insomnia, adaptation to stress and reduces inflammation.