Have a cherry good night's sleep: The natural remedies that can beat insomnia without the side effects of medicines
21:07 GMT, 16 June 2012
Britain has become a nation of sleeping-pill-poppers. Stress-related insomnia has been blamed for a sharp increase in the number of people prescribed powerful drugs to help them sleep, with 15.3million prescriptions handed out for sleeping pills last year, costing the NHS almost 50 million.
A third of adults will suffer insomnia at some point but there are fears that strong medication is being given out too readily and that patients are becoming hooked.
Many medicines have potentially dangerous side effects, including liver problems, headaches and nausea. Yet there are natural remedies that are proving remarkably effective in clinical trials, without the same complications.
Juicy: Cherries are just one of the natural remedies that can aid sleep
HIT THE JUICE
A 2010 study found that drinking a glass of unsweetened cherry juice in the morning and evening helped improve sleep.
CherryActive: Contains melatonin
‘Montmorency cherries contain high levels of melatonin, the brain chemical naturally produced by the body to regulate the sleep-wake cycle,’ says Philip Weeks, an expert on natural medicine. And last year, researchers at the School of Life Sciences at Northumbria University found that Montmorency cherry juice increases levels of melatonin in the body.
Volunteers drank 30ml of either Montmorency cherry juice concentrate or a placebo juice twice a day for seven days. Participants wore sensors that monitored their sleep-wake cycles and kept a daily diary on their sleeping patterns. Those who had the cherry juice saw an increase of 25 minutes in their total sleep time and a six per cent increase in sleep quality.
TRY: CherryActive Concentrate, 1.89 (30ml shot), CherryActive Capsules 12.95 for 30. cherryactive.co.uk
THE FEELGOOD CHEMICAL
Increases serotonin production: 5HTP
Made from the seeds of an African bean called Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) converts naturally into serotonin in the body. This brain chemical has various functions, including the regulation of sleep, mood and anxiety.
‘5-HTP increases serotonin production, which then triggers a cascade of neurotransmitters that aid sleep. Studies have been very positive,’ says Weeks.
A 1998 study stated that ‘5-HTP has been effective in treating a variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, binge eating associated with obesity, chronic headaches and insomnia’.
TRY: BioCare 5-HTP, 50mg, 17.50 for 60 capsules. biocare.co.uk
Valerian: Popular among ancient Greeks
Valerian is a flowering plant whose use as a medicinal herb dates from Ancient Greece.
Dubbed ‘nature’s tranquilliser’, the root has been used to treat nervous anxiety, reduce muscle tension and relieve mild insomnia.
It is thought it may work by influencing gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain.
‘Increasing the effect of GABA typically causes relaxation and a reduction in anxiety,’ says medical herbalist Lucy Stephens from London’s Reva Clinic.
‘Changes in GABA in the brain are associated with insomnia.’
TRY: A. Vogel Stress Relief Daytime, 3.95 for 15ml and 9.15 for 50ml. avogel.co.uk
CALMING PASSION FLOWER
Passion flower: Soothes anxiety
‘Passion flower is another herb that exerts its effects through GABA,’ says Stephens.
‘Passiflora tea has been shown in one recent trial to improve subjective sleep quality as compared with placebo, in a group of patients with insomnia,’ she says.
‘Anxiety can be a cause of insomnia and Passiflora has been shown to reduce it.’
A review by Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation examined 24 studies of supplements used to reduce stress and found passion flower helps ease anxiety.
TRY: RelaxHerb, 9.18 for 30 tablets. relaxherb.co.uk