“Around one third of adults suffer sleep problems, but the good news is that exercising - especially in bright light - can improve length and quality of sleep for both insomniacs and non-sufferers,” says Ragdale Hall Health Hydro’s resident fitness expert, Dean Hodgkin (deanhodgkin.com).
“Scientists are not sure why this is, but it is thought that the temperature drop following a workout is a natural trigger for rest,” he adds. A good rule of thumb, however, is to avoid exercise close to bedtime.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity a day; ”studies show that low- to-moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling will have a positive effect on sleep patterns but high intensity training shows no impact,” says Dean.
‘The usual advice for insomniacs is to avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, which interfere with sleep, and to spend time relaxing before bedtime– but what if this isn’t enough?’ asks Dr Sarah Brewer. Luckily, several supplements can help.
Which supplements can help?
- 5-HTTP: “One of the most useful is 5-HTP, which is used by your body to make melatonin – your natural sleep hormone,” says Sarah. 5-HTP is often combined with magnesium and B vitamins to help its conversion into melatonin.
It also helps to extend the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep so you wake feeling more refreshed. ‘Rapid eye movement’ sleep is effectively when you sleep deeply and it’s also when you tend to dream.
- Valerian: Alternatively, try a valerian supplement. “Valerian is a traditional herbal remedy for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances caused by mild anxiety.
- Rhodiola: If you feel stressed and exhausted, then Rhodiola may be a better option, as it helps boost energy levels,” says Sarah.
“Too many cakes, pastries and other sugar-filled snacks coupled with too few fruits and vegetables, skipping breakfast and eating on the run are all linked with poor sleep,” says nutrition advisor Patsy Westcott.
Find it hard to fall asleep? “Try adding a portion of high GI carbs like jasmine rice to your evening meal. In a study, consuming such a meal, four hours before bedtime reduced the time taken to drop off.
Research suggests that tart cherries and kiwi fruit help reduce insomnia and help you nod off quicker too, while B vitamins and magnesium are also vital to good sleep. Salmon, green leafy veg, red peppers and parsley provide B vitamins. Green leafy veg, seeds, such as pumpkin and sesame and pulses, meanwhile, contain magnesium.”