* Change your sleeping habits. This can correct the problem without the need for drugs. Good sleeping habits include regular sleeping times, a comfortable bed, a quiet room with a comfortable temperature, appropriate lighting, regular exercise, but not late in the evening or close to bedtime, and no stimulants (such as caffeine or tobacco), alcohol or large meals near bedtime.
* Try homoeopathy. A good combination remedy is Passiflora GHL, which combines Avena sativa, Passiflora incarnata, Atropa belladonna, Secale cornutum and Valeriana officinalis. Tested for 30 days against conventional drugs in women suffering from insomnia, this remedy proved more effective (Carion V et al. Etude de l'Action de Passiflora Lehning sur Insomnie: Une Analyse Statistique. Metz: Editions Lehning, 1992: 1-16). For more information, see www.lehning.com or call +33 (387) 76 72 24. Bioforce makes Passiflora Complex, a combination of Passiflora incarnata and Avena sativa (see www. bioforce.co.uk or call 01294 277 344).
* Try acupuncture or acupressure (shiatsu). Acupuncture has been proven to improve sleep (Forsch Komplement"armed, 1999; 1 [suppl]: 29-31), and acupressure can work in the elderly (J Gerontol Med Sci, 1999; 54A: M389-94). There is also evidence that hypnosis helps (J Abnormal Psychol, 1973; 82: 153-8).
* Drink chamomile tea or warm milk before bedtime. Warm milk contains high levels of the essential amino-acid tryptophan, a natural sedative (Z Arztl Fortbild Qualit"atssich, 2001; 95: 11-6). According to nutrition expert Dr Dean Ornish, chamomile contains apigenin, which binds to the same receptors as do benzodiazepines such as Valium.
* Try relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or meditation. These can help to calm the mind and aid sleep. Meditation can also reduce anxiety and panic attacks, which could be stopping you from sleeping (Gen Hosp Psychiatry, 1995; 17: 192-200).
* Try the herb valerian. With no adverse reactions, the herb is a safe and effective alternative (Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 1989; 32: 1065-6). In 1995, Germany's Commission E recommended 1-3 g/day of dried root and rhizome for restlessness and sleep problems. As an extract, take 450 mg at least an hour before bedtime; for anxiety, take 200-300 mg of extract in the morning. As a tincture, take 1-3 mL once to several times daily; as an infusion, use 2-3 g per cup, and drink up to several times a day. Once a normal sleeping pattern has been reestablished, you can slowly decrease the dosages.