Our resident pharmacist recommends the best sleep remedies to help you get some shut-eye, including gadgets, herbal supplements and over the counter sleeping pills.
By Rita Ghelani
Can’t get to sleep? Quality sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health and the importance of hitting your nightly quota cannot be overemphasised. During sleep, the body works to maintain your physical health by healing and repairing heart and blood vessels. Sleep also helps with healthy brain function.
But insomnia is thought to affect around one in three people in the UK, which can have a negative impact on your physical and your mental health.
‘In the short-term, insomnia can result in problems with concentration, attention and memory, and doing day-to-day tasks,’ says Dr Irshaas Ebrahim, medical director at The London Sleep Centre. ‘More persistent insomnia can lead to clinical depression or an anxiety disorder’.
The science of sleep
Sleep patterns are determined by cycles known as circadian rhythms. Throughout the day and night our bodies release chemicals to help us do different things at different times. To schedule sleep in each 24-hour period our bodies release a hormone called melatonin, made by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin helps us body know when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.
Melatonin is normally released when the sun sets and it starts to gets dark. Levels increase until about two or four am, and then drop off at sunrise. The release of melatonin starts to decrease as we get older, which can cause difficulties with sleeping.
Why can’t I sleep?
Most people need around eight hours sleep a night, but this can vary. It is difficult to know what triggers insomnia, but the inability to sleep is often associated with the following:
- Stress and anxiety.
- Mental health problems such as depression.
- Physical health problems such as long-term pain or heart problems.
- Temperature is essential, as being too hot or too cold can impact sleep quality.
- Poor sleep environment, such as an uncomfortable, light or noisy bedroom.
- Some medicines can disturb sleep, including antidepressants.
- Lifestyle and bad sleep habits, such as working late, taking naps in the afternoon, shift work and too much screen time can impact sleep quality.
? If you just can’t sleep, speak to your pharmacist who can recommend a medication for short-term use that will help you get a good night’s sleep and break the vicious cycle of sleepless nights.
Try these sleep remedies
Insomnia can be extremely debilitating. If your symptoms persist, make an appointment with your GP to discuss the best course of action. But for the short term, we’ve compiled a list of top sleep products to help you get some shut-eye:
? Calm the mind
Aromatherapy oils have been traditional used to help calm and relax the mind. Lavender, Valerian and Vetiver essential oils are believed to aid relaxation and restful sleep. These oils are available in pillow sprays, room sprays and pillows filled with lavender.
? Cut out noise and light
Noise and light can both affect sleeping patterns. Light (and dark) helps us regulate our sleeping patterns and so it’s important your bedroom is dark. Lined curtains and blackout blinds can reduce light coming into the bedroom. Use earplugs to cut out noise will also help and if your partners snoring is keeping you up, then a product to stop snoring is what you need.
? Herbal sleep remedies
Herbal remedies containing valerian, lavender and passiflora have been shown to help with sleep disturbances. These products work by helping to reduce anxiety, thus aiding natural sleep. Ask you pharmacist for advice to help chose the right one for you.