This week we are not only celebrating the first day of Spring, with signs of new life and warmer days, but also a year since the start of lockdowns. As a society, we are sleeping less – we now sleep just 7.5 hours a night compared to 9 hours in the 1900s, and it would be interesting to see if these stats change as a result of the pandemic.
This month, we have discussed how important sleep is for your health because it gives your body time to repair cells and tissue. So it's interesting that 1 in 3 people are affected by insomnia, finding it hard to get to sleep or waking up in the night and not getting back to sleep.
When you don't get enough sleep, you can wake to feel tired and unrefreshed, feel irritable, and have poor focus and concentration throughout the day. Many people see sleep almost as a luxury, thinking you can pack more into your day if you sleep less, but in reality, when you deprive yourself of sleep, you are less productive the next day, and lack of sleep will have long term consequences for your health.
Can lack of sleep make you ill?
In the short term, losing a few hours is ok. We can soon catch up. However, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real.
It drains you mentally and puts your physical health at risk. Science has linked poor sleep with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.
More than ever, through these difficult and uncertain times, you want to make sure you are sleeping well to ensure your immunity isn't compromised. Research has shown that even missing a few hours a night regularly can decrease the number of 'natural killer cells,' which are responsible for fighting viruses and bacteria.
There's no doubt that most of us need less sleep as we get older. However, the truth is, most of us don't get enough, and because of busy lifestyles, it's not as restful as we would like either.
So, let's take a deeper look at improving the quality of sleep with natural remedies.
Some delicious herbs have been used for centuries to help with sleep issues. These include chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, passionflower, and hops.
Valerian is an effective sedative herb that helps to enhance sleep patterns. Valerian is a herb native to Asia and Europe. Its root is commonly used as a natural treatment for symptoms of anxiety, depression and menopause. This remedy can help people get to sleep faster, enhance their sleep quality, and leave them less cloudy headed than prescription drugs.
Chamomile has calming effects which decrease anxiety and help to prepare the body for sleep. Lemon balm can help with sleep disturbances and has been tested with stressed and anxious volunteers. It not only helped then to sleep better but also reduced their anxiety. Passionflower is effective when combined with valerian and hops for improving the quality of sleep.
Need to relax after a long week? To help reset your mood, prepare the body for sleep by grabbing your journal and making a relaxing cuppa.
Create a moment of tranquillity with a cup of Quiet Time tea. Formulated by our herbal experts, a sip of this subtle floral infusion of fragrant pink rosebuds, sweet lime flower and delicate chamomile will take you away to a quiet place for a moment of mindfulness.
Or pop the kettle on, snuggle in and settle down with a dreamy cup of Night Time tea. It is infused with the honey notes of comforting chamomile with aromatic lavender and gentle lemon balm to create the perfect tea to sip before bed.
Now sip your chosen tea and grab your journal …
Journaling for Better Sleep
In one study, 41 college students plagued by bedtime stress and worries were randomly assigned to self-help strategies. One group was asked to journal every night for a week. The study found journaling reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time, and improved sleep quality.
To try this technique, set aside 15 minutes each night for writing about a recent positive experience. You can set a timer if you like, or just write until you feel you've finished expressing yourself. I often play bilateral relaxation music too (although that's optional).
Write about not only what happened but also how you felt at the time. Don't worry about what your English teacher would say about your grammar, punctuation and spelling; the journal is for your eyes only. When the timer ends, or you run out of things to dump on the page, gently close your eyes. Continue listening to your bilateral relaxation music, and just breathe until you drift off naturally.
Essential oils of basil, chamomile, lavender, marjoram or neroli can be very effective in aiding sleep. Lavender's soothing fragrance is believed to enhance sleep. In fact, several studies show that simply smelling lavender oil for 30 minutes before bedtime may be enough to improve the quality of sleep. Use your preferred oil in a gentle pre-sleep massage by massaging it into your chest with a carrier oil, add a few drops to a relaxing bath, or invest in a diffuser and let the aroma fill your room.
Calcium and magnesium are nature's tranquilisers and required minerals needed for restful sleep. Magnesium and calcium are both sleep boosters, and when taken together, they become even more effective. Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of processes in the human body and is important for brain function and heart health.
Also, magnesium may help quiet the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep. Studies show that magnesium's relaxing effect may be partly due to its ability to regulate melatonin production, a hormone that guides your body's sleep-wake cycle.
Plus, by taking magnesium, you cancel out any potential heart problems that might arise from taking calcium alone. Consider a supplement if you can't get enough in your daily diet.
The B-Vitamins, in particular, B6 and B12, are beneficial and often used in the treatment of insomnia. Look for a good vitamin B complex to take every morning to support your nerves and keep you calmer.
Keep in mind that high-quality sleep is just as important for overall health as eating well and exercising regularly. It is probably most effective when used combined with good sleep practices and habits we've been discussing over the last few weeks.
'Sleep is the best meditation' - Dalai Lama