Sleepless nights affect us all from time to time, but if they become more of a habit than an occasional occurrence it’s time to act.
Editor Jane Garton looks at some natural options to help you get the sleep you only dream of.
Sleep is the most natural thing we can do but all too often the stresses and trains of 21st century living get in the way of a good’s night slumber. This can in turn have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Just one poor night’s sleep can affect memory, concentration, mood, and judgement and how you react to stress.
Meanwhile, routinely getting fewer than six to seven hours a night is thought to increase the risk of conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart, disease and stroke as well as dampening down immunity. So, if you have trouble dropping off or keep on waking up in the middle of the night here’s our action plan to help you get a better night’s slumber.
Ban the screens
Mobile phones, tablets and computer screens are a no no as they emit blue light which disrupts levels of melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone. It’s not just screen glare, though: the light from digital clocks, radios, security sensors and charger units can all disrupt sleep patterns. Either shroud them with a dark cloth or stick a piece of black tape over them. If all else fails, wear an eye mask.
Anxiety is the biggest enemy of sleep. If you’re worried about anything – work, finances, health, family – jot down your thoughts or make a to-do list to help clear your mind, making it easier to sleep. Meanwhile, natural remedies such as passion flower and valerian have been found to help promote healthy sleep patterns while relieving anxiety without the risk of side effects such as a foggy brain on waking.
Essential oils — especially lavender — can enhance sleep and relaxation without the side effects often associated with conventional sleep medicines. A sprig of lavender or a spray on your pillow can help relax you into sleep.
Beat the snoring
Block a bedfellow’s snores with soft foam earplugs. Alternatively, suggest they sleep on their side. Other lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking and not drinking alcohol within five hours of bedtime are also useful tips to reduce the likelihood of snoring. Perhaps suggest your other half joins a choir! Professional singers rarely snore which is thought to be because singing exercises the throat muscles.
Wind down gently
Get into a relaxing routine pre-bedtime. Try having a warm bath, with a few drops of calming lavender, camomile or lemon grass. Sip a soothing cup of warm milk or camomile tea or have a quiet conversation with your partner. Do some gentle stretches or light yoga to unclench tight muscles and aid relaxation.
Don’t clock watch
Clock watching increases anxiety, which in turn hinders sleep. Remove it from the bedroom, cover it up, hide it or turn it round to stop those furtive glances in the middle of the night or in the early hours.
Break the pattern
If you can’t sleep, lying in bed tossing and turning is one of the worst things you can do. Get up, go to another room, read a book, make a cup of tea, do a jigsaw, but whatever you choose make sure it doesn’t over stimulate you.
Make yourself a cup of camomile tea. This lovely plant with its daisy-like flowers is a well-known natural remedy for sleep. Try it in a soothing nighttime tea. Put one teabag or 5-8g of loose camomile into a cup of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse for a few minutes before drinking.
Mindfulness meditation (being in the here and now) has been found to help sleep in several recent studies. Focusing on your breathing is a key technique. Simply breathe naturally in and out. Don’t force yourself to breathe deeply just be aware of your breath going in and out. If thoughts, emotions or awareness of your external surroundings start to intrude simply bring your mind back to your breathing without judgement.
March is National Bed Month 2020. For more sleep tips and advice visit the Sleep Council website.