A staggering 70% of Brits are continuing to experience changes in their sleeping patterns due to the pandemic, whether that is getting less than the minimum 7 recommended hours of sleep a night or missing whole nights sleep entirely.
Stress is our body’s reaction to pressures from a situation or life event. In many everyday situations it can be seen as a normal reaction that helps keep us awake and alert, but when stress becomes excessive or persists over a period of time the opposite happens.
The knock-on effects of stress can have a vast impact on our mental and physical wellbeing, whilst disrupting the balance of hormones released.
Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, co-founder of The London Sleep Centre and neuropsychiatrist, explains: “When our internal neuro-chemical systems are working normally, they regulate biological processes like sleep, appetite, mood and energy levels. If we are stressed, the Adreno-Cortical System is dysregulated and our energy sources are diverted, resulting in sleep disruption and mood changes.”
The persistence of stress can in turn worsen our ability to sleep. As we continue to accrue a sleep deficit – the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep, our ability to concentrate worsens, mood drops and productivity decreases, all of which can emphasise feelings of stress and anxiety. The physical effects of stress can lead to a heightened risk of respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes and even obesity.
If you feel as though your stress levels are higher than usual, why not try The Umi. By Amazon Weighted Blanket. Weighted blankets have been known to lessen anxiety and improve your mood.
Dr Irshaad Ebrahim suggests trying a traditional herbal remedy, otherwise known as THR. For example, based on long-standing use as traditional herbal remedies, Kalms Night One-A-Night is used for temporary relief of sleep disturbances whilst Kalms Day is used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress. Both contain Valerian Root.
I personally find that CBD is also a great way to help relax and promotes sleep, just a couple of drops before bed, combined with a relaxing sleep meditation (I love the Calm app) helps me drift off in no time. I recommend a company called Dragonfly, its oil is super distilled.
I like to combine it with some 5-HTP gummies. These passion-fruit flavoured gummies are packed with 5-HTP, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin. Peaceful Zzzzz gummies helps you fight against a multitude of health issues such as weight gain and stress and allows you to recover and feel energized the following day!
I also recently got hold of a Higher Dose Infrared Sauna blanket and it has done wonders for my stress levels and in turn, the way I sleep. Whilst going to the gym is off the cards, the sauna blanket is the perfect addition to the at-home spa. Sauna Blankets work by increasing the body’s thermal energy and promote a temporary increase in blood flow – so you sweat like you’re working out, without actually working out.
As you relax into the soothing, yet stimulating heat, infrared also provides an uplifting sensation. The result? A healthy, rejuvenating experience that leaves you feeling euphoric.
How to switch off
Suzy Glaskie is a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, founder of Peppermint Wellness and host of the Wellness Unwrapped podcast. She recommends making just a few simple tweaks to your lifestyle and bedtime routine.
“You can boost your chances of getting a better night’s shut-eye. Most of us fail to prepare for sleep in the way we need (remember as little kids, it was “bath, book, bed”?). Working or scrolling right up until we switch out the light means that we’re trying to fall asleep in a state of stimulation when our body is still in the stress response. We actively need to prepare for sleep by giving our mind and body the signal that it’s safe to switch off now.” Says Suzy.
I found a new app called Sleepio which contains a unique six-week sleep programme. Within this programme people learn cognitive techniques to help tackle the so-called ‘racing mind’ – the state in which people find themselves staring at the ceiling late at night, becoming overwhelmed by thoughts and anxieties as they try to sleep – and behavioural strategies to help reset sleeping patterns naturally, without relying on sleeping pills or other drugs. Evidence shows that better sleep leads to improved quality of life, in the waking hours as well as during the night.
For those who are looking for some natural remedies to switch off, I also use the OLVERUM Restful Sleep Pillow Mist (£25). This pillow mist has been scientifically formulated to work in harmony with your natural nightly sleep cycle. Just two spritzes applied to linens can ease you into a trouble-free slumber, enhance the health benefits of deep sleep, and boost your daytime energy levels.
Let’s not forget that the perfect pillow mist needs the perfect pillowcase. Silk pillows are known to give you not only a more restful and friction free sleep, but they also help you to wake up with soothed skin and smooth hair.
Silk is also popular with people with thinning hair. Cotton snags hair and prevents regrowth – silk actively encourages hair growth. I recommend the This is Silk pillowcase, made with 100% Mulberry silk.
Air quality can also have a big impact on how well we sleep at night. Did you know, our bedrooms often have the worst air quality out of all the rooms in the home?
I didn’t! I often struggle a lot in the winter from migraines, especially when the heating is on. To combat this I tried out the Sharp Air Purifier. The purifier features Sharp’s patented Plasmacluster Ion Technology, releasing positive and negative ions that combine with harmful air particles and break up their cell membrane, acting as invisible power packs in the room.
