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sleepThere is nothing worse than tossing and turning all night, with sleep – without which your heart health, stress levels, memory and weight-loss all suffer – eluding you.

Trips to doctors and referrals to specialists are part and parcel of the modern approach to finding a ‘cure’ for insomnia, but unfortunately the sleeping pills we are so willing to pop, are loaded with adverse side effects – addiction to prescription drugs being one – and are rarely, if ever, a permanent solution.

There are, however, a wide range of natural alternatives that can bring an end to your nights of counting the sheep away!

Topping the list of natural remedies are dietary alterations. Cutting out caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolates are packed with it) and replacing it with        lemon-topped green tea, infused with valerian leaves (a sleep-inducing herb), relaxes nerves and muscles, as does increasing your daily intake of magnesium-rich foods such as bananas, whole grains and seeds. Magnesium is a relaxing sedative, but the body – as a direct result of following the ‘wrong’ diet – does not contain sufficient amounts to allow you to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Recent research at Northwestern University has revealed that if you engage in aerobic exercise at least four times a week, both your sleep cycles and moods improve; rigorous workouts release serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone. But ensure that you clock in the miles before mid-day so you are not too revved up at night.

And then there is yoga; opt for gentle stretching exercises followed by a few minutes of meditation, and not power yoga as this will perk you up instead of having a calming influence. Making yoga a nightly ritual promotes sleep by reducing stress hormone levels in the body.

Aromatherapy is another avenue to explore. A few drops of chamomile or lavender oil on your pillow or, for the ultimate sleep experience, sleeping on a ‘herbal’ pillow, made by stuffing dried lavender or chamomile leaves, is the gateway to peaceful sleeping.

– B Khan 

First published in the Health Advertiser of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 14, 2014.

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