A restless night's sleep tossing and turning often has many of us scrabbling for the medicine cupboard, popping the odd pill here and there in the hopes of it sending us off to the land of nod. And while this might work in the short term, taking more pills than we need to could be doing us more harm than good- not to mention the risk of us getting addicted, especially to sleeping pills.
Luckily, there are some easy, pill-free options that can help you catch more of your forty winks and you might find them as close at hand as your kitchen. In fact, researchers have found that certain foods you might already have in the house can improve the quality of your sleep by up to 42 per cent. Read on for five of the best natural sleeping remedies from holistic nutritionist Nikki Hillis. They're easy peasy to get hold of and should have you nodding off in no time.
Nuts and seeds
Are you nuts for a bag of nuts and seeds? Well it's great news if you are. Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sesame seeds are all full of magnesium and calcium – two of the best minerals to help promote great sleep.
The unsaturated fats that you get in many nuts also boost your levels of serotonin- your body's happy hormone- as well as keeping your blood sugar levels steady, which will stop you waking up in the middle of the night.
So try have a bag of your favourite nuts and seeds on the go each day- make sure you pick an unsalted variety though. They generally make a healthier alternative to snacking on cakes and chocolate come the 3 o'clock energy slump too!
Have a (herbal) cuppa
Many herbal teas contain natural extracts that can help you drift off more easily. In fact you might be surprised at the difference you see from swapping your late night builder's brew (which generally contains sleep-disrupting caffeine) for something more herbal. Valerian tea, from the valerian root, is one of the best as it's renowned for tackling insomnia. You can pick it up in most health food shops.
Lemongrass tea is also full of calming properties that can help ward off nightmares. And for a tea that's stocked in most supermarkets, try chamomile which is a real night nurse that can stave off sleeplessness and knock a restless, irritable night's sleep on the head.
The humble hairy kiwi fruit is high in antioxidants and serotonin levels- both of which do wonders for your sleep. In fact a recent study found that people who ate a kiwi every day for four weeks were dropping asleep over 30 per cent faster than those who weren't and were spending less and less time tossing and turning wide awake in the middle of the night.
If you're not that fond of the taste of kiwi as it is, try mixing it in with a smoothie or chopping it up into small pieces to top on your breakfast yogurt.
Honey, honey, honey
Busy bees are one of our best allies in getting a night full of zzzs as honey helps promote a really deep and restorative sleep. By taking just a teaspoon or two of honey before bed, you'll be re-stocking your liver with glycogen so that you don't get a sugar drop waking you up in the middle of the night. Honey also helps release the hormone melatonin in your brain, which invites sleepiness and encourages you to drift off.
You might not have heard of it before, but this bright green stuff is fast soaring in popularity as a mighty superfood. A natural algae supplement that we've actually known about since the 1890s, chlorella is thought to have lots of health benefits, including helping you sleep better.
It's packed with high levels of vitamin B, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids- all of which are essential for getting a good night's kip.
You might also find that chlorella makes you feel less on edge as calcium and magnesium help you relax and could stave off stress. Chlorella is available in tablet and powder form in most health food stores or at Sun Chlorella here. It can also be mixed into a juice or smoothie for a tastier way to send you to sleep. Check with your doctor before you begin taking supplements.