The (not so) big sleep

It’s essential for our physical and psychological wellbeing, yet increasing numbers of us fail to get the rest we need. Tiredness and fatigue is the scourge of an exhausted nation rushed off its feet – so why can’t we sleep? Claire Lavelle investigates

It’s not surprising that in a world where the phrase ‘always on’ is commonplace, we find it hard to switch off. Indeed, recent research from the Sleep Council found that 74% of people get fewer than seven hours’ sleep a night. While this doesn’t sound significantly less than the solid eight hours we’ve come to accept as the ideal amount of slumber, consistently being under-slept soon takes its toll: concentration levels diminish and mood swings are common symptoms after a run of broken nights. 

More worryingly, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to serious health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression. The days when ‘sleep is for the weak’ are long gone; it’s now common knowledge that the UK’s most famous scant sleeper, Margaret Thatcher (four hours a night, anyone?), topped up with power naps throughout the day. Health experts across the globe are universally agreed that sleep deprivation is bad for us, but what’s worrying is just how bad.  

“Almost every ailment … is linked in some way to poor sleep,” says Professor Jason Ellis, director of sleep science, Northumbria Centre of Sleep Research. “Not only does sleep deprivation increase our risk of developing serious health problems, it also reduces the body’s ability to cope with them.” 

Psychologist Chireal Shallow, who specializes in sleep issues, agrees: “Soldiering on when we’re really tired can be seen as a badge of honour, but in reality it’s a dangerous lifestyle choice on a par with smoking or drinking to excess.” 

What happens when we sleep?
There are two different types of sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM; both are important. “Non-REM sleep comes first, and has three distinct phases,” says Ellis. “The first is drowsiness, after which we fall into a light sleep. At this point, the heart rate, breathing and temperature all fall. Next comes deep sleep, which is the restorative stage, during which the body renews tissues and repairs damage. It’s also when our bodies are most active at fighting infection, which is why we should sleep when we don’t feel very well. 

“Finally, we slip into REM sleep. Our eyes remain closed but begin to move rapidly, our breathing speeds up and our brain waves become similar to when we are awake. Commonly known as the ‘dream state’, it’s during this stage that the amygdala is most active – this is the part of the brain associated with processing emotions and forming memories. 

“It takes around 90 minutes to complete each cycle; on a typical night we experience four or five cycles of sleep. Additionally, during these cycles, the stress hormones that cause inflammation drop and hormones that are associated with repair and restoration, such as the pituitary growth hormone, rise. It’s when this natural rhythm gets disrupted, and the cycle of cell repair and renewal is interrupted, that levels of stress hormones start to increase.”

Despite this very real risk to health, 46% of us (according to research from essential oil brand Puressentiel) feel that lack of sleep is something we ‘just get used to’. Moreover, 28% would never seek their doctor’s advice about sleep problems, indicating that a ‘put up and shut up’ attitude is still in existence. “Lack of awareness doesn’t help: only one in ten people realize insufficient sleep increases the chances of developing diabetes, while four out of five people are unaware that it can contribute to heart problems,” says Dr Gill Jenkins, GP and advisor to Puressentiel. 

Counting sheep
So what keeps us awake at night? Top of the list comes stress and anxiety, according to the Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report, with over half of us unable to sleep at night because we can’t switch off from daytime worries, with women being slightly more predisposed to this than men. And a quarter can’t sleep because their partner keeps them awake (accordingly, the trend for sleeping apart is growing). 

It does appear that we’re heeding the advice around tech in the bedroom, however, and how blue light emissions can interfere with the production of sleep hormone melatonin: fewer of us check emails at bed-time (6% versus 14% in 2013) and even watching TV before going to sleep has fallen in popularity. 

“In the people we advise about managing fatigue, stress is definitely the most common reason for feeling chronically tired,” says Melinda Yates of the bodycare team at Infinity Foods, Brighton. “It’s important to try to get to the root of it for every individual so that we can address both the cause of their fatigue and alleviate the symptoms. 

Soldiering on when we’re really tired can be seen as a badge of honour, but in reality it’s a dangerous lifestyle choice, on a par with smoking or drinking to excess

“We would always recommend looking at diet first, from simple but effective advice such as making sure you’re properly hydrated, to including more greens such as kale, spinach and sprouted seeds in the diet to oxygenate the blood and transport more oxygen to the cells of the body, helping them to repair and rejuvenate. Green powders, such as wheatgrass, are also useful for this.”

Timing is everything 
Where does the maxim ‘one hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after’ come from? It seems this old adage may have roots in science after all. “What sleep research is showing now is that between 10pm and 2am a system in the brain called the lymphatics comes into play,” says Dr Donn Brennan of Maharishi Ayurveda. 

