How do I kick sleep­ing pills?

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Q: I’ve been hav­ing huge sleep chal­lenges for the past six months or so. I’ve had to re­sort to sleep­ing pills just to get a good night’s sleep ev­ery once in a while but they make me quite groggy the fol­low­ing day and I know they’re not a long-term so­lu­tion. Do you have any sug­ges­tions for how I can im­prove mysleep? Thanks, Di.

You’re def­i­nitely not alone in your strug­gles Di – a quar­ter of New Zealan­ders have chronic sleep­ing is­sues ac­cord­ing to the World As­so­ci­a­tion of Sleep Medicine. And those re­sults were pub­lished five years ago, so that num­ber may have in­creased by now. It’s safe to say that most peo­ple would have ex­pe­ri­enced the frus­tra­tion of a sleep­less night re­gard­less of whether it’s an on­go­ing is­sue for them or not.

We all know how im­por­tant qual­ity sleep is, so when we do have on­go­ing chal­lenges the


worry be­gins to com­pound. We worry about the con­se­quences of this lack of sleep to our health on top of how we’re go­ing to get through yet an­other day feel­ing less than re­freshed. When we’re in this chal­leng­ing cy­cle, it’s im­por­tant to re­duce the amount of wor­ries cir­cling in our heads as it gen­er­ally (as a stress) only makes sleep even more elu­sive.

Whether you’re hav­ing trou­ble falling asleep or sleep­ing through the night, there are sev­eral ways to im­prove your sleep cy­cle. It can be help­ful to get your body into a reg­u­lar rou­tine of get­ting up and go­ing to sleep at a sim­i­lar time each day. A morn­ing and/or evening rit­ual such as yoga or med­i­ta­tion can re­duce your stress and pre­pare your body for deep rest.

Avoid move­ment, es­pe­cially any­thing en­er­getic, at the end of the day as it typ­i­cally ac­ti­vates the sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem which can de­crease your mela­tonin (sleep hor­mone) pro­duc­tion and leave you feel­ing alert and awake. Leave the evenings as time to slow down and stim­u­late your sleep neu­ro­trans­mit­ters. To do this, it helps to keep the light­ing to a mim­i­mum and avoid de­vices for around 60 to 90 min­utes be­fore bed. You might like to do some light read­ing or med­i­ta­tion.

If you con­sume caf­feine, keep con­sump­tion to a min­i­mum (stick to one cof­fee if you can) and re­mem­ber that caf­feine can stay in the body for around eight hours so try to avoid drink­ing it after mid­day at the lat­est. Al­co­hol is an­other sub­stance to be mind­ful of. It tends to make you feel sleepy but of­ten re­sults in a 2-3am wake up call, dis­rupt­ing some of the deep­est sleep stages you will have through the night.

You might also find it help­ful to plan your up­com­ing day be­fore you go to bed to stop you wak­ing up through the night think­ing about that thing you for­got to sched­ule in your di­ary and to have pen and pa­per be­side the bed in case you wake up with a thought that can then be ad­dressed in the morn­ing.

Join Dr Libby for her Sort Your Sleep New Zealand tour, for more in­for­ma­tion or to pur­chase tick­ets visit dr­

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Visit .


Most peo­ple have ex­pe­ri­enced the frus­tra­tion of a sleep­less night re­gard­less of whether it’s an on­go­ing is­sue or not.

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