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Traditional Sleep Secrets

It's been so lovely to be back at work this week, chatting to you all and enjoying help you to relax or remove your pain issues. I've also started to get festive – I've bought a new Christmas jumper, put my favourite Michael Bublé Christmas CD in my car, and put the tree up. I might even find my Christmas earnings out this weekend!

But chatting to clients this week about Christmas, I've noticed the uncertainty around new rules, tiering systems, bubbles and complicated families is creating a little bit more stress and tension. As a result, a few of you are having difficulty with sleeping.

If you are worried about the uncertainty or thoughts of the future are keeping you awake at night, then could traditional sleep cures help you to get a better night's sleep?

If you are someone who's struggling to get into a sleep routine, then you are not alone. Unsurprisingly, people all around the world have had trouble drifting off this year. However, uncertainty in our daily lives doesn't mean you should accept restless nights as the new normal. Fortunately, this is something you can control.

Regular, restorative sleep is something we all need to keep us physically and mentally healthy, and to be able to cope with whatever curveballs life throws our way. Now, more than ever, it's important to get adequate sleep to fight potential illness. Sleep also helps you to recover faster if you do get ill and supports your immune system in fighting off those bugs and germs. It even helps your body to remember the bugs so you can fight them faster if they re-appear!

Ayurveda is the world oldest health system, based on the mind-body connection and natural rhythms. We achieve optimal health when we align with the elements (or Doshas). There are three Dosha types: Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (earth and water).

Your natural rhythm

The ayurvedic clock shows specific doshas govern different times of the day. Considering this idea has been around for approximately 5,000 years, it feels like the Western world has only just caught up when it comes to body clocks. In 2007, the Nobel Prize was awarded to scientists discovering what is essentially our circadian rhythms.

But ayurvedic medicine is all about prevention of illness through holistic (whole-body) living in tune with nature. Think of your pets: they are mammals, the same as us, but eat, sleep and play in instinctive rhythms. And you never see them lying awake at night worrying!

Circadian science has given us names for sleep hormones, such as melatonin which primarily controls our sleep-wake cycle. However, our modern habits and technology, things like checking emails and social media at night via blue-light emitting devices, mess with this hormone.

Melatonin production relies on our bodies ability to adjust to the darkness, so it's essential to support this function by both dimming the lights in the evening, and banning electronic gadgets which emit blue light from the bedroom.

Try it for yourself: try to avoid TV at least an hour before bed. It may seem like a harmless way to relax and wind down, but brain scans and sleep studies show this is not helping our sleep patterns.

Settle and sleep

In Ayurveda, 'Oja' is the vital energy that rules your immunity, happiness and radiance. Regular meditation is proven to improve your sleep and boost your Oja. Another effective method is self- massage. Daily self-massage is a great way to strengthen your mind-body connection and brings you balance and grounding.

Try it for yourself: traditionally, warm sesame oil is used, along with long strokes from the limbs to the heart. Massage in this direction for 10-15 minutes. If you can't commit to this each day, then aim for 2-3 times a week.

As a morning ritual, self-massage settles the mind and stimulates the body. In the evening, massage your feet to relax your whole system. In Ayurveda, your feet are 'organs of action' – vital foundations to carry you physically (and literally) through your day, so they deserve a pamper in the evening.

Use a calming lavender or immune-boosting eucalyptus oil, adding a couple of drops to your favourite lotion, and massage into the feet. This simple and quick action will help you to wind down and kick start your body's overnight detoxing.

In essence, the closer you are to nature, including the rising and setting of the sun, the healthier you'll remain.

If you want to find out more about my Sleep Well, Feel Well series to help you drift off, feel better, and live better then click here.

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