In this way, up to 99 percent of the pollutants can be removed from the room air. The Plasmacluster Ion Technology is efficient in killing bacteria, viruses, allergens, mould and removing odours.
Additionally, the humidifier function of the air purifiers automatically monitors the room temperature and selects the optimal hydration level which can improve a number of issues including skin conditions and better breathing at night.
What I have noticed is that since using the air purifier my migraines have disappeared and I seem to sleep better whenever it is on. Plus as it’s so quiet, I barely even notice it’s there!
Kev Scheepers, a personal growth specialist who works with his diverse clientele to improve their wellbeing and lifestyle has the following tips to help you drift off into a restful deep slumber.
#1 Use of sound
Using sound to create an ambience for sleeping can help with entering sleep and maintaining a deep sleep throughout the night. White noise is perfect for this. It works by reducing the difference between background noise and other unexpected noise like a door slamming, so you can continue sleeping without being disturbed.
It has also been seen to stimulate your brain as you go through the various stages of sleep, allowing you to get a deeper sleep and feel refreshed when you wake up. White noise can be created simply with the use of a fan, or even a white noise playlist online.
#2 Use of smell
Add to the ambience and experiment with another one of the senses… Smell! Certain scents and smells can have a direct impact on your sleep. Surrounding yourself in familiar or calming scents, and even just fresh air can help you drift off into a deeper sleep.
A study looked into the effects of scents on sleep and found that a person who has sniffed lavender before bed had a lower heart rate and blood pressure, fell into a deeper sleep and woke up feeling more refreshed in the morning. A few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow before bed can do the trick.
#3 Writing a to do list
It can be hard to drift off to sleep if there is a lot on your mind. Thinking about what happened during the day, what you need to do the next day or even something that is causing you stress can put an obstacle in the way of a good night’s sleep. The best way to get over those thoughts is to write them down! Write down anything and everything on your mind, whether it is a to-do list for the next day or just some thoughts about what is troubling you. Try it and feel the benefits.
#4 Avoiding screen time an hour before bed
The light, particularly blue-light emitted from the screens of your devices can have a direct and profound impact on your sleep. Stay away from your electronics at least an hour before bed and take up reading a book instead or doing something that does not rely on a screen. If this is difficult to do then consider investing in a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses to reduce the impact it has on your eyes and sleep. It would also help to make sure that it is completely dark as fewer sources of light can help you drift off faster and obtain a deeper sleep.
#5 Yoga and meditation
If you do not have any books to read and still want to avoid your devices then take up yoga or indulge in some meditation. Yoga and meditation can have some serious benefits to your health as well as your sleep. If you have had a long stressful day, it is good to reflect on it with some short meditation. If you have spent the whole day sitting at a desk, it is great to try out some yoga. These activities can give you that necessary “me-time” and allow you to relax and unwind before going to bed.
#6 A cold shower
It may sound unconventional but it really does work. How well you sleep has a lot to do with your body temperature so try having a cold shower before bed. A warm shower before bed raises our body temperature which makes it harder to fall asleep. A cold shower can help you stay cool and keep your body temperature low enough to encourage a deep sleep. Research shows that people that do this have a better overall quality of sleep.
#7 Caffeine curfew
A caffeine curfew is a great idea for those who love their java. Caffeine has a half life of roughly five hours but its duration of its effects depends on the person. Your age and body weight can have a part to play in how sensitive you are to caffeine so know your limits! If you are sensitive to caffeine then stop drinking it earlier on in the day so by bedtime, you do not feel any of the effects.
#8 Opt for fresh bedding
According to statistics, a large majority of people do not change their bedding as frequently as you think. 40% of people change their bedding once a fortnight. In fact you should be changing your bedding regularly, but not just for the physical health benefits. There can be some substantial psychological benefits to sleeping in fresh bedding; feeling more refreshed and comfortable. The clean environment and fresh smelling linens can help you to de-stress and unwind so that you can drift off into a deeper sleep.
#9 Eat light dinners
Eating before bed can be linked to a poorer quality of sleep but that does not mean you should cut out eating before bed entirely. Opt for a lighter, healthier dinner as heavier, greasy foods are more likely to cause acid reflux and indigestion making it much harder to go to sleep and stay asleep. Anything from a salad to high in fibre food is a great option for a dinner before bed.
#10 Stick to a sleeping pattern
Stick to a regular sleeping pattern. Set yourself a time for bed and stick to that time. Developing a routine for sleep can improve your sleeping pattern and can train your body to “switch off”, allowing you to make the most of those night hours. Your body’s internal clock will adapt to your routine, making you feel more tired when it is time to sleep and more energised when it is time to wake up. It is important to maintain a sleeping habit as good habits are the key to success.