Getting a good night’s Sleep.

Many folk pop into the Herbal Barge Apothecary and ask about herbs for sleep. We sell a sleep herbal tea mix containing Californian poppy, linden blossom, chamomile lavender, mint and rose, that has been dramatically effective for some; and a tincture mix containing valerian and hops that has worked for others - but I always find this a difficult area to address quickly ‘over the counter’ because there are so many routes to a poor night’s sleep. Invariably I suggest structured bedtime routines that include baths with Epsom salts and essential oils, but just as often I prescribe something for the person to take to support them during the day (and night), rather than focusing just on their sleep.

Accumulative lack of sleep can be a significant factor in precipitating crisis in physical and mental health. We know there is a vicious circle relationship between sleep and pain chronic pain; also lack of sleep impacts on eating patterns and ultimately the development of insulin resistance insulin resistance. Very often chronic sleep problems require skilled help interventions. But there are themes and a consensus of self-help ‘sleep hygiene’ strategies, so if you are struggling to sleep the resources below may offer some pointers. Consider using them, in conjunction with those herbs that are traditionally associated with sleep.

Click on the images to take you to the links.


1. Self care tips for promoting sleep
2. Herbal medicine for promoting sleep.
2.. Herbal medicine for promoting sleep.
3. Epsom Bath Salts and Magnesium supplements
3. Epsom bath salts and Magnesium Supplements
4.Sleep apps
5.Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT) for insomnia
7.Helpful Websites
8.Circadian rythms

Dr. Mercola - 30 things to do to get a good nights sleep

I find always Dr Mercola’s website simultaneously illuminating and frustrating – far too many cookies and sign up to this newsletter/buy this product breaks – but good for rational dissemination for cutting edge science. This list is great. And it leads to an exhaustive list of hyperlinked referenced articles relating to sleep and the relationship of sleep to other health problems.

Sleep -self care tips

What is good sleep hygiene? – Some top tips, and some useful herbs.

Herbs for sleep

Mainly lovely pictures of herbs that can help you relax and get to sleep.

Sleep naturally.

This article from the journal of alternative and complimentary medicine reviews the efficacy of herbal remedies in managing insomnia. Frustratingly and inevitably the main conclusion is of course it is surprising how little research attention over the counter remedies have attracted, but it is a useful introduction to the evidence base , such that it is.

Californian poppy and pain relief

This is an interesting essay on the potential use of Californian poppy to help promote restorative sleep where there is bidirectional relationship between sleep and pain ( ie where poor sleep enhances pain and enhanced pain further disturbs sleep) It draws evidence from in vivo tests, animal studies and traditional use

Epsom Salt Baths: An Old-School Way to Feel Better Fast?

I really rate Epsom salts. We sell them at the Herbal Barge and I regularly recommend that folk take a good hot bath with a couple of large handfuls and some relaxing essential oils as part of their sleep promoting bedtime routine. It is my experience that the magnesium sulphate salts do promote sleep, relax muscles and in large enough doses (300 grams in a bath) can bring on a right sweat( if that is what you are after), and internally they are a very effective short term laxative. The scientific evidence base is for supporting the external uses and disseminating how it might work is still thin , however. This article explores some possible mechanisms.

About Epsom Salt

This website is from the Epsom Salt Council, who were set up in 1993 to promote the use of Epsom Salts, but it does provide interesting information..

Mg deficiency and sleep problems

Magnesium Internally

Baths don’t work for everybody and some times I simply prescribe Epsom salts internally. Two notes of caution – , they don’t taste great - some people might find a tablet supplement more palatable. And secondly– they are a very effective short term laxative. Take no more than half a tea –spoon dissolved in water.

This website is selling magnesium supplements, so has a vested interest, but the article is useful, introducing some peer reviewed studies, and explains some mechanisms.

Sleep Apps

It has been argued that there is some element of placebo involved. But I do know some folk have found these sleep apps helpful. From a practitioner point of view it can be really useful when someone brings in a record of their sleep patterns and crucially a record of how much sleep they are actually getting.

I don’t have enough experience of the apps to recommend one in particular, but this link takes you to a comparison site. Many sites come with the 14 day free trial, so may well be worth exploring.

Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT) for insomnia

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)is a type of psychotherapy that has been regularly used as a practical approach to treat various mental health conditions. It aims to help resolve a specific problem exploring the thought processes and behaviours that lead to a given problem. In the case of sleep it helps to identify the origin, the underlying cause of your sleep problem. In order to gain the necessary practical skills to overcome it, CBT requires for the person to understand how sleep works and how this is affected by beliefs and attitudes.

CBT can be accessed through the NHS but waiting times could be long.

This study carried out in general practices in Sheffield established that CBT is a very effective and cost effective approach to help patients that regularly use sleep medication. It helped patients improve sleep, reduce the use of medication and to improve their overall quality of life.

How sleep works

‘What is is,-how it works- how we do it – and what can go wrong’ This website isn’t academic but it is thorough and intelligent in its accessible and well laid out presentation of subjects relating to sleep – including sleep phases, cultural differences, patterns in various animals, historical sleep research, dreaming, etc. It gives a broad overview of various sleep disorders and the highlights the areas of consensus in relation to effective ‘sleep hygiene’ practice

The National Sleep Foundation

The National sleep foundation is a U.S site useful for sleep hygiene tips and general interest. It looks in more detail at various sleeps disorders and hyperlinks to peer reviewed references.


Isis - Infant sleep information source – UK site specialising in babies and sleep. It is helpful and well referenced

In Our Time , Circadian rythms

This episode of Melvyn Bragg's in our time explores fascinating new studies in to circadian rhythms - the implications of these insights for poor sleepers into sleep patterns is only just unfolding.