Struggling to drift off? Liz Connor finds some natural methods for combating those sleepless nights.
Despite best intentions to get an early night, most of us know the frustration of your brain kicking into gear just as your head hits the pillow – sabotaging your chances of drifting off peacefully.
Having trouble sleeping is extremely common, but while it’s sometimes just a temporary blip, for others it can be a chronic problem. The Sleep Health Foundation estimates that a third of us have struggled with insomnia at some point, and recent figures suggest the pandemic has taken a toll on our slumber too. In a survey by King’s College London, half of British adults said their sleep had been worse than usual.
When a bad night’s sleep strikes, it can be tempting to reach for over-the-counter sleeping medication, but doctors warn that these aren’t intended for long-term use.
Often, it’s much kinder on your system to look at holistic options first – good sleep hygiene and having a ‘wind-down’ routine and set bedtime can all help. And if you’re still tossing and turning, here’s five natural sleep aids that promise to help you get a better night’s sleep…
1. Valerian root
Valerian root is touted as a homeopathic way to promote relaxation and help reduce anxiety, and there’s some evidence to suggest it can have a positive effect on sleep.
The herb comes from a tall flowered plant that’s native to northern Asia but is widely available as a tablet supplement – which fans say taking before bed can help promote peaceful sleep.
However – it’s always recommended to speak to your GP or pharmacist before introducing any new supplements or tablets into your routine, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking any medication.
Magnesium is a vital mineral for developing healthy bones and teeth, supporting muscle function and helping reduce groggy morning fatigue – and studies have also found that it may help with broken sleep. Research published in 2012, looking at elderly people with insomnia, found taking a magnesium supplement didn’t just improve sleep quality, but was also associated with longer sleep time and drifting off more quickly.
We can introduce more magnesium into our diets by eating leafy veg and nuts, but experts warn many people in the Western world are not getting enough.
Alternatively, how about a soak in a magnesium-enriched bath before bed? Dissolve some Better You Magnesium Flakes (£9.99, hollandandbarret.com) into your bath water, for an ultra-relaxing wind-down routine.
3. White noise
Barking dogs, arguing neighbours and road traffic can all contribute to a disturbed and miserable night’s sleep. Playing white noise in your room can create a constant ambient sound, which helps to mask sudden noises that can jolt you awake. Many people find white noise very calming, too.
It can easily be created by sleeping with a simple house fan in your room, plus there are lots of white noise apps and soundtracks available to try.
If you’re especially sensitive to noise, you might want to invest in some sleep buds, like QuietOn Sleep (£179, quieton.com). The wireless headphones comfortably slip into the ear and block out external noise, while also playing a range of gentle sounds to help you drift off.
4. Chamomile tea
Getting a better night’s rest could be a simple as clicking on the kettle an hour before bed. If you’re still opting for a builder’s brew at night, which contains sleep-sabotaging caffeine, try switching to a cup of calming chamomile tea instead.
This mellow, honey-like flower has wonderfully soothing properties, and studies have found that it may have a mild sedative effect on the body too. As well as getting your mind ready for rest, it also has the added benefit of reducing menstrual pain.
5. CBD oil
CBD oil has been something of a wellness fad in recent years, and it’s popping up in everything from skincare to coffee.
It’s basically an active ingredient derived from the hemp plant that imparts a feeling of relaxation and calm (but no, it’s not the same thing as actual cannabis!). Crucially, it doesn’t contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that produces the well-documented ‘high’.
However, CBD is also commonly used to help with anxiety, pain and certain seizures, and some say it can help with sleep issues too.
CBD oil can be found in tablet supplements and is also available as a tincture that’s placed under the tongue, like PureSport’s 1000mg CBD Oil Tincture (£64.99 for 30ml, puresportcbd.com), which is both GMO-free and vegan-friendly.