Independent health store advice on natural sleep solutions

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health store can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This month we speak to Tracey Malcolm, owner of Tullivers Health Shop in York.

Our customers regularly ask for advice on how to tackle sleep problems naturally. I think the prevalence of sleep issues is largely down to the pace of modern living. Having a good rest is so important for us to recover from the stresses of life. People are stressed as they have a lot on and as a result, many of us find it difficult to switch off at night. Alternatively, we might find it relatively easy to fall asleep but then wake in the middle of the night. It is a big concern as when we’re tired, we don’t function well. More and more people are looking for a natural solution as they have concerns about taking prescribed sleep aid medication.

Supplement support

If your sleep problems are stress-related, we would recommend adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha or rhodiola to help the body better deal with stress. Generally, any product that contains valerian can be helpful – whether it is taken in supplement form or consumed as a tea – as it improves sleep quality. One of our bestsellers is the Pukka Night Time capsules – a herbal blend containing valerian and ashwagandha. Additionally, A. Vogel’s Dormeasan valerian-hops oral drops is another very good option.

L-Theanine is a good one for when your mind chatter won’t stop and it prevents you from getting to sleep. It often comes in combination with lemon balm or melissa. We have found people are getting good results with that. Magnesium is another effective option as it helps the body to manage its own regular sleep cycle as well as relieving muscle tension. It can be taken either as an oral supplement or it can be absorbed transdermally through flakes that you can add to a bath or as an oil spray. In the first instance, we would advise reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake – for example, not having any caffeinated drinks after 6pm. Try to avoid refined sugar and saturated fat as both impact negatively on sleep. Interestingly, studies have shown that increasing fibre has a beneficial effect on sleep. Having a snack before bed can also help. For example, having an oat cake with hummus will provide a small amount of carbohydrate and protein which will help to regulate your blood sugar levels. This can help to prevent during the night waking caused by hunger. In addition, drinking a herbal tea such as chamomile, valerian or one of the blended teas around 20-30 minutes before going to bed can be helpful.

Lifestyle tips

Regular exercise can help to burn off adrenalin which will help you to de-stress. Studies have shown that even just 10 minutes of semi-vigorous exercise can help to improve sleep. Getting outdoors in the sun for even just a short brisk walk can make a big difference as sunlight helps to regulate the melatonin and serotonin levels in the body. People also find activities such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation can help with managing stress. Winding down to sleep is important. An hour before you go to bed, turn off any blue light-emitting devices such as your TV, tablet or mobile phone. Consider having a warm bath with some essential oils such as lavender or have a sleep tea instead. Maintaining a regular sleep and wake pattern can also help to improve your sleep naturally.


Tracey and her husband Alan took over ownership of the store at the beginning of April last year.

The store features a herb counter and the loose herb section is very popular with customers. It stocks a wide range of supplements, whole foods, free-from products and organic bodycare. In addition, the store packs its own dried fruit, nuts, seeds and grains.

In 2017, the store was crowned Better Retailing Secret Shopper Winner 2016 from our sister title, Better Retailing. “It was a really lovely surprise,” says Tracey.

To contact the store, call 01904 636437 or visit

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