Having trouble sleeping?
I get a lot of enquiries from the media and the general public asking for tips about how to get a better night's sleep. I'm not a qualified sleep
expert nor am I a Clinician but I can offer a few tried and tested methods of coping with sleep disturbance. Much of what I suggest, you may
have heard before. Some of it, you may not. Please feel free to pick and choose the methods you like the sound of but please be aware that I
cannot accept responsibility for the effect or efficacy of any of the remedies mentioned. Whilst I cannot envisage that any of them will cause
harm, I urge you to consult your Doctor if you are unsure about whether you should use them. This is especially important if you are currently
taking prescription medication, including sleeping tablets.

For reasons yet to be fully explained, insomnia is a very common problem in developed countries. It's especially common in the elderly and in
women over the age of fifty, where hormonal imbalance or androgen depletion can often be the cause. For the rest of the population, there
could be a whole variety of different factors, from diet to anxiety or depression, from light & noise pollution to too much mental stimulation. It's
now accepted that one of the side effects of insomnia, or poor sleep quality, is depression and often it's the depression that's diagnosed as
causing the sleep problem instead of the other way round. This is a particularly worrying situation but one which is now being more widely
recognised. If you think this may have happened to you, you need to go and talk it over with your Doctor before you make any decisions
about medication.

The main problem with insomnia and/or sleep disturbance is that it is very difficult to treat and OTC (over the counter) or prescription
medication is often seen as the only answer. Unfortunately, OTC medication to induce or maintain sleep often doesn't work very well or may
leave you feeling groggy in the morning, and prescription medication can sometimes cause more problems than the insomnia it was designed
to treat.

So, if you're having trouble getting a good night's sleep, take a look at my suggestions below. Try a few of them out; experiment with them. I'd
be very interested to hear how you get on - you'll find my email link on the home page.

AFTERWORD: In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a
wealth of historical evidence that indicates that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks. He suggests that our expectation of a long sleep
period, typically 8 hours, is a relatively recent invention. Our pre-industrial ancestors may have had two separate sleep periods of four hours
separated by a couple of wakeful hours in the middle of the night. This sleep pattern seems to have been considered "normal" and the
wakeful hours were considered to be an opportunity to relax, read, meet up with friends or even have sex! So, if you're having problems
staying asleep it may be because you're trying to force a sleep pattern that is at odds with your circadian rhythm. If you're able to experiment
with a different sleep pattern, one that's more in tune with your normal body rhythm, it might be the solution you need.  
Lying awake could be good for you!
Here are a few soporific suggestions
Avoid watching TV or doing computer work in the hour before you go to bed. You'll be surprised at how effective this can be at inducing a
good night's sleep.

Camomile tea at bedtime, particularly effective if mixed with lime flower or lavender. Starchild.co.uk based in Glastonbury sell a herbal tea
called "Dream Tea", (also available online). It's very effective at bedtime.

Lavender essential oil
       - put a few drops into a warm (not hot) bedtime bath
       - place in an oil burner in the bedroom (take care to ensure the candle and burner will not be knocked over by anyone - including pets)
       - dab a few drops of the neat oil inside your nostrils before going to sleep.
       - Place a few drops of the oil on a handkerchief or on the bed linen (take care on pillows; don't get the oil in your eyes).

Softly play some relaxing music as you drift off to sleep

Use one of the many Hypnotic CDs now available as a sleep aid. I personally recommend Paul McKenna's "I Can Make You Sleep." He's
right - he can! But you must also follow the instructions in the book that accompanies the CD.

Do some physical exercise during the day (not too much)

Make sure there's a plentiful supply of fresh air whilst sleeping

Keep your bedroom cool - this is especially important during menopause as it's often inefficient body temperature regulation that causes
sleep disturbance. You may not be aware that this is happening as it doesn't always result in night sweats.

Keep your bedroom decor muted, pastel shades or cream are good. Don't expect to get a good night's sleep in a room painted bright red or

If your insomnia is being caused by stress or anxiety, write out a list of things that are on your mind at bedtime and assure yourself that
you'll deal with them in the morning. Then forget them (this takes practice but is achievable!) In the morning you'll often find a dream is
offering you solutions to what was worrying you. Handing over your problems to your subconscious and sleeping on them really does work.

Avoid all caffeine. If you really must have a shot, make sure you don't drink any caffeinated drink after about 2pm

Don't go to bed hungry but don't go to bed with a full stomach either!

Vegetarian diets seem to help promote good sleep.

Have a high carbohydrate supper with milk (e.g. cereal)

Warm milky drink at bedtime

Experiment with changing your sleep pattern. If you wake in the night, get up and do something else (something that is relaxing - reading is
very good or listening to an audio book). When you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be aware that stress is the main factor that stops us getting a good night's sleep and is responsible
for a lot of ill-health. So examine your life to identify which area is causing the stress, and then do something about it. Nothing is more
important than your health! Look after yourself. Life is precious and you're a long time dead!
Sleep well & sweet dreams :-)
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