What to do when sleep is disrupted

National Bed Month takes place throughout March and to celebrate it, I have done some research on what to do when sleep is disrupted as well as tested new products to promote sleep. I’m sharing here simple hacks that work for me to have a good night sleep.

This second lockdown has been much harder than the first one. I have to admit that I have become a bit of a sloth during the pandemic and it now takes me a lot longer to do simple tasks. My sleep has been disrupted a bit too because I tend to go to bed later at night. Sleep patterns have changed. 

We know sleep is vital for our health and wellness but a lack of sleep runs much deeper than just feeling tired the next day.

A restful night consists of much more than just resting time. The interruptions at night, the time spent in bed before falling asleep and after waking up. Many factors can influence the quality of our sleep. 
 
Sleep has an impact on all aspects of our health. For example, poor quality sleep can lead to memory and concentration problems, increase the risk of depression and anxiety, but also increases the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and promotes weight gain.
 
Sleep duration
The ideal amount of sleep can vary from person to person, but generally it’s between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Depth of sleep is the portion of our night spent in restorative phases, namely deep sleep and REM sleep. It is recommended to have about 20% REM sleep and 25% deep sleep. Long interruptions reset sleep cycles and affect the quality of our sleep.
 
Bedtime routines
The regularity of bedtime and wake-up time, scientific studies show that a strong irregularity of these bedtime and wake-up times is associated with greater fatigue during the day and that by adopting regular schedules this fatigue can be reduced.
 
A good habit to adopt to facilitate sleep is to establish a sleep ritual. My bedtime ritual includes reading at night, writing in a journal, drinking herbal tea. Over time my brain has associated these habits with bedtime. 
 

Routines and exercise 

The bedtime routines should be supported by regular daytime routines and exercise. I’ve recently read a FT article about what astronauts did in space to help fight monotony and learnt quite a few lessons on how to cope in lockdown and beyond. Interestingly enough, both the European Space Agency and Nasa training techniques and tips can also help us sleep better. Isolation and confinement are considered hazards to astronauts’ health, as they can cause a decline in mood, a lack of interaction and fatigue. The key to stay happy is to leave behind the things we enjoy and focus on what we can do. One simple action to help reduce stress, for instance, is feeling the wind on our face. Astronauts know their time in space is limited and this knowledge can help to manage any feelings of isolation as they go about their dream job, taking photos of earth, running experiments or making training videos. But in the pandemic, the absence of a timeframe can be psychologically hard, even as vaccine hopes rise. In this situation, routines and regular exercise are important even to regulate sleep patterns.

The right mattress 

Treat your bedroom like a sleeping sanctuary and yourself as Sleeping Beauty. No use of smartphones or screens, no TV. With so much heartache, upheaval and stress in the world in 2020, I developed lower back pain which prevented me from having a good night’s sleep and high productivity at work. Only after changing the mattress. I understood its importance to boost my health and wellbeing. 

A luxury mattress worth £899+ is certainly an investment, but it is proven that sleep is the foundation for wellbeing. In fact, the science now shows that the human sleep wake cycle influences practically all aspects of our lives.

Eye mask 

Once I started seeing the benefits of having a good night sleep after years of deprivation, I wanted to keep improving my sleep quality. So I started getting accessories. You can go wild on this type of shopping, actually. 

I read that using an eye mask can really make a difference, but could not find an eye mask that could guarantee stable positioning until I found the dual strap silk eye mask by This is Silk. Not only it provides the most comfort through the night but it’s also filled with divinely soft Mulberry Silk floss. I can barely feel it on my face. It has two adjustable velvet straps for a personalised fit so it does not move at all. Silk is known for its anti-ageing properties and this one in particular is larger than usual to ensure the delicate eye area is covered and protected, and to block out as much light as possible. The Silk does not absorb eye creams like cotton does, so my overnight eye creams work harder for me and stay in place.  I can call myself Sleeping Beauty!

Sleeping Beauty

The pillow

To be the perfect Sleeping Beauty I had to also upgrade my pillow. Since using the Gainsborough Blue Silk pillowcase, I feel my skin is also softer and my hair smoother. I thought this was only a legend but I can confirm that silk does indeed make a huge contribution to my skincare. I even feel that I have less wrinkles and that my skin is softer.

The silk touch on the skin helps with fine lines and sleep creases on my face. It also helps my facial serums work harder at night so when I wake up my face is properly relaxed. My hair is also naturally wild and the silk pillowcase calms its frizz and prevents unmanageable bedhead.

Comfortable nightwear 

Wearing comfortable pjs is not to be underestimated. When I fit into soft fabric at nighttime I immediately feel more relaxed.

