Sleeping Difficulties

Sleeping Difficulties

Natural advice if you are having trouble sleeping

Can’t sleep? We all have trouble sleeping at one time or another in our lives. This can be caused by stress or worry, or even drinking too much coffee before bedtime. This is usually a normal and temporary occurrence. However, if you cannot sleep on a regular basis, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders affect millions of people in the UK and include snoring, sleep apnoea, insomnia, sleep deprivation and restless legs syndrome. Sleep disorders can cause more than just a feeling of fatigue the next day: regular lack of sleep can affect your health and needs to be addressed.

Common sleep disorders

The most common sleep disorder is insomnia or sleeping too little. You may find it hard to get to sleep or alternatively wake up several times during the night – or both. You may feel that your sleep feels light or fragmented and you suffer from low energy the next day.

Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder where you stop breathing temporarily due to a blockage in your airways. This leads to interruptions in your sleep as you wake due to lack of breath. Sleep apnoea is often found in those who snore loudly and can make you feel tired all day.

Restless legs syndrome leads to an almost irresistible urge to move your arms, or more commonly, legs when you are trying to rest. This is often caused by tingling sensations, feeling uncomfortable or aching in your limbs.

If you are going through the menopause, sleep may become more challenging due to the hormonal changes which can impact your body’s internal temperature monitoring systems. Night sweats can make sleep difficult to come by as well as making you feel very hot and uncomfortable in bed.

Herbal remedies for sleep

Many people find herbal remedies useful in getting them off to sleep. Using natural remedies such as passion flower, valerian or lavender aromatic oils as part of aromatherapy can aid relaxation prior to sleep.


Sometimes described as nature’s tranquilliser, valerian grows wild in North America and Europe although it is also cultivated for medicinal purposes. Valerian has been taken for centuries to treat nervous anxiety, reduce muscle tension and relieve mild insomnia. Nicholas Culpepper, the famous 17th century herbalist, along with many old writers recommended the use of both the herb and root, and praised valerian for its longevity and many comforting virtues.

How does Valerian work?

Valerian can help to beat insomnia and improve sleep quality. It is especially valued for its lack of side effects compared to more conventional sleep remedies, which can leave you feeling groggy and tired in the morning. It is non- addictive and works by calming the brain and body rather than inducing sleep directly so sleep can occur naturally.

Passion flower

Native to South America, this climbing shrub can grow as high as 9m and is widely cultivated throughout Europe. It produces wonderful showy flowers with white petals surrounded by a crown of pink or violet filaments and large stamens with orange coloured sacs.

Passion flower was valued by Native Americans mainly for its ability to heal bruises and wounds. Later herbal practitioners valued the plant for its calming, sedative and pain-relieving actions and it has been used over the years for anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia.

How does Passion flower work?

Passion flower is widely used in remedies for anxiety and nervous tension where it is often found combined with valerian and/or hops. It can also help soothe period pains and tension headaches. Passion flower is often used for insomnia especially when the root cause is nervousness. It is often combined with Valerian and is popular for its gentle, non-addictive sedative properties.

Valerian can be found in NiteHerb – a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety.

Valerian and Passionflower can be found in combination in Bonuit Sleep Aid – a traditional herbal medicine used to temporarily relieve sleep disturbances and symptoms associated with stress, such as mild anxiety. This product may be useful if your sleep disturbance is down to stress.

How much sleep do you need?

The amount of sleep that you need varies enormously from person to person. Babies tend to sleep for around 17 hours a day, with older children needing around 9 to 10 hours sleep each night. Adults generally require around 7 – 8 hours’ sleep per night. Older people generally need a similar amount but tend to only sleep deeply for around 3-4 hours per night.

After several sleepless nights, you can end up feeling tired all the time. You may find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions. You may even start to feel depressed. If it continues, a lack of sleep can affect your health making you more likely to suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes. It can also contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

How to get a good nights’ sleep

  • Exercise often helps you sleep, but avoid exercising just before you go to bed.
  • Write down your worries rather than fret about them while you’re trying to sleep. A warm bath before bed can help.
  • Try not to eat large meals before bedtime.
  • Drinking alcohol may also disturb your night’s sleep, though sometimes a small night-cap can help you to fall asleep.
  • Cut down on drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea, cocoa, and cola), especially late at night.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable bed. The bedroom itself should be well ventilated and as cool and as dark and quiet as possible.
  • Don’t go to bed until you feel tired.
  • Sex just before bedtime can both promote and impede sleep. Men may sleep well after sex, whereas women may liven up.
  • Read a book until you feel dozy. Get up again if you are not able to sleep within half an hour. Sit down, read the paper, listen to some music and go back to bed half an hour later.
  • Get up at the same time every morning. Set the alarm and get out of bed quickly, even if you have had a late or sleepless night. This way, at the end of the day you’ll probably feel tired and sleepy at just the right time. If you do this for a sufficient number of days, you will successfully adjust your inner clock and get tired when you need to.

Sleep and the Menopause

If you a woman of a certain age and you are starting to wake up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night, chances are you are approaching the menopause. The hormonal fluctuations that occur at this time of life can confuse your body’s warming up and cooling down systems and as a result you break out in a sweat whatever the temperature. This can make getting to sleep, or staying asleep, very challenging.

As well as keeping your bedroom as cool as possible, and trying then above sleep remedies, natural herbal remedies specifically to relieve symptoms of the menopause may help you to get a better night’s sleep.

MenoHerb is traditionally used for relieving symptoms of the menopause including hot flushes, night sweats and temporary mood changes.

MenoMood combines Black Cohosh with St John’s Wort – a traditional herbal remedy used to relieve symptoms of anxiety and low mood.

Black Cohosh should not be used if you have had breast cancer or another ‘hormone’ driven cancer and is not recommended for long-term use. Always read the label and consult a healthcare professional if you are unsure.

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