Cookies on the Healthspan site
Although there is no 'magic number' when it comes to how much sleep we should get, experts agree that, typically, most adults require between seven and eight hours in order to feel refreshed and function well both mentally and physically. And yet, according to the British Sleep Council, 74 per cent of Brits get less than seven hours' kip a night.1
How much sleep we get impacts everything from our immune system to memory, and even our mental health and wellbeing. In fact, one study found that sleeping six hours per night for 14 nights, compared with regularly getting eight, produced 'cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to two nights of total sleep deprivation'.2
And, not only can one bad night's sleep affect our mood, concentration and alertness, but long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences, and has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and even stroke.
Sleep experts have long recommended a warm bedtime drink just before bed to help promote a good night-time routine. And, studies have shown that just getting into the regular habit of having a warm drink before bed can trigger a feeling of sleepiness on its own.
Here's five of the best to help you drift off.
Camomile (or passion fruit tea if you'd prefer) tea with a little honey, 90 minutes before bedtime, is one of the oldest home remedies when it comes to a good night's sleep.
Often referred to as the 'sleep tea', chamomile has been used traditionally to treat insomnia, anxiety, stress and other health issues since ancient times. The reason? Researchers believe the flavonoids in this sweet, flowery tea helps to relax nerves and muscles.
Few foods have a reputation for helping you to fall asleep quite like warm milk. But while milk does contain tryptophan - an amino acid found in the likes of turkey - which is thought to help promote feelings of sleepiness, the jury is still out on this one.
Though some people swear by it, the likelihood of warm milk promoting sleepy feels is only likely if you've continued to stick to this routine since childhood. Either way - milk is rich in protein, vitamin D and calcium, so drink up!
Sour cherry juice is a great sleep aid - particularly after a workout! Recent research has provided some supporting evidence for these claims, attributing cherry's antioxidant properties to the reduction of muscle soreness after strenuous exercise, and its naturally high melatonin content as a natural aid to sleep.
A malt-based powder commonly consumed for breakfast, Ovaltine is also known commonly as Horlicks, and is another old-school bedtime remedy. The reason? Ovaltine is high in magnesium content, which is well-known to help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and help relax muscles.
Does hot chocolate really help you sleep? It may sound too good to be true, but cocoa has long been used as a sleep remedy. In fact, it was first cultivated by the Mayans, the first known sippers of cocoa before bedtime, who prepared it by roasting cocoa beans, hot water and a pinch of spices.
But beware: most commercially available hot chocolates are high in sugar and calories, which can have a detrimental effect on sleep, health and weight.
MYTH BUSTER: 'Isn't there caffeine in hot chocolate?' Technically, yes. But unless you've ordered a 'Mocha' (an espresso, hot milk and cocoa powder combo), there's not much chance of it keeping you up at night. In fact, hot chocolate typically contains a measly 5mg of caffeine per mug. Less than the average cup of decaf coffee!
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.