One of the best brand for nightwear is Polarn O. Pyret, which have manufactured sustainable Swedish kidswear since 1976. Their Twinning Loungewear (RRP £52 for set) is not only adorable with their distinctive Swedish flare but also very comfortable because it’s made with quality, organic cotton clothes. The matching mother and child unisex nightwear is particularly sweet and can create a fun bond with young children at bedtime. I love the fabric of the pj I tried: it’s robust and eco-friendly. I read that the fabric used was made from recycled bottles and is waterproof. Now that we are spending more time indoor, it is nice to be able to wear such comfy but also practical loungwear. This first collection – which includes lots of stripes – captures the feeling of spring, providing the perfect attire for playing, baking and snoozing. 

 

Herbal remedies 

To improve my sleep quality I have often used herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Valerian taken in tablets or as tea is really good. At least it works well for me. I have alternated it with Rescue Remedy® which was formulated by a doctor 80 years ago to help stress less, stay calm and in control. It’s essentially a blend of five individual Bach™ Original Flower Essences and most importantly it is a non-habit forming stress relief. It is important for me that it is not addictive because the last thing I want is to become dependent from any remedy. Both Rescue Night and and the day droplets provide comfort & reassurance, to calm and support my emotional balance. The night remedy is particularly tasty as it includes the sweet White Chestnut flower essence to switch off the distractions. What keeps me awake is often my brain working tirelessly and thinking about daytime problems. The White Chestnut flower essence helps to really switch off and allows for a natural night’s sleep, so I awake refreshed. It’s free from sedatives, has no side effects and I have never had any grogginess the next morning.

Dr Bach’s traditional methods date back over 80 years, using many plants originating from the same garden he sourced his flowers from in rural Oxfordshire.

Underwear

Another factor to disturb women’s sleep is the monthly cycle. New studies show that 30% of women face disrupted sleep when menstruating and we’ve all worried about waking up to leaks from periods or our bladders. Many of us have been there, when we notice a stain on our lovely bedding. It can make us even more panicked if we are sharing the bed with someone, or not at sleeping at ours.

British brand Modibodi® has created leak-proof undies with 24-hour absorbency including comfy Maxi-24Hrs Sleep Shorts and other lingerie with padding. This underwear holds up to 50ml of liquid (that’s around a mega 10 tampons worth), offering overnight protection and peace of mind for women with very heavy periods, frequent bladder leaks or those who just want to sleep soundly without period/leak worries. 

The Sleep Shorts feature a highly breathable super slim (6mm), and extremely absorbent lining. The lining is stain and bacteria fighting, so you wake up leak and odour free. They move with the body, so while tossing and turning in bed the shorts sit comfortably and leak free and help promote sleep quality.

The seamless underwear is not just very practical but is also very good looking with funky new colourful designs. 

Essential oils 

Another alternative to Bach remedies are other essential oils. My favourite products to aid sleep are by French brand Puressentiel. If used regularly, they can be used as part of a sleep ritual to promote healthy bedtime habits. 
I use Puressentiel’s Purifying Air Spray to clearing the air of nasties during the day and the specific Lavender spray at nighttime. The air spray contains 41 essential oils, which help reduce the risk of respiratory issues by tackling airborne bacteria and viruses, fungal spores and house-dust mites. And there’s proof that it works; a trial in patients with a history of respiratory symptoms showed significant improvements in lung function after just four weeks of using the spray.
The clinically proven Puressentiel Rest & Relax range supports sleep quality and duration, as well as helping with respiratory issues.
The Rest & Relax Air Spray provides rapid delivery of essential oils with each spray, for peaceful, serene and restful nights. The Stress Roll-On also offers a calming combination of 12 essential oils, including lavender, orange peel and pennyroyal. This has to be my favourite product of all. 
Deep breathing can help aid sleep. A study published in Psychophysiology asked insomniacs to practice slow breathing before bed time, with results showing improvements in sleep duration and quality and a reduction in the time it took to nod off.
 
Added to this, it’s important to make sure nothing impairs our breathing. Puressentiel research suggests that poor air quality is a problem for many and could be the reason behind 47% of people reporting sneezing, coughs or an itchy throat or eyes while in their homes. Dust mites and spores from mould and fungus may also be causing issues for asthma sufferers.
 
A new report by Puressentiel has stated that 83% of the nation has suffered sleep issues, with three quarters claiming that a lack of sleep is making daily life a struggle in lock down 3, leaving them fatigued, grumpy and at risk of serious health complications such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers as well as respiratory troubles.
 
It’s so bad for some, that 42% of 45-59-year olds would choose a better sleep over £500 cash. And the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped. The most common trigger for sleep disruption was stress and anxiety, which more than half (57%) of respondents claimed was a reason for their sleeplessness.
 

Other reasons included:

  • late-night TV (31%)
  • eating too late (23%)
  • having a restless partner (18%).

It’s not just adults suffering. According to this research, over half (59%) of children aren’t getting their recommended nine to 10 hours of sleep a night.

