|The Daily Telegraph|
Julia FitzGerald (FitFarms Nutritional Therapist)
Most people have experienced problems sleeping, whether it's frequent waking, poor-quality sleep or trouble dropping off in the first place. Chronic sufferers have more than just bags under their eyes to contend with - insomniacs have an increased risk of depression, alcoholism and drug misuse. But there are plenty of often- overlooked diet and lifestyle tips that can help you get a good night's rest.
Eat before you go to bed. Low blood sugar at night can cause sudden waking. Have a snack loaded with a combination of protein and slow-release carbohydrates half an hour before bedtime. Try oatcakes and cottage cheese or vegetable crudités with hummus. These snacks contain tryptophan, which helps to make serotonin and melatonin, brain chemicals that promote sleep.
· Watch what you drink during the day. Avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine. Reduce coffee, tea, cola, dark chocolate and energy drinks such as Red Bull, and anything containing guarana.
· Wean yourself on to herbal drinks. For a caffeine-free cuppa, try Dragonfly Fairtrade Organic Rooibos (40 bags, £1.99 from www.ethicalsuperstore.com ), a slightly nutty herbal brew that looks like English breakfast tea; milk can be added. Alternatively, go for organic camomile (£2.20 for 50g from www.nealsyardremedies.com).
· If frequent calls of nature are a problem, avoid drinks in the evening. Just sip water instead.
· Wind down before bedtime. Take a bath and watch TV or read a book - but nothing action-packed or tense, as this might boost adrenaline. Light comedy programmes and non-fiction are good - try reading a Haynes car manual! Routine is also important: regular sleeping and waking times may help.
· Change your bedroom habits. Remove clutter, as it can be a source of stress. Set your thermostat to 18°C or lower. Invest in a good mattress and black-out blinds.