the end of the day Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith

Let’s get information from the experts at America’s Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep. The medical doctor there Charlene Gamaldo says the following is proven to help. Although we often associate going to sleep being helped by taking valerian tea etc, there is no hard evidence that they help. The best solutions to beat insomnia are pretty simple, but you have to be 100% committed to doing all of them and at least for a few weeks.

Never use aromatherapy (lavender etc) as oils or in diffusers if pregnant/nursing or with affected medical conditions. Also not if pets sleep nearby (including on your bed). This could be especially harmful to cats, as their livers cannot break down aromatherapy oils. If used, air rooms thoroughly before allowing animal friends back in the room.

No alcohol. At all (if you have addiction problems speak to your GP as immediately stopping could cause serious withdrawal issues). Alcohol interferes with sleep. Instead swap it for warm plant milk or tart cherry juice (these increases the body’s production of melatonin and bioavailability of tryptophan). She also says chamomile tea may help due to flavenoids. But the main issue is that it doesn’t have caffeine.

Physical exercise. Yoga can help but unless it’s vigorous, proper physical exercise earlier in the day (like running, cycling or aerobics) will help to improve sleep later in the day, otherwise it could release too many endorphins at night, which could keep you awake and raise body temperature, so work out at least two hours before. Yogis actually practice at dawn and dusk, not late at night.

Melatonin supplements may help, it’s a natural hormone that is released in our brain four hours before we get sleepy, in response to lack of light. So not using screens a few hours before may help.

Stay cool between 65 and 72 degrees, hot flashes for menopausal women and too many walks in warm weather don’t help. Wear cotton pyjamas and bedsheets and keep the room cool. Also be sure the room is dark, and use a torch to visit the bathroom to keep stimuli down from light.

Avoid caffeine. Try going without tea or coffee, even early in the day. This can make a massive difference. Also avoid alcohol as it can disrupt sleep and also wake you up at night.

Eat regular meals, and set a circadian rhythm. Three regular meals and some kind of regular exercise in the morning or afternoon, should let you wind down to sleep well at night.

Get any problems fixed like physical pain or mental health issues, if these are the cause of insomnia. Exercise and good food without caffeine, alcohol or tobacco will help you feel better physically and mentally. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can make a regular routine and stick to it.

If you work shifts, take naps during evening shifts if possible, and minimise exposure to light after finishing evening shifts. If it really affects you, look for a daytime job.

If all these don’t help, consider seeing a sleep specialist on the NHS who can look at providing a prescription to ‘reset’ your brain.

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