Can’t nod off at night, or always tossing and turning at 3am? Discover these different complementary therapies and enjoy a restful slumber
Feeling anxious or tense? This can have a big impact on the quality and quantity of your shut eye, but there are plenty of complementary therapies that can help relax your body and mind. As Joannah Metcalfe, consultant aromatherapist at Base Formula (baseformula.com), explains: “Aromatherapy essential oils can be particularly useful to help calm, soothe and balance your system, so you can enjoy a restful night’s sleep. The most useful oils to help you relax are lavender, Roman chamomile, neroli, petitgrain, sweet orange, sweet marjoram, bergamot, frankincense, clary sage and benzoin.
“A soothing aromatic bath before bed is great to help you unwind. Try four drops of lavender, four drops of bergamot, two drops of neroli and two drops of Roman chamomile in 15ml of bath oil (or a cup of full fat milk). Add the oils after you’ve run the bath, so they don’t evaporate before you get in, and make sure the water isn’t too hot. If you’re still finding it difficult to switch off before bed, pop five drops of lavender on a cotton pad and place inside your pillow case.”
“According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), sleep problems stem from an imbalance of yin/yang and qi within the body,” Paul Battersby, president of FHT (fht.org.uk), explains.
“TCM is based on the principle that qi flows throughout the body along 12 meridians (channels). Each meridian is either yin or yang in nature, and is named after an organ it corresponds to, for example the heart, liver, spleen and stomach, to name just a few.
“Yin and yang energies rise and fall within the body throughout the course of the day, with yin dominant at night and yang dominant during the daytime. Waking up many times during the night can indicate a yin deficiency of the heart, liver or kidneys depending on the time you wake, while restless sleep with excessive dreaming suggests emotional imbalance or food retention.”
11pm – 1am: Always waking up at this time? Blame your gall bladder. In TCM this is linked to courage, decisiveness and self esteem and a weakness may manifest itself in poor self confidence and judgment. Try practising affirming mantras and self care to boost feelings of self-assurance.
1am – 3am: Feeling restless at this time of the night could mean an imbalance in your liver is causing anger. Release this emotion through meditation at night, or quench the fire with a class of cold water.
3am – 5am: According to TCM, these hours are linked to the lungs and are commonly related to grief and sadness. Talking through your emotions and feelings can help deal with problems in this area of your life.
5am – 7am: If you wake up early, it could be a sign that your large intestine is out of whack and emotionally you’re unable to let go of things. Use meditation to encourage spiritual blockages to clear.
Sebastian Pole, ayurvedic practitioner, medical herbalist and founder of Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com), promotes the use of natural herbs to help you drift off at night. “There are many herbs that can be of benefit to aid sleep, including gotu kola and valerian, but one that is particularly good for those who suffer with sleep deprivation when stressed is the ayurvedic herb ashwagandha. This nourishes and strengthens a weakened nervous system and helps the body respond better to stress hormones to avoid them disrupting our sleep at night.” Try these top ayurvedic options, recommended by Sebastian:
Always feel groggy in the mornings? Light therapy could be the answer. “Circadian cycles are 24 hour rhythms in our physiology and behaviour which are driven by an internal clock in your brain,” explains Dr Victoria Revell, circadian rhythm expert based at Surrey University.
“The best known example is our sleep/ wake cycle but there are in fact rhythms in nearly all aspects of our body including in our stomach and with our metabolism. Most people’s body clocks run slightly longer than 24 hours, so we often need a daily correction to keep them on track. Sunlight can help offer this cue but when it is dark and grey, or if you’re getting up early, we don’t always have the benefit of the sun’s rays. In this case, extra light can help. Try using a bright light box or a dawn stimulator which gradually comes on and gets brighter.
“Light therapy is also good for improving your general mood and alertness. This is particularly important in today’s society as we’re now so used to being switched on 24/7 and often compromise on our sleep.”
There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to get comfortable in bed when you’re really tired.
If this is a problem you struggle with, yoga teacher Sue Fuller, the creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of audio yoga classes (yoga2hear.co.uk), suggests a few asanas. “Try this simple spinal twist before you get under your covers,” she advises.
“Lay on your bed with your knees bent and your arms out to the side, level with your shoulders, and breathe slowly through your nose. When you have established a smooth and steady flow of breath, begin the technique. Inhale and, as you exhale, let your knees fall to the right and turn your head to the left, then inhale and return to your starting position and as you exhale let your knees fall to the left and turn your head to the right, continue with this technique for 20 or more complete breaths. When you have finished bring your knees in towards your chest and breathe slowly.
“When you are under your covers, lay on your back and breathe slowly through your nose, focus on lengthening your exhalation and feeling your body soften and release with each exhalation.
“A restorative yoga practice will help calm a restless mind and remove the stresses and strains from the busiest of days. Held floor-based postures are most effective for relaxing and soothing the nervous system and switching off the stress response, allowing the body and mind to relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep.”
6 issues for £19.99*
when you subscribe today
Exclusive prizes from our Heaven Skincare, Senspa, Green People and more...