TopTips for Sweet Dreams
A good night’s sleep boosts immunity, libedo and gives us back our sparkle.
But if you’re struggling to get adequate beauty sleep, you’re not alone, especially in these anxious times. According to the NHS, a staggering one in three of us has some sort of sleep related issue, from struggling to fall asleep to waking up at intervals. Few of us get the optimum eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep we so badly crave.
The bad news is that lack of sleep plays havoc with our sense of wellbeing, making us irritable in the short term, unable to focus or make decisions, and long term can lead to anxiety or depression. Research has linked lack of sleep to premature aging, by reducing skin elasticity and to weight gain, due to reduced levels of leptin (the feeling full hormone) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone). So it’s far from ideal. Over time insomnia plays havoc with hormonal balance, putting us at risk of more serious problems, like diabetes, because it changed the way the body processes glucose, and heart disease, due to higher blood pressure.
The good news is there’s a lot we can do to help naturally promote restful sleep (aside from the obvious, like avoiding caffeine or blue light exposure from devices for a few hours before bedtime.)
Take walks in nature
The circadian rhythm is the body’s time keeper, ticking away in the background, regulating hormones so we stay alert when we need to and also know when it’s bedtime. Sunlight is like our clock’s battery, and plenty of healthy exposure to it infuses us with energy during the daylight hours and has been found to increase sleep by up to two hours, and improve sleep efficiency by up to 80%.
Other research shows people with access to abundant green space sleep better. In other words, trees help us sleep. One study found 13% lower odds of sleep deprivation in areas with a 30% of more landcover of trees. Trees are deeply healing beings with the power to counter the effects of noise and air pollution and regular contact with them is both psychologically restorative and stress relieving.
The Brandeis study also found that walking itself is positively associated with improved sleep, and this happens to be especially true for women.
Put your feet up
Better sleep is one of the main benefits of Viparita Karani, the Legs Up the Wall restorative yoga pose.
Yoga has tremendous benefits, (Check out the Wellness Space website for a list of classes) far too numerous to go into here. Results from one Harvard study on insomnia found that those who practised consonantly for eight weeks slept far longer and more restfully than those who did not.
Legs Up the Wall is the mother of all sleep promoting yoga poses, which is why it tends to pop up at the end of a yoga class. You don’t need to be a super bendy, seasoned yogi to try it. It’s gentle and restorative. All you need is a wall, and a yoga mat or towel for padding.
It’s a great way to wind down before bed, and can also be done in the middle of the night if needed. Shuffle your bum close to the wall on top of your towel and with a flat back, swing your legs up the wall. This is the awkward part, but shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, or put strain on the neck. Don’t worry, it gets easier with practise. If you have mobility issues, perhaps have a friend available for support getting in and out of the pose. Once there, play around with easing closer to the wall, but never outside of your range of flexibility. Then close the eyes and just chill out, placing the hands wherever feels good, resting on the stomach, by the sides, or in a cactus shape beside the head. Click on the link for a further walk through of this restorative yoga pose.
A comforting mug of Linseed Tea
Linseeds are chock full of Omega 3s and as well as being detoxifying, Linseed tea is one of the most hydrating drinks you can have. Dehydration is the guilty party in way too many ailments to mention. Because linseed tea is gelatinous it soothes and relaxes the colon, and allows it to absorb more water, whilst also sending really soothing and calming messages to all the cells of the body and having a profound effect on anxiety.
To make a super quick Linseed tea simply pop two teaspoons of linseed into a flask, fill with boiling water, and leave to brew for about six hours whilst you go about your day, then strain and sip as a relaxing evening drink.
Find your pressure points
Although nothing beats a session with qualified professional, (check out the website for acupuncture and facial reflexology/ acupressure) anyone can easily access these seemingly mysterious points on the energy lines, or meridians running through the body. It doesn’t take any special training to use acupressure for simple self-care.
Yintang, or the third eye, is located right between the eyebrows. This is one of the best points for reducing anxiety and improving sleep.
Simply place a middle or index finger on the point for a few seconds whilst connecting with the breath. This should be delicate, not too deep. (Think about the amount of pressure you might use if you pressed down on your eye over your closed eyelid. ) Release the pressure them repeat a few times with the eyes closed. You can also try a slight, circling motion over the area. This is a deeply relaxing move that can be done at any time but for restful sleep, try making it a regular evening practise.
This is probably not news. Just about everyone has heard of the miraculous, calming, sleep promoting effects of lavender, haven’t they? A 2015 study published in the journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine found it helped college students sleep better and experience improved vitality during the day. But it’s one of those titbits of knowledge that’s become so ingrained we barely even register it anymore, let alone use it. Somehow, it’s almost too simple to remember to put a drop of lavender on our pillow or in our bath, or on a tissue to have to hand as we relax in the evening. If you haven’t tried it in a while, it’s well worth investing in a bottle and giving it a go. (Neal’s Yard lavender is available at the Wellness Space, as both an essential oil and in a lavender mist pillow spray)
Lavender is probably the most versatile and multi-purpose of the essential oils, treating underlying issues that impact on sleep, such as anxiety and depression, improving mood and alleviating stress (Phytomedicine 2012) as well as its myriad of other applications.
And it smells divine.
So those are a few of my top tips. These are the things that work for me when I’m struggling to sleep. I hope they help. If you have any tips you’d like to share yourself, do get in touch