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Hate sleeping tablets? Try these 5 simple sleep routine tips for your best night’s rest yet:

by Laura Palmer

If you regularly find yourself wide awake at 3 am, it can be tempting to turn to sleeping tablets to solve the problem. Insomnia has all sorts of root causes: hormonal fluctuations triggered by menopause or periods, stress, poor mental health…. Even something as simple as scoffing a huge meal before you try and drift off can interfere with sleep quality.

Whatever’s behind your sleeplessness, one thing's for sure, lack of sleep makes you feel exhausted, foggy-brained, and fed up. You find yourself falling asleep during the day. EVERYTHING feels like hard work. You'd do anything for a decent sleep stretch so you can feel 'normal' again.

Not getting enough sleep can cause health problems too. Research has shown that chronic insomnia is linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, heart attack, and stroke. You're also more like to have an accident. A recent study suggested that 1 in 5 serious car crashes were caused by sleep deprivation.

Even getting 6 hours of sleep a night, a figure some people would consider a healthy amount of snooze time, has been linked with lowered immunity, poorer mental health, and a shorter lifespan. As if you didn't have enough to worry about when you can’t sleep!

With insomnia affecting around 1 in 3 adults, there are lots of us lying awake in the small hours. So what's the best way to say goodnight to sleeplessness? Are there any quick fixes?

Why sleeping tablets aren’t the answer:

Sleeping tablets can seem like the ideal solution. You pop one before bedtime and you’re guaranteed a good night's sleep – job done. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! Sleep aids don’t work for some people, or can make you feel so groggy the next day you might be unable to drive, or focus properly. They can be habit forming, and your body might become reliant on them to drift off. You can build up a tolerance and need to take more, and more…

And then there's the side effects. Studies have shown they can trigger debilitating symptoms like dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. As well as sleepwalking, hallucinations, and depression. For many people, over-the-counter and prescription sleeping tablets can create more problems with sleep and lifestyle than they solve. So they certainly aren't the silver bullet solution to insomnia by any stretch.

What’s the alternative to sleeping tablets?

If you struggle with sleep, but you’d prefer not to take sleeping tablets, don't worry. Just a few small lifestyle changes could make a huge difference to how well you sleep. For many people, all you need is a good sleep routine to get you back on track. And it's much simpler than you might think – promise! Here's how to get started:

1. Set yourself a sleep time

Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but the amount that makes you feel your best can vary. It might change as you get older, or even alter with the seasons. For example, lots of people need 1-2 hours less sleep in summer. Experiment with how many hours suits you. Keep a sleep diary (a quick note on your phone will do) and once you know the magic number that makes you feel happy and productive, aim for that.

2. Build a sleep rhythm

Going to bed and waking up at the same time is a MUST if you want to sleep well. We all have something called a homeostatic sleep drive. If you regularly fall asleep and wake at the same time, this will kick in and you'll automatically fall asleep and wake up when you did the day before – clever hey? No tossing and turning, or sleeping tablets needed.

3. Expose yourself to sunlight at the right times

Our favourite neuroscientist Andrew Huberman is a big advocate of getting a morning sunshine fix to turn on your circadian clock. If your circadian rhythms are functioning as they should, you won't struggle to fall and stay asleep – hurrah! And the morning rays will also trigger the release of cortisol and epinephrine, which will make you feel wide awake.

Huberman recommends you get 10 minutes of sun within 30-60 minutes of waking. Don't wear sunglasses, and if it's overcast you might need longer (his guide to how long is here in the Huberlabs sleep toolkit). Then, try and catch 10 minutes of evening sun later in the day. This type of light tells your body it's time to wind down and triggers the release of melatonin, the hormone that gets you ready for sleep.

4. Limit caffeine after a certain time

To feel sleepy, you need to let a natural chemical called adenosine do its thing. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your body, which stops the sleepy signals from being released. Great if you want to feel switched on in the morning, not so amazing at 2 am when you're knackered.

Once you've had some caffeine, it takes your adenosine receptors 8 – 10 hours to function again. So time that afternoon espresso carefully if you don't want to be reaching for the sleeping tablets later on.

5. Make your bedroom a sleep haven (no sleeping tablets required!)

You need to avoid artificial light to help your body wind down and get ready for sleep mode. Huberman recommends a soothing red light bulb in your bedroom, moonlight (might be tricky to read by this), or candlelight (for all the romantics out there!). If red light just isn't for you, a low-level lamp is much better than a bright LED light.

You should keep the room where you sleep nice and cool (ideally under 18 degrees). This is because your body temperature needs to drop by 1 to 3 degrees to fall asleep and stay that way. Try layering blankets, rather than a thick duvet, so you can remove layers if you're too hot.

Natural supplements to take as an alternative to sleeping tablets:

A word of warning – your new sleep routine might take a few weeks to kick in, so don't expect immediate results. But stay consistent and it will make a huge difference to how well you sleep and feel. If you need a hand to drop off in the meantime (that doesn't involve sleeping tablets) natural supplements can help you.

Huberman is a fan of magnesium, which has long been recognised as having calming and relaxing properties. Magnesium acts on your neurotransmitters and can the block ones that stimulate the body so you can wind down and drift off more easily.

It also increases the levels of neurotransmitters known to have a calming effect on the brain and body like GABA. Putting you in a more chilled, sleep-ready state. Our Magna Calm patch contains the ideal amount of magnesium to help with sleep. Plus L-Theanine, which can also boost calming neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.

Need a little extra help? Try our Sleep Starter Plus patch. It's one of our bestsellers for a reason, namely because it's so effective! Unlike over-the-counter sleep aids, it doesn't contain strong anti-histamines which can make you feel very drowsy, dehydrated, and fuzzy-headed the day after.

Instead, you can benefit from tried and herbal sleep aids like valerian and hops and a top-up of the 'sleepy' hormone melatonin. Plus, magnesium and 5-HTP, which research has shown kickstarts the sleep process, and can help to increase sleep duration.

And if the little people in your life are the ones causing you sleeplesss nights, we can help with that too. We also have some special melatonin-free Kids sleep patches that will encourage calmer bedtimes and less 3am wake-ups – sweet dreams all round!