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A natural way to get a great night's sleep

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You’ve got a great bed and mattress from Bedpost, have organised your lifestyle and your room just so – but you’re still lying awake at night frustratingly counting sheep and worrying about having the energy to face the following day.

We asked registered medical herbalist Helen Elscot from Herbal Health Waiheke, who specialises in using plants you might find around your home and garden, for her tips to find the perfect forty winks without having to resort to the medicine cabinet. Here’s what she had to say;

1.Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. By looks, it can easily be confused with its close relative, but its crushed leaves produce a fragrant, fresh, lemony scent. The plant’s volatile oil has a sedating effect on the nervous system which can help with insomnia, anxiety and depression. Fresh or dried leaves make a pleasant-tasting tea.

2.Valerian is another herb found in pharmacies and health food shops and tends to be the herb most people self-medicate with when it comes to insomnia. Usually taken in tablet form (the extremely bitter liquid herb requires an enormous amount of willpower), valerian has been shown to decrease the REM phase of sleep and therefore increase sleep quality.

3.The therapeutic powerhouse in the herbal world for sleep is Californian poppy. A close cousin to the opium poppy, little was known about Californian poppy’s effect on the nervous system but it appears that it has a positive pharmacological effect on the brain’s opiate receptors which helps to alleviate insomnia and promote healthy sleep patterns. Californian poppy may also be useful in anxiety, tension and muscle spasm and needs to be prescribed professionally by a medical herbalist as it may have interactions with prescription medicine.

4.The bitter principles in hops are particularly useful for indigestion aggravated by stress or insufficient stomach acid and for gassiness and sour burping. It can also be used to make a bedtime tea which will help soothe the tummy, put you to sleep and keep you in the land of nod until the alarm sounds in the morning. Hops tea has a sedative effect, allowing those that drink it to feel relaxed and calm. For those that suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia or have trouble sleeping in general, drinking a cup of hops tea before bed can encourage the onset of sleep.

5.Be proactive in your quest for sleep. There are many ways you can find your way back to a good night’s sleep, whether it is herbal medicine, nutrition, relaxation techniques or simply a long, leisurely stroll along your favourite beach!