According to the NHS, everyone needs different amounts of sleep, with adults needing between seven and nine hours a night on average. If you’re not getting the sleep you need you may…
- Wake up frequently during the night
- Wake up early and not be able to get back to sleep
- Feel less than refreshed when you wake up
- Feel tired and irritable during the day
- Find it difficult to concentrate
However if you’re having a spell of not sleeping well, the good news is there are lots of things you can do to help yourself.
Natural sleep boosters
Food Try having a portion of brown rice or quinoa with your evening meal, as these contain a substance called tryptophan that can help make you feel relaxed and sleepy. Other foods that contain tryptophan include turkey, bananas, nuts, seeds and sour cherries.
Herbs Plant-based remedies may not solve the cause of your sleep problem but they can help you feel more relaxed at bedtime. Try a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed. Other relaxing herbs include passion flower, valerian and hops.
Acupressure In Chinese medicine there’s a pressure point called ‘joyful sleep’. This is about one thumb-width below the inside of the ankle bone (feel for a shallow indentation between two tendons). Press this spot with your index finger or thumb firmly for up to a minute.
Smells You’ve probably heard that lavender essential oil can help you relax. But if you’re not a fan, other oils do a similar job, including bergamot, sandalwood, jasmine and frankincense. Add a few drops of the oil of your choosing to a spray bottle with water and spritz your pillow before you turn in.
Hypnotherapy If your sleeplessness is caused by stress or anxiety, hypnotherapy can help by teaching you relaxation techniques that can calm you down at the end of a bad day. Hypnotherapy can teach you how to reprogramme your mind to expect a good night’s sleep instead of another night of sleeplessness.
Homeopathy Take Calc phos if you lie in bed for hours trying to get to sleep, or Kali phos if you can’t sleep because you’re so exhausted. Coffea is also worth a try if your mind keeps whirring when you’re in bed.
Flower remedies The traditional Bach Flower Remedy Mimulus is used when you’re worrying about a specific situation, such as a job interview. Or take Vervain if you get so worked up that you can’t relax, or Elm if you can’t sleep because you’re feeling overwhelmed.
If you have regular sleep problems, you may be suffering from insomnia. Speak to your GP about what may be causing it, and what treatments may be useful. However you won’t usually be prescribed sleeping pills unless your insomnia is severe or you’ve tried other treatments and they haven’t worked.