Not being able to get to sleep can be a waking nightmare, particularly if it carries on night after night.
But if all the tips, like drinking warm milk and reading a good book at bedtime, haven’t helped, there are many natural remedies that might finally help you doze off. Here are 10 of them:
1. Vitamin D
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ is thought to influence both sleep quality and quantity, and studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with less sleep overall and also, with more disrupted sleep.
While the majority of our vitamin D is made through exposing the skin to sunlight, small quantities can be found in oily fish, egg yolks and fortified foods.
A hormone naturally produced in the body, melatonin helps determine sleep and wake cycles. Light affects its production, with levels normally rising in the evening, remaining high during the night, and dropping in the early morning.
Very small amounts of melatonin are found in meat, grains, and fruit and vegetables. It’s also available as a supplement, used to treat jet lag and insomnia.
Being iron deficient can lead to restless leg syndrome, where people feel they constantly have to move their legs when they go to bed, making it hard to fall asleep. Iron-deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping.
Iron-rich foods include liver, nuts, dark chocolate, beef, lamb, beans, whole grains, and dark leafy green vegetables, or you can buy iron tablets.
As well as strengthening bones and teeth, calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture melatonin, which induces sleep. This explains why a glass of warm milk is thought to help you get to sleep, as dairy products contain both tryptophan and calcium.
Known for its ability to relieve insomnia, magnesium helps you release tension and relax, preparing you for sleep. One study found the mineral, which can be found in foods including dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, and whole grains, helps decrease the stress hormone cortisol that can keep you awake.
6. Vitamin E
This antioxidant helps combat restless leg syndrome, thus making it easier for sufferers to fall asleep. Studies have also shown it can help relieve hot flushes and night sweats for menopausal women, and improve sleep quality. It’s found in many foods, including dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish and fruit.
7. B vitamins
Research suggests good levels of vitamins B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12 may help achieve good sleep, as they help regulate the body’s level of the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body produce sleep-inducing melatonin.
B vitamins are found in many foods, including fortified foods.
Used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment, valerian root is thought to increase the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a compound in the brain that prevents transmission of nerve impulses. If used over an extended period, valerian can help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.
The herb chamomile is usually drunk in a tea and has been used for centuries to help with sleep and reducing anxiety. There’s little research to prove its effectiveness though.
An amino acid found in green tea, studies show that while theanine, which is available as a supplement, isn’t a sedative, it does significantly improve sleep quality through its calming effects.