Struggling to sleep? You’re not alone. With the clocks going back, the changing of the seasons and reports of an increase in anxiety on how to cope with post-lockdown life, it can be difficult to switch off.
We can buy as many luxurious face creams and silk pillowcases as we want but if we’re not banking a good six to eight hours of deep sleep, we’re missing the point. A solid snooze boosts your immune system and allows your body to rebuild and repair itself.
But a full eight hours is much easier said than done – we’re all slaves to the wage and trying to fit in our side hustles on top of our full-time jobs can eat into our resting time. However, Marie Reynolds, a global skin & wellness expert, offers the best advice on which habits and rules we can put in place to practice better sleep hygiene for a better night’s kip.
“Eight hours sleep is recommended as ‘good sleep’, but you can still have a restless night or poor-quality sleep even while sleeping for the recommended hours,” Reynolds explains. “It is so important to look at your sleep hygiene – not just how clean your bedsheets are, but how clean the energetic environment is.”
Electrosmog and “dirty electricity”, she adds, plays a role in the quality of your sleep, so putting down your phone is advised. “Electrical devices all emit radio waves, microwaves and gas. The negative emotions we may have endured including stress, anxiety, anger, worry, frustration – these all purge when we sleep” and by removing your phone from your bedroom “you will see the difference in the quality of sleep.”
A good night’s sleep is also vital for skin health. “When we are in our slumber, the body has an increase in HGH (human growth hormone) which reinforces the connective tissue, stem cells, collagen and elastin,” Reynolds says. “IL‑I (Interleukin I) is a protein that increases white blood cells that support the ‘repair’ phase of r’n’r, as well as the release of HGH which is integral for collagen production.”
Reynolds finds that most of her clients have a busy “analytical mind”, which is the largest barrier to a restful night, recommending that you should put down the caffeine after 4pm – because it takes between five and seven hours to leave the body – as well as eating supper earlier in the day. “Eat before 8pm if possible, as eating late puts added stress on the digestive system that in turn causes heartburn and indigestion around 11pm to 3am.”
While some find dropping off to sleep not a problem, anyone with anxious tendencies will relate to waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. “If you wake up in the middle of the night, focus on your breathing. Lie in bed on your back and be aware of your breath. Slow it down and control deep, slow inhalations, hold for a second then slowly and controlled exhale,” Reynolds adds.
Her recommendation includes downloading breathing and wellness coach Wim Hof’s The Wim Hof Method App and practising breathing techniques to make mindful breathing a daily practice 30 minutes before you begin your nighttime routine. And, while it might sound odd, a glass of milk does no harm, too. “A warm glass of milk really does work,” Reynolds says. “Peptides follow the same neurological pathways as tranquilisers, and they help with a restful sleep and boosts cognitive functions during the day.” Those who are lactose intolerant can get milk peptide supplements.
Essential oils are also in Reynolds’ artillery, particularly favouring “frankincense, rose and neroli to aid the busy mind as they calm, relax and ground the mind and help to bring clarity,” she says. “Valerian, too, is an oil that is known to aid sleep and of course, lavender.”
Reynolds has also formulated her own natural sleep supplement ZEDZ which is packed full of Magnesium, passionflower and lemon balm and Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing.
If all the above fails (we hope it doesn’t), I hear amazing things about weighted blankets and I am a massive fan of pillow sprays. We have our whole lives ahead to practice better habits when it comes to things like sleep and new habits take time (28 days, in fact) to form. So cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself.