DRUGS prescribed to help tackle insomnia don't work for longer periods of time, experts have warned.
People suffering from sleep disorders often suffer in the long-term - and experts now say many medications can stop working after six months.
Writing in the BMJ Open, experts said that middle-aged women prescribed drugs for insomnia didn't have improved sleep over a long-term period.
Sleep issues can cause a myriad of health issues from everything to diabetes, high blood pressure, pain and depression.
Many people suffering with insomnia are given medication such as benzodiazepines in order to help their symptoms.
Researchers monitored women who presented with sleep issues and those who didn't.
They looked at how easy the women found it to get to sleep, how often they would wake up and how often they experienced disturbed sleep.
Both groups of women had similar sleep scores over a period of two years, meaning the prescription drugs hadn't had a meaningful impact on the sleep quality.
The researchers did however highlight that half of the women were current or former smokers and that one in five were moderate to heavy drinkers - both factors that can have an impact on sleep quality.
They stated: "Sleep disturbances are common and increasing in prevalence.
"The use of sleep medications has grown, and they are often used over a long period, despite the relative lack of evidence from [randomised controlled trials]."
With that in mind - here are the six ways you can beat insomnia without the use of prescription drugs.
1. Cut out tech
While no one is suggesting you cut out technology completely, experts say that lowering your screen time before bed could help.
Tevinder Gill, founder of Somnus Therapy said the coronavirus pandemic and the stress and isolation that has accompanied it has been challenging for people with insomia.
She said: "Having been separated from our loved ones due to lockdowns and social distancing measures, many of us are relying on our smartphones apps to keep in touch.
"This level of screen time, especially at night, can throw our circadian rhythm completely out of whack.
"Research shows that just one hour of screen time can delay the production of the sleep-promoting melatonin by three hours."
Higher Nature nutritionist Corin Sadler added: "Don’t take your work to bed with you - avoid working from your bedroom as this can make it difficult to relax and mentally switch-off.
"Removing distractions – TV, laptops etc - and decluttering can also make for a more relaxing environment."
2. Avoid naps
Dr Verena Senn who has 15 years in research on the brain, sleep patterns and psychological behaviour said while it might seem logical to catch up on lost sleep in the day, napping is a no no.
She said: "Napping too much and for too long can actually affect your ability to sleep at night.
"The time of day can matter a lot. The best time to nap is actually between 2pm and 3pm, when it’s totally normal to naturally flag and get a little fatigued; a natural lull in your body’s internal clock.
"But napping too close to your usual bedtime can throw off your schedule. Equally, naps that become too long can actually put you into a deeper stage of sleep, which can leave you feeling groggy and less alert when you wake up."
Dr Verena did however add that if you're sleep deprived and falling asleep during the day then you should take shorter naps of 15-20 minutes.
Does what you eat really make a difference when it comes to sleep?
MOST people know not to eat lots of sugary foods before they go to bed, but one expert says people with poor gut health could also experience poor sleep.
Dr. Ruairi Robertson - Postdoctoral Scientist at Queen Mary University of London and Scientific Advisor at Sons explained that humans have highly-tuned body clocks, known as our "circadian rhythm".
This, he says, means that our bodies are expecting to digest food, sleep and carry out various other processes at particular times of the day.
Dr Ruairi told The Sun: "Our gut plays a big role in keeping our body clocks ticking healthily.
"People who report symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also commonly report poor sleep quality.
"Part of this may be due to gut microbes, which have their own circadian rhythms and which help to produce hormones involved in circadian rhythm such as melatonin and serotonin."
Studies have previously shown that people with more diverse gut microbes have a better sleep.
Eating less fibre, more saturated fat and more sugar is also associated with poor sleep.
Dr Ruairi said: "Fibre is the best food for our gut microbes, however adults in the UK only eat on average 18g fibre per day, when they should be eating >30g.
"Try sprinkling some nuts/seeds on to your meals for an added fibre kick or replace half of the meat/fish in your meal with beans, chickpeas or lentils.
"As our gut microbes have their own circadian rhythms, try to eat meals at the same time every day and have dinner 2-3 hours before bed time."
3. Set the right temperature
Dr Verena who is in-house sleep expert at Emma Mattress said as tempting as it may be to sleep in a snug warm room on colder days, it’s actually counterintuitive.
She said:"Cooling down at the end of the day is a key part of winding our bodies down for sleep. Our body’s core temperature fluctuates throughout the day, peaking in the afternoon and through the early morning hours.
"The optimal bedroom temperature is around 15.5-19°C, so keep that thermostat down or off. I’d suggest setting a timer to heat up your home for when you wake up; helping you not only sleep better, but also saving money on your energy bills."
4. Wear socks
Wearing comfortable, wide socks that keep our feet nice and warm can increase blood circulation and dilate blood vessels", Dr Verena said.
"As a result, the body temperature can drop more easily - which is beneficial for sleep, as our core body temperature needs to lower by about 1°C for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.
"Plus, donning cosy socks can put us in the right mental frame of mind for the evening, making it easier for us to switch off, relax and enter sleep", she added.
Exercise is a great way to keep in shape but it can also help you beat insomnia - especially if you can do it outside.
Steve Paterson, People Development and Product Trainer at Runners Need, said exercise boosts our mood, reduces stress, improves our energy levels, our focus and can even help with sleep.
He said: "In addition, exercising outdoors in the natural daylight, preferably in the morning can help reset our body’s natural sleep-wake cycles that is key in regulating our sleep, mood and appetite.”
He adds: “When you are stressed your body releases cortisol which can interfere with your sleep. However, exercise is a great method of helping to reduce stress levels – in fact our research shows that 34 per cent of people say running helps their mind as much as their body and 27 per cent say it helps to boost their mood.”
Corrin added that it was key to make sure your exercise wasn't too close to bedtime as this could keep you up.
6. Try natural ingredients
If prescribed medication is no longer working for you then it might be time to look for something natural.
There are many natural ingredients that have been available and used for hundreds of years and they still stand the test of time today.
Valerian root is one of the natural ingredients that can help sleep and studies have previously shown that it has a part to play in increasing sleep quality and tackling anxiety.
LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist Pareena Patel said: “A natural sleep aid, such as valerian root can help you to sleep more peacefully by reducing feeling of stress and anxiety.
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“Valerian is used medically to treat nervous anxiety, reduce muscle tension and relieve mild insomnia."
Dr Verena also said you should try essential oils such as lavender and mandarin oil.
She added: "I would recommend this Cedar oil as a diffuser for the whole house, thanks to its excellent fragrance.
"It also has a great sedative power, which therefore reinforces relaxation and combats insomnia. Simply pour 15-20 drops into a diffuser with sticks, placing it on the bedside table. You will feel more relaxed after just a few minutes."