With our routines all over the place from weeks of being cooped up indoors, and many of us feeling anxious about how our lives will return to ‘normal’, it’s understandable that our sleep patterns have been affected.
Nearly two thirds of people in the UK say they are experiencing worse sleep and on average, we are losing an hour each night.
Dr Shahzadi Harper, a GP and health expert at ZoomClinic.co.uk, says good sleep is important for mental wellbeing and reducing anxiety, which in turn will help you to drift off more easily. ‘It is also essential for a healthy immune system,’ adds Dr Harper.
If exercising, eating well and reducing screen time before bed don’t seem to be doing the trick, here are some other ways you can boost your sleeping power. (Always check with your doctor before taking new supplements)
If you find your mind racing at night or your anxiety causes your legs to be restless, a blanket like Silentnight’s Wellbeing Weighted Blanket, £69.99 from SilentNight.co.uk can help you feel still and calm. The blanket moulds to your body shape, effectively ‘giving you a hug, so the body releases the soothing hormone oxytocin’ explains Dr Harper.
Trick your brain into falling asleep…
…with this tapping technique, created by musician and wellness facilitator Jim Donovan, from DonovanHealth.com. ‘When you’re stressed, it’s likely your brain waves are moving too fast for sleep,’ says Jim. ‘All you have to do is slow them down.’ Here’s how:
- Sit on the edge of your bed and take a few long, slow breaths, just noticing how you feel.
- Very gently start to tap the tops of your legs, alternating your hands in a right-left-right-left motion. Aim to tap four times each second.
- As you gently tap away, control your breathing so you are inhaling slowly for a count of four and exhaling slowing for a count of four.
- Continue this for two or three minutes, and as you come to the end of the exercise, start to slow down your tapping until you stop. Then notice how you feel.
Cherries are naturally rich in melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ which helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you don’t feel tired in the evenings, try eating cherries a couple of hours before bed or, even better, drinking cherry juice.
In one study, people who drank two glasses of tart cherry juice a day (Montmorency Cherry Juice Concentrate, £13.99 for 473ml, Holland & Barrett, for example) – one in the morning and one before bed – slept for up to 85 minutes longer each night.
Valerian helps to boost production of GABA, a calming brain chemical that promotes sleep. Valerian has been shown to help people fall asleep more quickly, reduce restless sleep, increase sleep amounts and improve symptoms of insomnia. You can drink it as a relaxing herbal tea before bed (try Dr Stuart’s Valerian Plus Tea Bags, £2.49 for 15 at Holland & Barrett), or take as a supplement.
Drinking hot milk is instantly comforting, but the addition of warming spices in this Ayurvedic recipe makes it the perfect night-time beverage to help you relax and unwind.
Add one mugful of milk (any kind) to a saucepan with 1 tsp of butter or oil, ½ tsp ground turmeric, ½ tsp ground ginger and ¼ tsp ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer then turn off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Use a hand whisk to froth it up before drinking.
It’s well known for reducing symptoms of anxiety, but users of CBD oil – which is derived from the cannabis plant but doesn’t contain the same ‘high’ associated with the drug – report that they fall asleep quicker and wake up feeling more refreshed.
Put a few drops of oil, such as Jacob Hooy CBD Oil 2.75%, £19.99 for 10ml, Holland & Barrett, under your tongue two or three times a day. Not intended for use by anyone under 18.
Low levels of magnesium are linked to low levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone. ‘Magnesium is known as nature’s calmer,’ says Dr Harper. ‘I often recommend it.’
Try adding a few handfuls of Epsom salt – which is made of magnesium and sulphate – to a bath before bed. Add magnesium-rich foods to your diet, such as bananas, dark chocolate (above 70% cocoa solids) and green leafy veg, or take as a supplement.
– For more information about ZoomClinic.co.uk, CLICK HERE