“The lymphatics are made of glial cells, which shrink dramatically during these four hours to less than 60%. That opens up channels throughout the brain through which fluid flushes through at 20 times the natural flow. This acts like a power hose, cleaning up all the debris from around the nerve cells. 

“All that is cleaning out the brain for better function the following day. At the same time, the recent memories from the day, which are in a lower part of the brain called the hippocampus, get transmitted up to the cerebral cortex, the top of the brain, for permanent storage. We’re transferring short-term to long-term memories during these four hours.”

Sleep hygiene
Smart supplementation
“When the body is functioning optimally, there is little sign of fatigue, apart from when appropriate – for example, after physical activity or a long day at work,” says Kinetic nutritionist Thierry Damour. 

“And while there are many different causes of long-term fatigue, most commonly it’s because of stress and what we refer to as poor ‘sleep hygiene’. This comprises of nightly habits that regularly stop us getting a proper night’s rest, such as going to bed too late or eating just before bedtime.”

“Supplements and herbs that help to reduce anxiety and induce a better night’s sleep include Nature’s Answer Liquid Vitamin B-complex and its Passion Flower Alcohol-Free 30ml Herbal Extract,” recommends Damour. “The former helps the body deal with the effects of stress while the latter acts as a relaxant to extend sleep duration.”

Eat the right foods
Foods containing the tryptophan amino acid are thought to be most helpful because it converts into the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. At night, serotonin undergoes metabolic changes to become melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Chicken, turkey and milk all contain tryptophan, as do peanuts, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. 

“Magnesium is a natural relaxant … it has been linked to lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol,’ says Andrew Thomas, founder of BetterYou. ‘It’s also a smooth muscle relaxant, so make sure your diet includes foods that are rich in the nutrient. Spinach, kale, avocados, chickpeas, salmon and figs are great options.”

Try essential oils
“Essential oils are a safe and effective strategy for better sleep because of their effect on the limbic system and the hormonal responses thereof,” says medical herbalist Dr Chris Etheridge. “True lavender, a key ingredient in the Puressentiel Rest & Relax range, has a long and successful history of use as a traditional soporific. Use as a spray in the bedroom or oil in a diffuser to create a calm, relaxed environment for sleep.”



HealthAid Ltd
Tel: 020 8426 3400
E-mail: [email protected]

Haemovit Plus Vital Energy Booster
Haemovit® Plus is a synergistic formula that provides a form of Iron easily absorbed by the body. Iron contributes to normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin and to normal oxygen transport in the body. The formula has the added benefits of B6 and B12 that help reduce tiredness, fatigue and maintain a healthy immune system. The vitamins in the formula also help the nervous system to function properly; Iron contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and cognitive function. Haemovit® Plus formula to help maintain a healthy hormonal balance, nervous system and normal psychological and mental function, vital factors to combat fatigue and stress levels. Haemovit® Plus retails at £7.99 for 30 capsules. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit


Garden of Life mykind Organics B-Complex

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail: [email protected]

Garden of Life mykind Organics B-Complex is a once daily formula that provides 100% daily value and more of all the B vitamins to help support healthy energy levels, support metabolism and stress response. Contains 300mcg of biotin for healthy hair, skin and nails. Supports a healthy heart with 400mcg (100% daily value) of folate. Made from real organic powdered fruits, vegetables and herbs and made from over 25 real, nutritious foods. Tablets are uniquely made using Clean Tablet Technology, made only with food, no fillers, binders or excipients. Certified USDA Organic, gluten free, kosher and Non-GMO Project Verified.


Nature’s Answer Liquid Magnesium Glycinate

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail: [email protected]

Nature’s Answer Magnesium Malate & Glycinate combines these two ‘gentle’ forms of magnesium that are amino acid chelates, offering a more bioavailable form of magnesium in liquid supplement, absorbed faster than pills, capsules and softgels. Suspended in vegetarian glycerin for better intra-cellular absorption. Featuring a unique botanical blend, Quicksorb, for better assimilation from the intestinal tract plus liver metabolism. With a delicious natural tangerine flavour. Nature’s Answer produce high-quality natural products for vital, healthy lifestyles since 1972. Their facility is cGMP Certified, organic and kosher certified. 


OM Mushroom Superfood – Cordyceps

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Discovered by Tibetan herdsman at high altitude, cordyceps optimises oxygen uptake and delivery to increase vitality and endurance, whilst supporting cardiac function and respiratory health. Om is a leading producer of pure, fresh, certified 100% organic fermented medicinal mushroom powders that contribute to optimising your health. Having travelled the world to discover unique mushroom varieties, Om have combined the perfect balance of ancient wisdom with modern growing methodology to grow these miraculous mushrooms in their state-of-the-art facility in California. Available now in powder pouches, and coming in October 2019 – Om Mushroom Superfood in capsules!


