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Sweet Dreams

Not sleeping? You are not alone! Sleep problems are the scourge of our times, with stress and anxiety, use of mobile phones and tablets late at night, as well as caffeine and alcohol all taking their toll on our “shut-eye”. But don’t worry - deep restorative sleep is within your grasp, if you take the time to develop good practices.

Anyone who has suffered from sleeplessness, whether periodic or chronic, will know that without sufficient sleep, energy levels, mood, concentration, memory, immunity and skin can all suffer. Matthew Walker, director of the University of California’s Centre for Human Sleep Science and a leading neuroscientist, warns that adults aged 45 years or older who have less than six hours’ sleep a night are at a highly increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Research suggests that long term insomnia also increases the risk of diabetes, some cancers and Alzheimer’s.

Whilst conventional wisdom tells us that seven to eight hours’ sleep is desirable, Walker, who has recently written the book Why We Sleep believes that less than seven hours a night constitutes sleep deprivation. Research carried out by the Sleep Council reveals that the average Briton gets just six hours and 35 minutes sleep per night, with over a third of us having only five to six hours sleep a night - so there is obviously room for improvement.

Almost half of us are losing sleep as a result of worry and stress. As well as techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness, increasing your intake of magnesium may help to relax body and mind and may also be useful for cramps and restless legs. Herbs such as valerian, lavender, passionflower and chamomile may also help short term sleep problems, whilst rhodiola may be beneficial for stress. Adopting a relaxing routine to unwind, limiting caffeine and alcohol, keeping blue-light emitting laptops and smartphones out of the bedroom and keeping the bedroom dark and quiet can also help.

Finally, if snoring is keeping you or your partner awake, help may be at hand! Snoring may be caused by a variety of factors, both physical and lifestyle-related. If mucous is contributing to the problem, enzymes such as lipase and amylase can break down the congestion and open up the airways, giving you both the chance of a decent night’s kip!