Sleep: are you getting enough of it? I'm not. I never have. I blame tech and the attention-boosting, sleepiness-killing blue lights that come with it. I blame the fact that we have to put up with a working culture (that exists in the UK, at least) wherein people actually compete to be the last one to leave the office.
I blame the anxieties and pressures that go hand-in-hand with modern living, which can make your brain whir so manically that sleep doesn't come easily. I've tried sleeping pills and, while they work, they're not a long-term solution. And the waiting lists for NHS sleep clinics are, frankly, enough to lose (more) sleep over.
If you're struggling to nod off at night, consider giving the below a go – I've found all of them helpful at one point or another. As every insomniac knows, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cure to sleeplessness, but it's definitely possible to find non-chemical fixes that might help you to catch an extra few hours.
The calming lotion that'll bliss you out
When I read all the rave reviews of Lush's Sleepy lotion – a body lotion containing a heady blend of oatmeal, lavender and tonka absolute – I was skeptical, but obviously intrigued. I had a holiday coming up and, because travelling always ruins my already-awful sleep habits, knowing I'd need all the help I could get, I ordered a little tub.
The first thing I'll say about this lotion is that is smells divine. Unlike other sleep lotions and potions I've tried (I'm looking at you, This Works' Deep Sleep spray...), the scent isn't overpoweringly lavender-y, as the oatmeal brings a light muskiness to the mix. The body lotion is pretty thick, but it's quick to apply and absorb. I think its sleep-inducing qualities actually come from the application, to be honest. The practice of taking 2 minutes at the end of the day to massage yourself with a luxurious, scented lotion is relaxing in itself, and a great way to wind down. I will continue buying this, as I love the scent and appreciate the way this lotion chills me out.
The eye mask that you'll want to keep on all night
As a writer, I spent the majority of each day sitting in front of a screen. As well as undoubtedly damaging my eyes, I occasionally have days when my eyes feel so strained that I get a headache. Needless to say, this is not conducive to a good night's sleep.
Spacemasks are comfy eye masks that you slip on and, upon conduct with the skin, they start heating up. On paper, that might sound odd, but in practice it is incredily soothing. You're forced to shut off and close your eyes for at least 15 minutes, which helps to induce sleep. Although spending £3 on an eye mask seems indulgent, if you compare it to buying a glass of wine then it doesn't seem that spenny after all.
The foods that won't interrupt sleep
Eating before bed is a contentious issue. I find that hunger is just another feeling that keeps me awake, so I always eat a snack before bed if I haven't had enough dinner. It's important to eat the right stuff, though, which means ditching sugary stuff that'll naturally hype you up.
Love or loathe Marmite, the fact that it's rich in B Vitamins means that it makes for an excellent pre-bed snack. I adore Marmite, so I see this as another reason to keep buying a jar every fortnight despite the fact that the price of it keeps creeping up (sob). If you're not a Marmite-lover, try eating a banana or a handful of almonds instead.
The supplement that might actually work
People fall into two camps when supplements are concerned: you either see them as snake oil, or weirdly effective. I'm on the side of the latter, at least when it comes to 5-HTP. It encourages production of serotonin, which is thought to affect factors like sleep, as well as anxiety and depression.
The only form of 5-HTP I'll use comes from Solgar – it contains valerian, another natural sleep aid that I used to use (with a varied success rate) before discovering 5-HTP. Sceptics will say I'm just experiencing a placebo effect, but I really think I sleep better when I've taken one of these capsules an hour before going to bed. Before taking 5-HTP, read this guide to the supplement.