Lamberts® MagAsorb® Powder

Lamberts Healthcare Ltd,
Tel: : 01892 554313
E-mail:  [email protected]

Magnesium is increasingly recognised as a nutrient that contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. In the highly bioavailable citrate form, each 5.5g scoop provides a full 375mg of magnesium, which is 100% of the adult NRV. Our highly soluble, pleasant citrus flavoured powder is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and is easily mixed into a glass of water. Some clients struggle to take magnesium products due to the tablet size, making this product an ideal choice.


Energy + CoQ10

Link Nutrition
Tel: 0207 881 0046
E-mail:  [email protected]

Link Nutrition’s Energy + CoQ10 contains a stimulating blend of B & C vitamins along with cordyceps mushroom and Siberian ginseng – natural adaptogens to help give the body a boost when it is needed most. It also contains 80mg of coenzyme Q10, essential to energy production processes in the body. Unlike caffeine, which delivers an immediate energy boost followed by a subsequent crash, Energy + CoQ10 delivers plenty of the essential micronutrients that your body needs to maintain its energy levels and keep you firing on all cylinders.


Organic Vata SuperFood Powder

Living Ayurveda Products Ltd
Tel: 07540 185534
E-mail: [email protected]

Ayurveda understands that Tiredness and fatigue are based on an imbalance of Vata. Vata types tend to be enthusiastic and often restless. Ayurveda explains how personal balance is key to overcoming tiredness and fatigue. One benefit is the depth of sleep that can be significantly improved with a drink of 5 to 15g of Vata SuperFood powder before going to bed. Dr Brennan explains that Statavari, Brahmi and Ashwagandha natural relax and integrate the nervous system and this can help with the quality of sleep and subsequent energy levels. Vata can be out of balance in all mind-body types.



Bio Pathica
Tel: 01233 636678
E-mail: [email protected] 

Used for the supportive treatment of nervous restlessness and associated sleep disturbances. Anxiety can severely reduce the quality of life. Neurexan harnesses the traditional actions of Avena Sativa 4X (relief from nervous exhaustion and the inability to keep the mind on any one subject; Coffea Arabica 14X (to help relieve insomnia, restlessness, racing thoughts, and encourage restful sleep); Passiflora Incarnata 4X (helps against restlessness and wakefulness especially in the aged, the mentally worried and the overworked); Zincum Isovalerianicum 6X (promotes sleep and reduces agitation).

Available to health store retailers in handy carry-everywhere 50 tablet pot.  RRP £7.55.


Melissa Dream

New Nordic Ltd
Tel: 0800 389 1255
E-mail: [email protected]

New Nordic has developed an all-natural aid to your sleep problems. Melissa Dream™ is based on the newest studies of how plant extracts can be used to calm your mind and body. Melissa Dream ™ contain s a lemon balm extract, L –theanine, chamomile extract, vitamin B complex and magnesium. Lemon Balm is well known for it’s calming effects allowing the body to relax before going to bed and wake up refreshed after a good nights sleep.


CoQ Plus Carnitine

Tel: 0370 3341575
E-mail:  [email protected]

CoQ Plus Carnitine is a great product for heart health. More than half the heart’s energy supply comes from fat. Fatty acids are complex packages to deliver, and they generate toxic waste. Carnitine delivers the fatty acids to process for energy and takes away the toxic by-products. The heart needs to liberate energy every second, and carnitine helps it to do so efficiently. With three types of carnitine: L-carnitine, Acetyl-L-carnitine and Propionyl – L-carnitine plus Coenzyme Q10, this product supports the heart to have a consistent high level of energy and reduces the toxic by-products of energy production.  [email protected]


Sea CBD™

Sea CBD Limited
Tel: 0203 858 9490
E-mail:  [email protected]

Sea CBD™  – Made from 100% certified organic hemp, Sea CBD™ nourishes and supports both body and mind to promote wellbeing and a balanced lifestyle.  We are passionate about helping others enhance their overall wellbeing and quality of life by providing an empowering food supplement made using the purest ingredients that we ourselves as well friends and family would happily take.   Our vegan-friendly oil therefore undergoes rigorous quality-control in a Swiss laboratory, guaranteeing premium quality and produced without any chemicals. Sea CBD donates a percentage of profits to organisations committed to solving plastic pollution in our seas. We are actively looking for independent retailers to stock our premium range of Sea CBD™



World Foods Brand Management Ltd
Tel: 01782 366080
E-mail: [email protected]

Strath liquid and tablets have been sold for over 55 years in the UK and are one of the most popular and trusted food supplements. New studies published last year have further strengthened the products appeal. The study demonstrated that Strath can increase bio-availability of nutrients in the digestive system by up to 10 times. New to the range are Strath Vitality and Immun.