But why is our sleep so bad? GP, Dr Gill Jenkins said: “We all know that poor sleep patterns have been a serious health issue for some time, and these problems have been driven by social media and our constant need to feel ‘connected’, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought a new dimension to this modern-day malaise.”
The research confirms that: Almost a third of people have had trouble falling asleep whilst working from home during all the lockdowns, with a quarter (27%) resorting to daytime naps to pay back their sleep ‘debt’.

It’s easy to see why lockdown sleep was an issue, as boundaries became blurred for many.

Almost a third (31%) have been working from their bedrooms during all the lockdowns. This was particularly common among young adults.
Plus, to make up for missed sleep, the stuydy proves that many of us used the weekends to ‘catch up’:

  • On weekdays, one in four of those surveyed (24%) were up before 7am
  • At weekends, only 13% of adults rose before 7am with one in five (21%) sleeping till after 10am.

Professor Jason Ellis, Professor of Sleep Science and Director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research Department, explained that this is a recipe for social jetlag – the difference between the times we sleep, and the times our biological clocks want to us to sleep, and social sleep restriction; reducing our sleep duration on certain days. These have both been linked to health conditions associated with poor sleep patterns, including heart disease, obesity, metabolic dysfunction and increased inflammation.
Professor Ellis said: “It’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic is having a huge, unexpected, impact on our sleep patterns.’ It’s time to deal with our lack of sleep head on.”
GP, Dr Nisa Aslam explained: “As we enter winter and continue to live with coronavirus, it has never been more important to solve our sleep issues and do everything we can to strengthen our natural defenses against infection. Poor sleep patterns and poor sleep quality will affect your immune health and leave you vulnerable to picking up winter ills and respiratory troubles.”
Added to this, medical herbalist Dr Chris Etheridge explained that a regular rhythm of sleep is essential for deep, refreshing rest so our body can recharge and repair. He adds that breathing techniques and the use of essential oils, can improve sleep quality.

Air purifiers 

 
Another great product that I like to have in my Sleeping Beauty sanctuary is the air purifier. Although I was a bit skeptical at first, I have to admit that I started breathing better from the first day after activating my Silentnight Air Purifier. Its Triple Filtration system removes 99.3% airborne particles and allergens and its built-in ioniser releases negative ions to help air purification. What I like the most is its sleep and timer functions for cleaner air while I sleep. The Silentnight Air Purifier has a replaceable triple filter system of Sponge, HEPA and Activated Carbon to make sure 99.3% of airborne particles and allergens are caught, significantly improving the atmosphere in the bedroom. The filter is capable of removing airborne contaminants from the air including pollen, mould, spores, dander and even odour causing bacteria. The timer can be set for up to 8 hours, at three different speed levels and with 75-degree oscillation meaning this air purifier can be adjusted to suit my needs. It can be purchased from here for £49.00. 
 
 

Himalayan Salt Lamps

Himalayan Salt Lamps are really pretty but I always wondered whether they are useful to improve sleep. They not only have a warm, soothing glow but actually serve the purpose of improving breathing problems and reducing allergies and respiratory ailments. Here’s the explanation behind this simple yet efficient and cost effective remedy.  Water vapour circulates in the air indoor carrying allergens such as dust, pollen, smoke particles, and even bacteria and viruses. Salt is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts water molecules from the surrounding air. A large block of rock salt, like a Himalayan salt lamp, is especially effective to attract these microscopic compounds that remain on the salt and not floating in the air where we breathe. The Himalayan salt lamp becomes saturated with water vapour, and the heat from the lamp inside dries it, thus continuing the hygroscopic effect for as long as the light is on. This heat re-releases water vapour back into the air emitting negative ions. As complicated as it sounds, the lamp traps airborne pollutants so they don’t become airborne again. 

Obvious benefits include the prevention of colds and flu (due to less airborne viruses); the neutralising of electromagnetic radiation from devices like computers, TVs, appliances, and smart phones; the improvement of our ability to concentrate and work for longer periods around electrical equipment like computers; increased relaxation and calmness;  fewer headaches and migraines; and ultimately the easiness to fall asleep at night. 

I really cannot measure the amount of airborne pollutants in my bedroom, but the combination of all those remedies have greatly contributed to my sleep quality and I know it because I am happy and energetic when I wake up and I have been very healthy so far as a result. 

Evening drink ritual 

For the evening rituals ahead of bedtime, I like to alternate camomile tea, ginger tea, or banana tea with a Barleycup Caramel, a naturally caffeine-free hot drink made from roasted barley, rye and chicory. With the addition of caramel, it offers a deliciously mild, sweet flavour and also provides a source of dietary fibre. It is a low calorie drink with a sweet flavour and I like to add a bit of honey.

The perfect treat when the temptation to grab just one more caffeinated brew is real, and while trying to reduce or cut my caffeine consumption (RRP:  £3.69 for 100g available from independent health food stores or http://www.barleycup.co.uk/).

 

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