Can’t Sleep? 10 natural (and proven tips) for getting a better night’s rest
with advice from a nutritionist
Did you know that a third of Brits will face episodes of insomnia at some point in their life, according to the NHS? We’ve all experienced the perpetual gloom of a restless night of tossing and turning – it’s nothing new. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to relax naturally rather than turning to quick fix medication when you can't sleep.
After all, the most common cause of insomnia is an anxious mind. If you find yourself overthinking, overwhelmed by stress and can’t seem to switch off, we’re here to help.
From melatonin-rich foods to award-winning supplements, we’ll share how to clear the mind and calm the body with tips from nutritionist, Charlotte Dormon.
At a glance:
1. How can I train my body clock naturally?
Over the course of our 24-hour day, we move between rest and wakefulness in a cycle known as our circadian rhythm. This system is managed by our brain’s hippocampus and it signals to the body when it’s time to wake up or ready for bed.
According to experts, adults need 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night. So, how do you ensure you get enough hours in? One of the best ways to do this is by regulating your internal clock.
Have a fixed schedule for when to go to bed and wake up and stick to it even on weekends and when you are on holiday. Don’t be tempted to hit the snooze button because as tempting as it may be, it can be counterproductive for getting your snooze schedule back on track.
2. What should I eat before bed?
What you eat plays a massive role how you feel and function. To really maximise on getting those high-quality zzz’s, keep an eye on what you’re eating and when.
Reach for snacks like bananas that are high in snooze-inducing nutrients like magnesium that helps to soothe the body and muscles. Cherries, rich in melatonin, are another great choice to help you get your forty winks, often for longer and more deeply.
Nutritional expert, Charlotte Dormon, recommends swapping stimulating snacks such as chocolate at bedtime for a smaller healthier carbohydrate snack such as toast or oat cakes with peanut butter when you can't sleep to release tryptophan - an amino acid that converts into serotonin in the brain, a feel-good chemical that will help you relax into a deeper slumber.
3. Should I have a bath before bed if I can't sleep?
There are many great ways to calm your mind before you get into bed. Studies indicate that having a hot bath an hour and a half before bed can tire you out.
Why? The hot water lowers your core temperature, therefore stimulating the production of melatonin, and signaling that it’s bedtime – even helping you dose off 10 minutes faster than normal.
Charlotte's tip is to use magnesium to help you relax. “It’s great in a bath. If you can’t bath in it then you can use a cream or foot bath.”
4. How important is lighting in the bedroom?
It’s scientifically proven that a darker room without distractions is best for improving the quality of our zzz as the kind of lighting you’re exposed to can affect your nightly routine drastically. This is because the brightness can affect our circadian rhythm which tells us when we need to wake up and go to bed.
Being exposed to the blue glow from digital devices can have a negative effect by suppressing sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. If you are unable to limit your exposure to things like streetlamps, one of the best things you can do it invest in an eye mask or during the months when the sun rises early, Charlotte recommends a black out curtain as a top tip “so you don’t get the sunshine coming in and waking you up.”
5. What is the ideal temperature to enhance sleep?
Experts say that the best temperature for your bedroom is around 18.3 to 20 degrees Celsius for adults and a little more for children. The main reason for this is logical: if your room is too hot or too cold you’re more likely to wake up and experience a disturbed resting pattern, resulting in less Repaid Eye Movement (REM), according to a 2012 study.
This was backed up by further research that shows people tend to experience more trouble sleeping in the summer months when the body working tirelessly to cool itself. So, always ensure you have enough blankets to layer on in the winter and invest in a fan in the summer.
6. What natural supplements and sleep aids work?
It can be tempting when you’re tossing and turning to reach for a bottle of pills. But there are many other alternatives from nature that are just as if not more effective and better for the body.
Charlotte Dormon recommends CBD for its ability to manage symptoms caused by stress –“If you’re someone who suffers from anxiety, CBD is a really good solution for you. That’s something I absolutely swear by. I use it all the time to help me unwind.” Try this one that's been voted 'Best Sleep Product' in the 2021 Wellness Awards.
She also suggests trying other herbal remedies such as herbs and adaptogens: “If you’re a high wired person, high frequency, or anxiety type person then try things like ashwagandha, tulsi and rhodiola that calm the nervous system. They help our bodies adapt to stress.”
7. Should I avoid fluids before bed?
The short answer is yes. According to Charlotte, giving up drinking is helpful as "alcohol can disrupt your rest.”
Alcohol and drinks that are high in caffeine is a natural stimulant and can make us feel more alert – the opposite of what we are looking for as we wind down in the evenings. But really, you should avoid all fluids altogether two hours’ before bed to help you snooze right through the night.
This will prevent you from being disturbed by a full bladder so you can wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and energised.
8. Is a bedtime wind-down routine important?
Dormon strongly recommends a wind-down routine, especially during lockdown. Use apps like Calm or White Noise and take your drops of CBII’s feel good oil in the mornings and in the evenings before bed - every night, not just when you can't sleep.
"I’ve got a hyperactive mind and what I’ve enjoyed during lockdown is having a routine. I found that I was much more relaxed getting into bed and this way of being, the routine you get into, will continue beyond lockdown when we get back to normal life.”
9. Get enough regular exercise – but not right before bed
Make sure you’re getting outside for a daily walk as not only is it proven to boost endorphins and the so-called Runner’s High, but it can help you get those forty winks too.
“Loads of people have told me they’ve been struggling to sleep. I think that’s purely because many people aren’t exercising enough – they’re sitting around a lot more.”
For best results, its better to avoid any vigorous activity and workouts for at least one hour (preferably 90 minutes) before bed.
10. What else can I do to switch off my mind at night?
Apart from having a hot bath and taking your CBD, some of the other things you can do if you can't snooze is journal. Getting your stressful spaghetti-string thoughts down on paper can be therapeutic when you’re feeling anxious or distracted at bedtime. A form of meditation, it’s a great way to clear the mind.
If you're wide awake, try listening to calming music, doing some slow yoga or reading a book to distract your mind and help you switch off. Then go back to bed when you’re ready.
And that’s it!
When it comes to better quality zzz, you have to find what works best for you. Charlotte reckons it's personal. “It’s not a one size fits all. Everyone is different.”
Many people swear by CBD before bed and take it as part of an evening wind-down routine: “My sleep pattern has 100% improved and I've been sleeping like a baby since taking CBII. I would 100% recommend this product to anyone who struggles getting a decent night zzz.” - Lucy Trust Pilot