Insomnia: Dr Caroline Longmore’s Tips

Habitual sleeplessness is classified as insomnia. Failure to get an entire night’s sleep on most night over a month period can be considered chronic insomnia.

Chronic insomnia is often a symptom of underlying medical disorder, such as:  anxiety, stress, grief.. Or physical problems like arthritis, asthma, anaemia, sleep apnoea, hypoglycaemia, hyperthyroidism, restless legs, overweight/obese, snoring, indigestion, kidney, heart, caffeine and tea consumption, some drugs..

A lack of the nutrients calcium, and magnesium can cause you to wake up after few hours and not be able to return to sleep. Poor nutritional habits and eating too close to bedtime. A sedentary lifestyle can be contributor for sleepless disorder.

While one or two sleepless nights can cause irritability and daytime sleepiness, with decreased ability to perform creative or repetitive tasks, most people can adapt to short-term periods of sleep deprivation. After more than three days, sleep deprivation begins to cause a more serious deterioration in overall performance and can even result in mild personality changes. If chronic, inadequate sleep compromises productivity, creates problems in relationships, and can contribute to other health problems.

Normal sleep consists of two main states, designated rapid eye-movement (REM)and non-rapid eye movement (non REM) sleep. It is REM sleep that is most often associated with dreaming. The stages of sleep are further broken down as follows:

·       Stage 1: light sleep, we drift in and out and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move slowly and muscle activity slows.

·       Stage 2: light sleep. Our eye movement stops and our brain waves become slower. With occasional burst of rapid waves call sleep spindles. 

·       Stage 3: Deep sleep. Extremely slow brain waves called delta waves appear interspersed with smaller, faster waves.

·       Stage 4: deep sleep. The brain produces mostly delta waves. They are no eye movements and no muscle activity.

·       Stage 5: REN sleep. Breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow. The eyes jerk rapidly while limb muscles become temporarily paralysed. Dreams almost always happen in this stage, but may occur in other sleep stages.

It takes about two hours to go through all five stages of sleep, after which they are normally repeated. REM sleep occurs 90 minutes after we fall asleep.

Adults spend half their sleep time in stage 2 sleep, 20% in REM sleep, and 30% in the others stages

They are no hard and fast rules about how much sleep is enough, because every individual’s requirements are different. Some people can function on as little as five hours of sleep at night, while others seem to perform better with nine, ten or even more hours of sleep. Most adults need about eight hours of sleep in order to feel refreshed.

Children, especially very young and adolescents, generally require more sleep than adults to be at their best.

It is not uncommon for people to sleep less as they get older, especially after the age of sixty.

The cardinal sign of a sleep problem requiring a doctor’s attention is inappropriate sleepiness, such as dozing off at the dinner table, during conversation, or while driving. Even dozing off in front of the television can be a warning sign that something is amiss with the body’s internal clock.


·       In the evening eat bananas, dates, figs, nut butter, tuna, turkey, wholegrains crackers, this food is high on tryptophan, which promote sleep.1/2 grape fruit before bed also helps.

·       DO NOT eat large meals without two hours of bedtime

·       AVOID caffeine, tea, alcohol and nicotine four to six hours before bed time.

·       AVOID bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sugar, sausages, spinach, tomatoes, and wine close to bed time. These foods contain tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, another cold medication brain stimulant.

·       AVOID taking nasal decongestants and other medications late in the day. While many ingredients in these preparations are known to cause drowsiness, they can have the opposite effect on some people and act as a stimulant.

·       Establish a sets of habits and follow them consistently to establish a healthy sleep cycle.

·       Go to bed only when you are tired/sleepy.

·       Unwind before bed time – insomnia is associated with stress

·       Use a good sleep hygiene, reduce stimulant, tv, computer, tablet. Mobile

·       Do not stay in bed if you are not sleepy, get up and move to another room and read, watch TV, or do something quietly until you are really sleepy.

·       Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex – not for reading, working, eating, or watching TV.

·       Keep a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same timeevery day.

·       Set an alarm clock and get out of bed at the same time every morning, no matter how you slept the night before. Once normal sleep patterns are re-established. Most people find that they have no need for an alarm clock.

·       Sleep in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature.

·       Do not nap in the day if this is not a normal thing for you to do. Especially OVOID NAPPING NO LATER THAN 3 PM.

·       Exercise regularly in the late afternoon or early evening – but not without 2 hours of bed time. Physical exertion is an excellent way to make your body tired so that sleep comes about more easily.

·       Take a hot bath an hour or two before bedtime. For more relaxation put several drops of a soothing essential oil such as chamomile or lavender in the bath water. (Do not use chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed or if you are pregnant, nursing or on medication.

·       Keep THE BEDROOM CONFORTABLE and QUIET. Play music softly or use meditation / mindfulness tapes/CD)

·       Learn to put worries out of your mind. Re-create a pleasurable time… learn relaxation technique such as meditation/ guided imagery is extremely helpful in getting sleep patterns back to normal.

·       Aim to get as much sunlight as possible during the winter months, which will regulate melatonin secretion during the day, allowing the right physiological conditions at night when increased melatonin induces drowsiness.

·       Keep a sleep diary if you are tired during the day, your day time sleepiness may have a quite obvious link with not getting enough sleep time at night.


  • During sleep, the body’s systems are still controlling basic functions. Nutrients are essential for the body and are used during the sleep cycle.
  • Sleep is needed to restore appetite hormones (inadequate sleep increase calorie intake)
  • A lack of sleep can encourage serious illness and cause premature aging. (8 hours sleep a night)
  • Two of the most common sleep problems are not being able to fall asleep and waking in the middle of the night. It should take less than 30minutes to get to sleep, but it can take longer. Others fall asleep, but wake up and can’t get back to sleep.
  • If you suffer from restless legs / deal with the problem (calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc can help) to ovoid to stop you to go to sleep.
  • The hormonal shifts that occur during PMT and menopause may trigger insomnia. Oestrogen affects the production and balance of the brain chemicals responsible for wakefulness.
  • Regardless of how many hours sleep you get each night, if you wake up [ easily in the morning, and especially if you rarely (or never) need the services of your alarm clock, and if you can make it through the day without running out of steam or feeling drowsy after sitting quietly or reading for a while, you are probably getting enough sleep.
  • Sleeping pills do not cure insomnia and they can interfere with REM sleep. Use of sleeping pills also leads to dependency, either psychological or physical. They should be use as a temporary solution.


  • CALCIUM has a calming effect
  • MAGNESIUM needed to balance with calcium and relax the muscles.
  • MELATONIN a natural hormone that promotes sound sleep (have to be use occasionally only)
  • Vit B complex help promote a restful state and relieve stress
  • Vit C promote serotonin production, reduce stress.
  • ZINC aids in the recovery of body tissues while sleeping.
  • MELATONIN one hour before bed. (do not over use, it can stop the body’s own production of this vital hormone)

HERBAL MEDICINE: California poppy, Hops, Lemon balm, Passion flowers, skullcap, Valerian taken in tincture are all good for helping to overcome insomnia. It is best not to rely on one herb on a regular basis, but to rotate among several. Take the herbs before bed time. Catnip and Chamomile have mild sedative properties. These HERBS ARE SAFE EVEN FOR CHILDREN.



Dr Caroline Longmore is passionate about complementary medicine and naturopathy, and specialises in nutrition, food intolerance, fertility, mental health, weight management, anti ageing and cancer treatments, utilising Acupuncture, Naturopathy and Herbalism.