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Natural Solutions             June 2006

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Nutri Centre’s Q & A section 

Suppliers of complementary medicine, Nutri Centre (now offering their range of products in a number of larger Tesco stores), are providing laterlife visitors with the opportunity to ask questions on health issues.  

The Q & As are produced by Jo Rawlinson in conjunction with the Nutri Centre. Jo is a trained complementary health practitioner who regularly works with and writes on behalf of the Nutri Centre.





Q:   I am 60 years old and never seem to get a good night’s sleep. I tend to wake after 3 or 4 hours. Are there any natural remedies I can take?

A:  Diminished sleep is a natural feature of ageing. The pineal gland in the brain releases the hormone melatonin which is responsible for the body’s circadian rhythm. This determines when you sleep and wake. Melatonin levels decrease with age. So at the age of 60, your body is producing half the amount of melatonin it did at age 20.

Unfortunately, melatonin, though taken by frequent fliers, business men and shift workers, is only available by private prescription and is not licensed by the NHS. But you can boost your melatonin, by tapping into the biochemistry of the brain and increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the manufacture of melatonin. You can also boost tryptophan, an amino acid critical to the manufacture of serotonin.

How? To increase serotonin you need plentiful supplies of B6 (pyridoxine) found in carrots, cheese, avocado, fish, lentils, peas, potato, spinach, sunflower seeds, wholemeal bread. Eat more of these, take a good supplement (see below), and cut out high sugar foods which can destabilize blood sugar levels (white rice and bread being examples of these). A high carbohydrate basis to your diet (quality wholefoods) is calming and promotes restful sleep.

Calcium deficiency has long been linked with tension and sleep problems. Calcium is a potent sleep inducer, so take that warm milky nightcap. Milk also contains tryptophan so this is doubly tranquillizing. You could supplement with calcium - citrate or hydroxyapatite are the most easy to absorb forms.

The hot bath adage helps, too. Add lavender oil - 8-10 drops - to the bath, or you could even sprinkle a few drops onto your pillow for a restful night’s sleep. But it’s just not true that an alcoholic nightcap induces sleep. Alcohol not only destroys much-needed B vitamins, but is a stimulant. That’s why we often wake up in the wee hours after a boozy evening.

Don’t forget those B vitamins. They play a central role in calming the nervous system. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Boston, found that an English muffin or a banana before bedtime, for example, can greatly improve the quality of sleep.

Serotone 5-HTP is a popular supplement prescribed by nutritionists to help people suffering from insomnia and is also useful for jet lag, though it doesn’t kick in immediately. This supplement is ideal if your insomnia has its roots in stress or depression.

There are lots of herbs that are good for insomnia, including valerian, passionflower, lemon balm and hops. Nitebalm is a herbal complex containing all of the above. The combination of lemon balm, hops, and valerian, in a trial of 225 patients with difficulty falling and staying asleep, showed an improvement in sleeping for over 80%. Take 40-50 drops in a little water 3 times daily to begin with. Expect to find that it will take around 3 days to take effect. Thereafter, the dose can be reduced to same amount twice daily and if effective, once only before bed.

Finally, consider that we are creatures of habit for whom placebo is 50% effective: if we expect to sleep well, we often will. End your evening with a regular ‘good night’ routine and expect the unexpected.


5-HTP Serotone 100mg veg. tablets, Higher Nature,     

?37.00 for 90

Calcium citrate 100mg veg. caps by Vega,                     

 ?4.59 for 30.

Nitebalm by Linpharma,                                                      

?6.99 for 50ml


If you would like to ask a question, please send an email to   

* Please note questions cannot be answered personally but will be selected for inclusion in future editions of 'Natural Solutions'

The information above is provided by the Nutri Centre. Laterlife cannot endorse any information presented and recommends that you consult your doctor if in doubt about any medication or health-related matter.

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