How do I break the cycle of insomnia?


Q: Like many of my 40-something friends, I have difficulty sleeping. I don’t want to take drugs.

A: Many of us suffer with insomnia, either long term or for short ‘acute’ periods. The key hormone involved in sleep is melatonin, which is – like all hormones – often affected by other life factors. Melatonin is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. It is also affected by stress, illness and hormonal flurries such as menopause. So it’s a volatile little beast, but there is a raft of non-drug solutions to help.

The Sleep Council is offering a free booklet called Get a Good Night’s Sleep, which offers seven practical steps. All the basic ideas are there, such as using blackout curtains, banning technology from your bedroom and taking exercise. Additionally, there are some interesting recent findings.

Swap to low-blue lightbulbs. Many indoor bulbs contain a high proportion of blue light, which can suppress melatonin production and leave us more alert. Increasing red and yellow wavelengths can help, along with glasses that reduce blue light exposure from screens. Try Low Blue Energy Saving Lamps, £19.95, Low Blue Lamps, £9.95 and Low Blue Lights Glasses, £29.99, from

Eat a turkey sandwich before bed. The amino acid tryptophan, found in turkey, chicken and steak, helps you sleep better by increasing levels of the hormone serotonin, which turns into melatonin. But tryptophan needs some high glycaemic carbohydrate to help it work, thus the bread.

Consider taking the food supplement Zenbev, derived from tryptophan-rich pumpkin seeds. Zenbev needs the dark to metabolise into melatonin so you will need a totally dark bedroom. Zenbev, £25.99, in lemon flavour.

Montmorency cherry juice contains natural melatonin, and has been shown to help sleep. Sip diluted CherryActive Concentrate, £15.95, from Victoria Health, as above. Download your free Get A Good Night’s Sleep guide and Sleep Well app, with a questionnaire, sleep solutions, relaxation exercises plus music, from, or tel: 0800 018 7923

one for your smile file

Here’s a nifty New Year health resolution. Use a tongue scraper regularly to remove the bugs that cluster there, causing bad breath and gum disease. Our tester says: ‘The DenTek Comfort Clean Tongue Cleaner has a curved plastic surface, which you run gently over your tongue to remove any yucky stuff. My tongue looks better and my mouth feels fresher.’ £3.99,

Tap into pure H2O

My colleague Victoria and her family are such converts to the Virgin Pure WaterBar that I am about to order one too. She reports: ‘I don’t like hard London water, bottled water is expensive, and filter jugs can be bacteria magnets. The Virgin Pure WaterBar is a counter-top unit which filters for chlorine, rust and dirt particles but leaves behind useful minerals, and zaps bacteria and viruses with a UV lamp. It does double duty as a kettle, giving (child-locked) boiling water for drinking and cooking. It costs 41p a day for unlimited, pure water – both cool and boiling – and there are energy-saving modes too. Filters last six months and UV lamps 12, which are replaced by a technician on your monthly subscription. Our family drinks much more water now, so it is worth the investment.’ The T6 WaterBar Pack costs £239, and the faster-flowing T7 £299, plus an £11.95 monthly subscription, from, tel: 0845 051 7919

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