Stressed, anxious and with routines shot to pieces from weeks of lockdown – it’s hardly surprising that almost two thirds of us in the UK admit our quality of sleep has plummeted since the pandemic struck. In fact, on average, we’re losing an hour each night.
Sleep Awareness Week, backed by The National Sleep Foundation, runs from 14-20 March. Dr Shahzadi Harper, a GP and health expert at theharperclinic.com, says a decent night’s kip is important for mental wellbeing and reducing anxiety, which in turn will help you to drift off more easily. “It’s essential for a healthy immune system, too,” she adds.
Regular exercise (but not too close to bedtime), eating well, reducing booze and caffeine, and no screen time an hour before bed are the foundations of a good sleep routine. But if these methods aren’t enough for you, here are some other tricks to boost your snoozing powers.
Valerian helps to boost production of GABA, a calming brain chemical that promotes sleep. It has been shown to help people fall asleep more quickly, reduce restless sleep, increase sleep and improve insomnia.
You can drink it as a relaxing herbal tea before bed. Pukka’s new Night Time Berry Tea contains valerian root and is sold in supermarkets (£3 for 20). Or their Pukka Night Time Capsules (£7.45 for 30 capsules) are sold in Boots, Holland & Barrett, Superdrug and Ocado.
Low levels of magnesium are linked to low levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone. “Magnesium is known as nature’s calmer,” says Dr Harper. “I often recommend it.” Try adding a few handfuls of Epsom salts – made of magnesium and sulphate – to a bath before bed. You can also add magnesium-rich foods to your diet, such as bananas, dark chocolate (above 70% cocoa solids) and green leafy veg, or take as a supplement.
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