Natural ways to beat insomnia

happy woman on sofa
Take control of your sleep issues

The NHS spends £50million a year on drugs to help combat insomnia. But drugs aren't always the best answer: here's how to help yourself get some sleep without resorting to the medicine cabinet.

Restless legs:
If you've never suffered Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), you're lucky; it can cause discomfort in the feet, calves and thighs, making it almost impossible to drop off.

Acupuncturist Rachel Peckham says, 'Over 50% of people in the UK suffer with sleep disorders of some kind, generally attributed to a stressful lifestyle, and RLS is a common problem. Traditional acupuncture is known to be enormously beneficial for helping correct sleep problems. Most people find treatment wonderfully relaxing, as acupuncture is known to calm the nervous system and also affect hormonal outputs by increasing endorphin production.'

Try it: To find a practitioner in your area call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit www.acupuncture.org.uk
 
 Stress:
'Stress is a collection of physiological, cognitive, affective and behavioural symptoms that are caused by difficult situations in our daily life. It can affect each individual in different ways ranging from less severe symptoms such as headaches all the way up to depression and anxiety,' says Dr David Edwards.

'Exercise and a healthy diet are crucial to maintaining a relaxed mind and body. I also recommend some of my patients take Rhodiola rosea as a short term option when suffering stressful periods. Taking 200mg, twice a day could help to control the release of stress hormones whilst helping to improve energy and concentration levels, which can help reduce symptoms of stress.'

Rhodiola rosea is an 'adaptogen' – a substance of natural plant origin that is able to increase the body’s resistance to stress and normalise imbalances with minimal side effects.

Try it: Vitano® contains Rhodiola rosea root extract 200mg and is available from Boots, leading pharmacies and health-food stores priced at £13.27 for 30 tablets. Always read the label.

Caffeine:
Drinking tea, coffee and fizzy drinks throughout the day can have a negative impact when it comes to bedtime. Cutting down on caffeine really can make it easier to nod off, so try to  avoid it completely after 3pm. Nutritionist Kirsten Brooks notes, 'Camomile is a wonderful herb with sedative properties, helping us to relax and encourage sleep. As a warm drink, it's a great way to unwind in the evening.'

Try it: Heath and Heather’s Camomile infusion (RRP from £1.49) is good for reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.

Night sweats:
It is estimated that 8 out of 10 women in the UK experience symptoms leading up to the menopause and 45% of them find the symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, night sweats and hot flushes, difficult to deal with.

A study in the Journal of Gynaecological Endocrinology notes that red clover supplementation can provide a natural alternative to help reduce hot flushes.

Try it: Promensil Double Strength (80mg) dietary supplements have been specifically developed to help women manage symptoms of the menopause naturally and effectively without resorting to HRT. Promensil Double Strength claims to reduce hot flushes and night sweats by 75%. Available from Boots, Ocado, good independent chemists and health food shops.  

Nocturnal Cramps

Nocturnal muscle cramp causes distress and sleep disruption to more than 13 million people in the UK, with 82% of women having suffered, 12% of whom experience painful nocturnal cramps every night. Insomnia specialist and founder of the Sleep School, Dr Guy Meadows says, 'Quality sleep is essential to ensure you feel regenerated and ready for the day ahead. Interruptions caused by emotional or health problems can be very detrimental to everyday life, making it harder to concentrate at work, and affecting relationships.  Frustration and anxiety about disturbed sleep can cause it to become even worse.


'People often aren’t aware that they could be suffering from a sleep condition that is easy to treat. Instead of worrying about the problem, it is important to trust your body’s ability to sleep, making lifestyle changes or taking appropriate treatments where appropriate.'

Try it: Crampex (RRP from £4.29 for a pack of 24 tablets) is the only product available without prescription for the prevention and treatment of night cramps and doesn’t have the side effects associated with taking Quinine (which is regularly prescribed).  Available over the counter from pharmacies.

Bloating

Much like the rest of your body, your digestive system needs time to rest. Going to bed and getting up at a set time each day can improve your digestion and improve the regularity of your bowel movements. Digestive health issues and IBS can have a detrimental effect on sleep habits.

Try it: Lepicol is a three-in-one combination of gentle fibres, probiotic cultures and natural prebiotics which is effective but gentle and suitable for everyday use. RRP £11.18 for 180g (powdered), available from  leading retailers such as Boots, Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, independent health food stores and pharmacies.
 
Not tired enough

If you haven’t burned enough energy during the day, it’s likely that you’ll find bedtime a struggle when it comes to nodding off.

Justin Way, Personal Trainer from Pure Gym explains, 'There are a million ways you can give yourself a workout at home without spending a penny on expensive equipment. When hoovering, stand on your left leg whilst pushing and pulling the hoover around with your right arm. Hop to move around the room and alternate legs every 2 minutes.  This will work the core massively whilst bringing great tone to the legs and bum.'

Try it: More at-home workout moves here.