How are you doing? Hopefully the warmer days and slivers of sunshine we’ve been seeing lately have put a spring in your step. I’ve been gently reintroducing myself to socialisation and venturing a little further afield now life is beginning to slowly pick up pace. Seeing the days get busier has meant I’ve been thinking more about rest and sleep, too - and the impact it can have on our lives, especially when we’re not getting enough. Around a third of us aren’t - a number thought to have grown during the last year, due to factors linked to the pandemic. For example, spending more time indoors has meant a natural lack of daylight can interfere with our melatonin production, a much-needed chemical which makes us sleepy. Those who have been ill often find symptoms impact sleep cycles and even if you haven’t, stress – which most of us have sadly experienced - has a serious knock-on effect on sleep quality, too.
But does it really matter if we’re not quite getting enough? According to science, the answer is a resounding yes. Which is why it’s so important to take sleep and rest seriously. Dozens of studies have linked poor sleep to anything from high blood pressure and memory loss to weight gain, but newer studies have found other interesting links too. One found adults who sleep less than six hours per night are at a higher risk of dementia and in older women, sleep issues are linked to low sex drive and lack of pleasure. But don’t panic - there’s plenty we can do to gently nudge along that all-important slumber. Like thinking about what we expose ourselves to before we nod off – new research has found that the music we play, for example, can have a serious impact. It found that slow tempo, soft volume melodies (aka ‘sedative’ music) can actually regulate our body’s release of cortisol which lowers anxiety and stress levels in order to sleep.
Another solution? Embracing the incredible healing properties of the cold. Yes, you read that right. You’ve probably heard of the legendary Wim Hof, the Dutch extreme athlete known for withstanding seriously icy temperatures? Well, his method is a practise based on cold exposure and breathing techniques designed to aid sleep and reduce stress levels. ‘Cold therapies’ (so things like wild swimming, a dip in the sea or plunging into a cold shower or ice bath) are linked to a huge number of benefits, including (you guessed it) better sleep. If you’re brave enough to try, let me know how you get on? Otherwise here are a few more gentle slumber-inducing tricks in my toolkit…
A couple of drops of CBD oil. Try taking a couple of drops half an hour before you go to bed to enjoy a wonderful night's sleep. CBD not only helps falling asleep, but staying asleep too! I recommend placing the drops under your tongue and holding it there for two minutes before swallowing. This one is a favourite.
Harness the power of aromatherapy. If you’ve ever dismissed essential oils, it’s worth reconsidering. A recent trial on patients suffering with cardiac issues (for whom sleep disorders are a major issue) found aromatherapy with lavender and peppermint essential oils improved sleep quality. Dot a couple of drops into a warm bath an hour before bed – baths have been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure and the heat helps relax tense muscles for sleep. Don’t forget a few dots on your pillow to hit that sweet slumber spot, too.
Embrace restorative yoga. Yin yoga is a slower, more meditative form of yoga that targets deep connective tissues and it helps unwind and relax the body before bed (sleep experts recommend avoiding cardio or anything too energetic at night since it revs us up). A restorative practise like this works to switch off our body’s ‘flight or flight’ mode and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest and digest. And yes, it’s fine to do it in your PJs, in bed, like me…
Go easy on yourself,
Love Chloe x