Not many parents ever get a full night’s sleep. Oh the joys if we could. But most of us who crave some shut-eye because of through-the-night feeding or child-settling could sleep on a knife edge… though try not to fall asleep with your make-up on (see left).

But did you know that the NHS is spending £50million a year on drugs to help combat insomnia, according to new research.

Why can’t we sleep? There are a number of reasons – and here are some solutions…

1. Restless legs

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) can vary in severity and causes an irresistible inclination to move your legs. RLS can cause discomfort in the feet, calves and thighs and in many cases, the condition can be distressing and disruptive and effect daily activities including sleep.

Acupuncturist Rachel Peckham says:Over 50% of people in the UK suffer with sleep disorders of some kind, generally attributed to a stressful lifestyle, RLS is a common problem. Traditional Acupuncture is known to be enormously beneficial for helping correct sleep problems. Most people find treatment wonderfully relaxing, as acupuncture is known to calm the nervous system and also affect hormonal outputs by increasing endorphin production.”

Try it: To find a practitioner in your area call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit For an alternatively try The Yantra Mat which features 8,820 contact points set on a cotton covered foam base and is designed to stimulate acupoints on the body, increasing blood flow and releasing feel-good hormones, which help to balance body and mind. The Yantra Mat, £39.99, is available direct from Lifes2good on 0845 399 0038 or, Argos, Holland & Barrett and all good pharmacies.

2. Aches and pains

Bed too hard? Too soft? Not enough support? Tossing and turning throughout the night and not sleeping in a comfortable position can lead to aches and pains and trouble getting comfy night after night.

Try it: Tiger Balm Red uses the relieving properties of Tiger Balm’s natural active ingredients Camphor, Menthol, Cajuput Oil and Clove Oil, in addition to Cinnamon Oil to relieve muscular aches and pains so you no longer need to suffer in silence. A little of the non greasy formula should be gently rubbed into the affected area two or three times a day for best results, or as often as required.
Tiger Balm Red is priced £4.90 for a 19g jar and is available from Boots, Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrisons, Superdrug.

3.  Midnight loo trips

Nocturia (a high urine output at night) is a far more common condition than you realise, and rationing water to keep midnight toilet trips at bay can leave you with the more painful problem of a urinary tract infection. In the western world UTIs are also the second most common reason to prescribe antibiotics, and can cause serious discomfort to both men and women.

Try it: Dr Emma Derbyshire, Independent Nutritionist to the Natural Hydration Council advises: “Reducing fluid intakes to avoid going to the toilet could be counterproductive. As bladder capacity is reduced urine gets more concentrated which can aggravate the lining of the bladder. Try instead to  retraining your bladder.  This can be done by gradually increasing fluid intake and not going to the toilet as often i.e. waiting an extra 10 minutes before going to the toilet.”

4. Bloating

Your digestive system is key to giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep it healthy.

Waste material in the colon impairs our ability to absorb vitamins and minerals which can prevent the immune system from working at its optimum level, and can leave us bloated and uncomfortable, making sleep and relaxation near impossible

Try it: Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ is a natural green algae whole food supplement from Japan – an excellent choice for bloating as it contains a staggering range of nutrients including around 10% fibre, to help move food through the system more effectively. Nutritionist and Natural Health expert Nadia Brydon explains “Sun Chlorella ‘A’ acts as an ‘intestinal broom’, cleansing the bowel by clinging on to toxins like mercury, lead or pesticides in your intestines and then eliminating them as waste.”

Sun Chlorella is priced £21.95 for 300 tablets (a 20-30 day supply) and is available from, free phone 0800 008 6166,,,, Revital stores, and good health stores.

5: Stress

Stress is a collection of physiological, cognitive, affective and behavioural symptoms that are caused by difficult situations in our daily life.

“It can affect each individual in different ways ranging from less severe symptoms such as headaches all the way up to depression and anxiety,” explains Dr David Edwards’,”exercise and a healthy diet are crucial to maintaining a relaxed mind and body.

“I would also recommend some of my patients take Rhodiola rosea as a short term option when suffering stressful periods. Taking 200mg, twice a day could help to control the release of stress hormones while helping to improve energy and concentration levels, which can help reduce symptoms of stress.” Rhodiola rosea is an ‘adaptogen’ – a substance of natural plant origin that is able to increase the body’s resistance to stress and normalise imbalances with minimal side effects.

Try it: Vitano®contains Rhodiola rosea root extract 200mg and is available from Boots, leading pharmacies and health-food stores priced at £13.27 for 30 tablets.  Always read the label.  For further information

6: Tension

Tension affects the body in many ways stopping the body’s muscles from relaxing properly. If our muscles have been tight all day long, they will remain partly contracted even in sleep.

This means that our sleep can be edgy and disturbed and we can wake up still feeling tense. Chronically tight muscles can’t relax completely even when they have the opportunity to do so. If you’ve been tense at a desk all day, your muscles won’t relax as soon as you lie down in bed.

Try it: The HoMedics Deluxe Shiatsu Cushion to massage tense muscles and ease away tension. Shiatsu, from the Japanese meaning ‘finger pressure’ is a style of massage that boosts rejuvenation and relaxation. Complete with a luxurious soft touch fabric and contoured shape, you can use the cushion on any part of the body including the back, shoulders, lumbar and legs. HoMedics Deluxe Shiatsu Cushion, £64.99, Boots

7: Nocturnal Cramps

Nocturnal muscle cramp could well be the new snoring, causing distress and sleep disruption to more than 13 million people in the UK.

Around 80 per cent of women have suffered with the complaint, with 12 per cent experiencing nocturnal cramps every night.  It is an extremely painful and distressing condition with many people suffering in silence.

Insomnia specialist and founder of the Sleep School, Dr Guy Meadows said: Quality sleep is essential to ensure you feel regenerated and ready for the day ahead. Interruptions caused by emotional or health problems can be very detrimental to everyday life, making it harder to concentrate at work and affecting relationships.  Frustration and anxiety about disturbed sleep can cause it to become even worse.

“People often aren’t aware that they could be suffering from a sleep condition that is easy to treat. Instead of worrying about the problem, it is important to trust your body’s ability to sleep, making lifestyle changes or taking appropriate treatments where appropriate.”

Try it: Now available in the pain relief aisles of Boots pharmacies nationwide, Crampex tablets help to both treat and prevent muscle cramp at night.  Crampex is now available in a pack of 12 tablets priced at £2.99.  Always read the label before use.

8. Itching

While a busy lifestyle can keep you distracted from painful skin conditions like eczema throughout the day, the long night time hours can make it almost impossible to resist the itch.

Common symptoms of eczema include itching and dryness, crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing, and even bleeding.

Slathering yourself in expensive creams can also irritate the surface of the skin further, making bedtime a real nightmare for your skin.

Try it: Evening Primrose Oil. Expert cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting says: “Great skin comes from treating it correctly on the outside, but also nourishing it from within.  EPO is a high-quality source of essential fatty acids known as GLA’s (Gamma Linolenic Acid) and the greater the amount of these in your EPO choice – the greater the benefit to your skin.

GLA’s are a vital component of the skin’s natural barrier function which helps skin stay hydrated and healthy. It’s especially beneficial in people with eczema, dry and sensitive skin who are prone to itch and irritation.” Efamol’s® Pure Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)  is one of the purest evening primrose oils available, as it contains 33% more gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) than other brands priced from £7.65 and is available from Boots, Waitrose, independent pharmacies and health food stores.