Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

By Izabel Carter

Sleep for Wellbeing

Many people focus on diet and exercise, often sacrificing the one thing that has far reaching effects in terms of wellbeing, and that’s sleep.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who drop off to sleep easily, your sleep is uninterrupted, and you wake feeling refreshed and ready for a new day, well then you can skip this blog post, otherwise, read on.

Sleep is essential for your emotional, physical and mental repair.

While you sleep, your body will assess and repair the ‘damage’ done during the day.

Historically, you would have woken with the sunrise, worked through the daylight hours, slowed down as the sun set, and retired to bed when it got dark (as I heard a farmer on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour describe it recently, get up at light o’clock and retire at dark o’clock).   Nowadays, for many of us, it’s a cycle of: waking at a set time (in the dark during the winter); rushing throughout the day; eating a meal (often late); spending a little time with the family; watching TV/on the phone/tablet/pc – and then bed. We’ve all done it, including me.  The way to create more hours in the day are to either stay up later, or get up earlier, or, worse still, both.   How much more productive are you when you’ve had a good night’s sleep; and how much more patient?

Three Hormones

There are three hormones that play a role in our sleep: serotonin, melatonin and cortisol.  At the start of the day, your cortisol levels should be high and your serotonin and melatonin levels low.  As the day progresses, your cortisol levels should reduce, and the others increase.  If your natural rhythm is missing a beat, there are things you can do.  During the day you should aim to drink plenty of water and limit caffeine consumption (particularly after lunch); and then establish a good bedtime routine:

  • Don’t eat too late; your body should be repairing not digesting
  • Don’t exercise too late; exercise raises cortisol levels
  • Switch off phones, tablets, computers and bright lights at least one hour before you go to bed (leave phones, tablets, and laptops charging somewhere other than the bedroom)
  • Read – a good way to relax, provided what you are reading isn’t too stimulating
  • Have an epsom salt bath; this may sound old-fashioned, but it will give you a good dose of magnesium, which is calming
  • Clear your mind by writing down tomorrow’s must dos

When you get to bed (lights off), if your mind still can’t settle, breathe deeply through your diaphragm (your stomach should be going in and out, not your chest), and focus your mind on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet as you breathe.

Reflexology can help too.  Massage the endocrine reflexes on both hands, in particular the pineal reflex, as shown in the diagram, as well as the diaphragm.

Sleep Remedies

Neal’s Yard Remedies offer products that can help with sleep.  The Beauty Sleep Body Butter can provide perfect pre-sleep prep.   If I don’t have time for a bath, I find massaging the Beauty Sleep Body Butter into my forearms a good alternative; not only is the massage rhythm soothing, but the essential oils linger on the very part of my body that is near my face, so I continue to inhale as I  sleep.  You can also use one of their diffusers with an essential oil of your choice.  The Soto, Aura, Aria and Esta Aroma diffusers all have an automatic shut-off when the water runs out.  I love the lavender and Neroli – but you should choose the oil to which you are drawn.  Or try one of Neal’s Yard Remedies Aromatherapy Blends such as Calming, De-Stress, Night Time.

If you would like more information, please call me on 07912 951763, or email me on [email protected].