Herbfacts
Close up of woman in bed unable to get to sleep

How to get a better night’s sleep naturally

If corona virus anxiety and strange dreams are keeping you awake at night you are not alone.

Editor Jane Garton delves into the herbal medicine chest to find some natural remedies to help you get a better night’s sleep.

Covid 19 is having an impact on almost every area of our lives and sleep is no exception. In fact, around 43% of us are finding it harder to get a good night’s sleep since the start of the pandemic according to a recent survey from the Sleep Council. Reports of strange dreams are also soaring during lockdown and social media is awash with dream talk.

Why might this effect our sleep?

Perhaps these changing sleep patterns are not that surprising with so much anxiety and stress about the current situation flying around as well as worry about what the future might hold. A degree of stress and anxiety is our early warning sign against threats and in small amounts is not always a bad thing. But too much puts our brains into a high state of alertness and a viscous circle begins. If we can’t sleep, it generates more anxiety the next day and so it goes on.

Restless nights can also mean we are dipping in and out of periods of REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) which is when we dream. As a result we are dreaming more and often more vividly which could explain why more of us are experiencing weird dreams.

If you find yourself tossing and turning all night long here are some soothing herbal remedies to help instil a sense of a calm and more restful sleep.

Camomile

CLose up of a cup of camomile tea surrounded by camomile flowers

With its pretty daisy-like flowers, camomile is a well-known natural remedy for sleep. Try it in a soothing bedtime tea. Put one teabag or 5-8g of loose camomile into a cup of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse for a few minutes before drinking.

Valerian

The valerian flower

Extracts of valerian root contain natural plant compounds known as iridoids that have a calming effect on the nervous system, which can help you relax and put you in the mood for sleep. Valerian is often combined with other herbs such as lemon balm and hops, both of which are renowned for their calming properties.

Passion Flower

The Passion flower

The vibrant blooms of this distinctive South American climber yield soporific fruits that are often used to calm nervous tension. To make an infusion put I teaspoon of dried plant into a cup of boiling water. Leave to infuse for a few minutes before straining and drinking. Passion flower also works well with camomile and valerian to help sleep.

Lavender

Lavender flowers

The dried flowers of this beautifully scented plant have been used as a sedative for centuries. Invest in a lavender pillow; alternatively sprinkle up to four drops of lavender essential oil on your pillowcase and inhale the aroma as you drift off into the land of Nod.

General sleep tips:

How you go about your day can have a big impact on how you sleep at night. Try these top tips to help you drift off at the end of the day.

Move it

Close up of woman's trainers while out walking

Stick to a regular exercise routine, outdoors if possible, to make the most of nature’s calming benefits.

Build in some relaxation every day

woman meditating on bed

A relaxing daytime exercise such as mindfulness, yin yoga or meditation can help.

Start a worry diary

Close up of woman writing in note pad

Keep a notepad by your bed and note down any worries before you turn in. Seeing things written down often makes them seem less of a worry and helps clear the mind before bed.

Tune out of the news

A world globe and tv screens to represent news and current affairs

Try not to wake up to the news or watch it just before bed. Avoid late night scary movies too.

Establish a regular wake-up time

Close up of an alarm clock with a woman rising from bed in the backgruond to represent regular getting up time

If working from home or still in isolation set yourself a fixed wake-up time. Set your alarm, bypass the snooze button and start every day at the same time.

Nap wisely

Young woman with eyes closed calm and relaxed on a sofa

While a short power nap early in the afternoon might help, long naps later in the day can hinder night-time sleep so are best avoided.

Eat well

A selection of foods representing healthy eating and a balanced diet

Follow a healthy, well-balanced diet and watch your intake of alcohol and caffeine, especially later in the day, as both can disrupt the quantity and quality of sleep.

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