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Too Stressed To Sleep?

We were once a nation of warriors. Now we are a nation of worriers – so anxious and stressed we can’t sleep.

New research by the British Sleep Council found that 47 per cent of people find it difficult to get to sleep because of stress - and women are bigger worriers than men. We are also kept awake by partners, bad mattresses, weight problems, alcohol, smoking and pain. The study found that 30 per cent of men sleep well compared to just 22 per cent of women.

One-quarter of Britons have a sleepdisorder such as sleep apnoea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. It’s a wonder we are not all asleep at our desks and it’s enough to make you long for those teenage years spent in deep slumber.

Sleeping better, living better

Sleeping is not only the body’s time to recuperate, it also has important health benefits, including improved memory and concentration, greater longevity and reduced risk of depression. Sleep Therapist and author of Tired but Wired, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan believes technology is a major factor behind poor sleep. ‘I think a lot of people in today’s world are finding it difficult to cope for all sorts of reasons but the main culprit is the pace of life and technology. The working day is becoming not only longer but more intense. Technology is the big piece behind all of this – the volume of information we have to deal with has a severe impact on sleep.

The Kingston-based author believes we need to switch off to sleep well. ‘Keeping your bedroom technology free is really important. Taking breaks during the day gives your brain the opportunity to consolidate information so there is less of that work to be done at night. A lot of iPhones have apps for measuring sleep and I think they are extremely unhelpful as they increase anxiety about sleep. To sleep well, you need to let go of worrying about sleeping.’

The natural way to better sleep

Sue Hardman is a Putney-based Naturopath and Herbalist who works with busy, stressed and sleep-deprived clients. She manages sleep issues through nutrition, lifestyle changes and natural medicines. Sue recommends creating a night-time routine with a few rituals to help your body, mind and nervous system relax. ‘Start with a relaxing Epsom salt bath with a few drops of real-lavender essential oil and spray your pillow with the lavender oil. When you get into bed, try a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy and take a good magnesium/calcium supplement combination.

‘Herbs such as hops, valerian, passiflora, verbena and wild lettuce are used very successfully to improve quality of sleep. While breaking bad habits is difficult, making lifestyle changes such as not having any caffeine after 1pm and avoiding back-lit technology (iPads, iPhones, PCs) after 8pm can have long term benefits for your health and your sleep,’ Sue advises.

Bringing stillness to your mind

Meditation, stretching, pilates and yoga all have their benefits in helping our bodies and minds relax, and can help prepare us for a better night’s sleep. Yoga instructor, Erika Shapiro of Yogi Yoga in Wandsworth, believes that taking time out to relax through yoga helps to still the mind. ‘The physical, mental and spiritual attributes of yoga help bring the nervous system into balance. Most of us are over-stimulated and spend more time in fight or flight response than we should. Balancing the nervous system helps counter the stresses of our lives and environment. Yoga focuses on helping the practitioner bring deeper stillness to their mind and reach a place of inner peace.’

All we have to do to get a good night’s sleep is stop stressing, banish our partners and children, and settle into a new bed housed in a calm, silent aromatic sanctuary… Right then, I’m off to a spa hotel!