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Beat Insomnia

More than a third of Brits have trouble sleeping at least some of the time, and around 1 in 10 have chronic, unrelenting insomnia. Find out how to minimise the risks and get a good night’s sleep.

A massive 97 per cent of British professionals are missing out on their recommended eight hours of sleep a night, according to a recent study. Yet sleep is vital for healthy functioning and for your brain’s logic and decision making abilities.

Not getting enough z’s is also known to increase your risk of being overweight and developing high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Several studies have shown that the less you sleep, the greater your body mass index will be, and the more weight you’ll gain over time. Plus, regular sleep deprivation makes you twice as likely to be obese. This is because a lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that increase appetite, change your metabolism and mess with your glucose tolerance.

"Sleep is obviously something we require to function. It's not really surprising that if you are depriving someone of the sleep they need, there can be a knock on effect on quite a lot of physical and mental conditions," says Jessica Alexander, a spokesperson for the Sleep Council. She blames the situation on today's "24-hour society", which forces people to fit too much into a day, and makes them feel too stressed to sleep even when they do get the chance.

And a lack of sleep isn’t only bad for your health – it can badly affect your job performance too. “Insomnia affects workplace productivity, performance and safety. Yet in spite of its significant effects, insomnia is rarely being addressed,” says Dr. Mark Rosekind, chief scientist of Alertness Solutions, who has conducted studies on the subject. “Sleep is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity; and insomnia significantly affects people’s lives, work performance and safety; more than most of us realise.”

Yet despite these risks, many experts believe you should think twice before reaching for the sleeping tablets unless they’re absolutely necessary. Not only could they lead to an unhealthy dependence, but they may also cause several negative health problems as you get older – studies show that they cause memory problems and falls in the elderly. Currently, sedative hypnotics or antidepressants are often used for treating insomnia, but experts feel that neither should be recommended for long-term treatment of chronic insomnia.

Try these:

Eat more calcium – studies show people who don’t get enough are more likely to have trouble sleeping. One of the best sources of calcium is dairy foods - so plenty of yogurts, low fat cheese, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. If you’d rather avoid dairy, you can get plenty of calcium by eating nuts and seeds, dried fruits, oily fish with bones, beans and pulses.

Behavioural therapy - Research shows that changing your mental attitude about sleep and teaching yourself new habits is a promising treatment for insomnia and for many is a viable alternative to medication. You’ll be taught to think about your sleep in a more constructive way and how to establish better sleep patterns by incorporating new habits, such as getting out of bed at the same time each day (even if it means getting less sleep) and eliminating daytime napping.

Take German Chamomile. It’s a calming herb that helps prevent anxiety and insomnia. To find out more about herbal remedies, Click Here.

Eat more Magnesium rich foods, including rye; wild rice; green leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, chard, kale and spring greens); nuts and seeds (like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, pistachio, cashew, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans and coconut); pulses and beans (lentils, lima beans, kidney beans and soya beans); bananas, avocados, garlic, prunes and dates. To find out more about the benefits of magnesium, Click Here.

Check your other medications. Insomnia can be caused by a number of medications, including antidepressants, anti-smoking and cholesterol lowering drugs.

Sort out back pain for good. Pain is the main cause of insomnia, and the most common is back pain. Plus, lack of sleep often aggravates a back problem. Falling asleep is usually more difficult since all your usual distractions from the pain, like activities or entertainment, are unavailable. In this case, rather than turning immediately to insomnia medication, it’s best to address the cause of the pain and the physical symptoms, or think about psychological techniques like relaxation and deep breathing training. To find out more about the causes of back pain, Click Here.

Face any underlying mental problems that may be keeping you awake, such as stress, depression or an addiction. To find out more about treating depression, Click Here.

Get a massage. Massages are great for relaxing and will definitely send you to the land of nod. However keep in mind the location of the massage – there’s nothing worse than getting very sleepy then getting chucked off the masseuse table. If you’re keen to invest in some handy massage tools you can use yourself, check out this nifty HeeBee GeeBee head massager.

Consider these:

Watch repeats of the worst shows in history. Watching TV is the number one tool for those determined to win the fight against insomnia. With the joys of the internet, get online and search for the worst shows in history. Or look out for cheap DVD box sets of some of our top three most boring shows ever: Midsummer Murders, The Charlotte Church Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Read the Bible. This hefty piece of literature will have you snoring in no time! With endless parables and all that old language, you’re guaranteed to wake up with the pages stuck to your face. If that doesn’t work, try reaching for Shakespeare. There’s no denying the talent of this great man, but you will definitely use all your energy deciphering Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and many more.

Traditional methods with a twist. Counting sheep may help you get off to sleep but to spice things up a bit, why not count your minute nose hairs, all the lines on your hands, the number of people you’ve rudely shouted at during sale season or all the words you can think off to insult someone.

Eat all the pies. Digestion is hard work and our bodies often find rich large meals very tricky to break down, leaving us feeling tired and normally quite bloated. Therefore we suggest stuffing your face with lots of pies, and forcing your body into a state of sleep. If you wake up feeling less than well and need some help recovering over the late night binge, read our news story on ways to beat the festive bloat. Click here.

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