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Sleeplessness & Insomnia

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where a sufferer consistently finds it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or both. It can affect energy levels, work or school performance and mood. Many people will suffer from bouts of insomnia during their lives, however chronic long-term insomnia can post a serious health risk to you (impaired immunity, increased risk for obesity, diabetes and more) and others (when you’re behind the wheel of a car or operating heavy machinery).

View sleep support & insomnia products

How much sleep do we need?

This can vary from person to person, however most research points to a minimum of 7-8 hours a night for adults and 11-12 hours for children. If you get less than 6 hours sleep over 3 or more nights per week, you could be suffering from Insomnia.

Symptoms of insomnia can include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep (taking over 30 minutes)
  • Awakening during the night or too early in the morning
  • Feeling unrefreshed upon waking
  • Sleepiness or fatigue during the day
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Tension headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks, lack of focus
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Hyperactivity (especially in children)

What can cause insomnia?

  • Poor sleeping habits – keeping an irregular sleep schedule or stimulating activities before bed
  • Stress, Anxiety or Depression – when your brain is in overdrive
  • Too much caffeine or other stimulants e.g. nicotine and alcohol
  • Bereavement
  • Schedule changes – Shift work or long distance overseas travel can disrupt your body's circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep.
  • Prescription Medications - including some, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, allergy medications, stimulants (e.g. Ritalin) and anticonvulsives.
  • Over the counter medications - some decongestants, cold/flu formulas and weight-loss products can contain stimulants such as caffeine.
  • Medical conditions – autism, conditions with chronic pain, sleep apnoea
  • Environmental factors - Noise, heat, cold and light conditions in the bedroom can interfere with sleep.

Insomnia and aging

Unfortunately as we age, the risk of developing insomnia increases.Why?

  • Internal clock changes – As we age our internal clock often advances, meaning we feel tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. The Catch-22 is we still need the same amount of sleep as younger people do.
  • Physical activity levels - This tends to reduce as we age. Research shows activity (both social and physical) can help encourage a good night's sleep.
  • Health - Conditions such as arthritis, joint and back pain can interfere with quality sleep. Disorders such as restless legs syndrome, also become more common with age.
  • Increased use of medications - Older people tend to use more prescription drugs than younger people thereby increasing the chance of insomnia caused by a medication.

Tips for getting a better night’s sleep

  • Get into a routine of going to bed at the same time every day
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal just before bedtime – keep it to light snacks only
  • Reduce alcohol consumption – alcohol can disrupt the production of serotonin, important for our circadian rhythm
  • Reduce your consumption of caffeine – e.g. choose a low caffeine tea or coffee option
  • Help your body establish its natural circadian rhythm - Make sure you’re in a dark environment when you go to sleep at night but also get some direct sunlight during the day
  • Minimise brain stimulating activity before bedtime e.g. computers and don’t read from back-lit devices e.g. iPad
  • Regular physical activity each day (but not too close to bedtime!)
  • Avoid taking excessive day time naps (longer than 30 mins) as this could hinder your ability to go to sleep at night
  • Avoid drinking too much liquid before bedtime (you know why!)
  • If you’re tossing and turning. Get up for 15 mins and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity, then try again
  • Manage your stress – look to methods of relaxation to assist you to deal with this (deep breathing)
  • Seek advice from a health professional if nothing is working for you or you are concerned

Natural remedies that may help relax and support healthy sleep patterns:

Passionflower - Used traditionally in the Americas and then later in Europe as a calming herb. We stock:
Calm Restore Herbal Drops - An herbal combination for children containing passionflower, lemon balm and other soothing herbs. Supports a healthy mood and a healthy sleep. Suitable for 0-13 yrs.

Valerian Root - Promotes relaxation in those leading hectic lifestyles and helps support a restful sleep. Products we stock include:
Nature’s Way Valerian Root Capsules
Malcolm Harker’s Sleep Support (formally Calmnurse 565) - A herbal formula for soothing nerves. Suitable for all ages.

Tart Cherry - The richest source of naturally occurring Melatonin (commonly called the “sleep hormone”) is in the humble cherry. Healthyonline stock the following Cherry products
Radiance Tart Cherry Sleep Capsules
A range of Tru2U Sleep Support products - available as either a Concentrate, in Capsule form as well as specifically formulated Children’s products in a Children’s Concentrate or Children’s Lozenges.

Kava Root - Polynesian Kava Root has been used for thousands of years as a ceremonial beverage. Supports the body through times of stress and anxiety. Products include:
Thompsons One-A-Day Kava 2400 - 100% natural kava root extract in tablet form.
Go Healthy Kava 6,000 - A kava extract in a vegetarian capsule.

Ashwagandha - Also known as Withania, this herb has been used for thousands of years for various conditions including the treatment of depression and stress. We stock…
Nature’s Way Ashwagandha capsules

Magnesium - An essential mineral required by your body for many metabolic functions. Mineral. If you suffer from anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, exercise frequently or have stressful demanding lives, your magnesium levels may be inadequate. A quality Magnesium Supplement may help. More information on Magnesium & Magnesium Deficiency.

Other products that may help you get a better night’s sleep…

Deep Sleep - Contains 5-HTP, passionflower and magnesium.

Sleep Drops - Natural sleep support for adults and children.

Nature’s Own Complete Sleep - A natural formula to help get you to sleep and stay asleep. Contains Lactium to help soothe stress and Zizyphus, a calming herb used in Chinese medicine.

Rescue Sleep Spray - Combines the famous Rescue Remedy with White Chestnut. Used to relive sleeplessness associated with worrying thoughts.

Sleep Enhance - Contains Chinese Ginseng. Gluten and dairy free.

Sleep Science - Magnesium and ETAS (Enzyme treated asparagus shoot extract). An ideal product for those with high cortisol, high stress and sleep problems related to cortisol issues

For Sleep Support products specifically formulated for children – visit our "Children’s Calming" category for age appropriate products.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.


If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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