Can't sleep? Try these 5 cures before bed to improve your chances of shuteye

If you can't sleep, there are several effective remedies to try before resorting to sleeping pills. Here are our top 5

can't sleep
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you can't sleep, you've probably already tried many of the popular sleep remedies; we bet you've researched the best mattress and pillows, deep and REM sleep, and keep your phone out of the bedroom. Still, no luck: you can't get to sleep easily or you keep waking up. 

The following remedies can make a significant difference to both how easily you'll fall asleep and how much sleep you'll get. It's trial and error, though, so try out different things to see what works for you. 

Get lots of more advice on how to sleep better in our feature. 

1. Take a bath

This sleep cure has everything to do with body temperature, which needs to drop in order for you to sleep well. Too hot, and you'll be tossing and turning. Too cold, and you'll lie awake trying to warm up. Taking a bath one to two hours before bedtime helps regulate your body temperature by first raising it and then gradually cooling down, so that by the time you're ready to drift off you're neither too hot nor cold.

2. Try essential oils

Essential oils have been used as sleep aids for millennia, and they are effective at helping your nervous system wind down. Lavender and camomile essential oils have the strongest link to better sleep, but you can also try bergamot, clary sage, and sandalwood.

3. Eat some cherries

Sweet cherries, abundant throughout the summer, are packed full of melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us sleep well. Eat a good handful half an hour to an hour before bedtime, or drink a glass of fresh cherry juice. 

4. Read a good book

If your poor sleep is due to high stress levels, reading will help; in fact, it's more effective at reducing stress than walking or listening to music, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex. It doesn't really matter what you read, so long as it's not news on a screen. 

5. Try using a red light bulb in the bedroom

This is still something of novelty in the world of sleep cures, but the idea behind it is not. Blue light keeps us awake, while low-level red light helps us go to bed. If you think about it, for a very long time, humans used candles in their bedrooms. A candle has a lower intensity light than even a sunset, so that's what you should be aiming for in your bedroom. Try coloured red bulbs – many people are reporting that it makes a difference to their sleep.