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Insomnia Advice

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Question: Every night I wake up two or three times and have great difficulty in getting off to sleep again. In the mornings I tend to sleep heavily and I find it very hard to get up. Am I getting enough sleep and what can I do to get more?

16 September, 2008

Answer: With the fast pace of living, many people suffer from disturbed sleep, which can lead to health problems. 

The amount of sleep needed varies according to the individual, although we generally need 7-8 hours a night to remain healthy and alert.

You know if you are getting enough sleep when you feel rested and ready to take on the world when you wake up in the morning. If you often feel tired, groggy, irritable and unable to concentrate, you may have a sleep disorder.

The causes of insomnia can vary. For example high stress jobs naturally boost levels of chemicals that stimulate nervous system activity and prevent sleep. Drinking stimulants in the day to stay alert and alcohol in the evening to relax can also have an adverse effect on sleeping, while depression and anxiety is another common cause of insomnia.

But there are plenty of things you can do to try and help you get a better night’s sleep:

Cut down on coffee and other stimulants during the day, you should avoid caffeine for six hours before bedtime. Stick to a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up and take regular exercise, both will help increase the hours of deep sleep. Make sure that afterwards you relax your muscles by having a bath before bed. People often complain of muscle twitches from tension when unable to sleep.

Keep you room reasonably cool as most of us tend to overheat at night and don’t have a soft mattress as many sleep disorders are caused by back and muscle pains.

Watch when and what you eat. A large or late meal may make you drowsy, but your busy digestive system may keep you awake much later. Try eating a banana or some turkey about half an hour before you go to sleep as both foods help encourage the production of a hormone that helps you sleep.

There are also a large number of natural herbal remedies for helping promote sleep such as Valerian Root, Peppermint and PassionFlower, which are all mild sedatives. Camomile is known for its calming effect on muscles and Skullcap is often used by herbalists as a mild tranquilliser for nervous tension. Combinations of these herbs can be found in several herbal supplements to help with insomnia. Ask at your local health food shop or pharmacy.

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