Sweet dreams are made of these

We know how important our sleep is – it’s an opportunity for essential full body and mind maintenance work. However many of us struggle to get enough. If you’re looking to improve your sleep or quality of sleep you might find some of these useful.

– Try breathing exercises. By slowing down our breathing – using the diaphragm and avoiding shallow chest breathing – we can calm the nervous system. Lie on your back and place your hands, fingers loosely interlocked, across your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose and feel your belly expand and let your hands move slightly apart. Imagine the air entering your airways making it’s way to your lungs. Then as you exhale let the old stale air make its way out through your mouth. I like the 4-7-8 method. Inhale for 4 minutes, hold for 7, then exhale for 8.

– Switch off your electrical device. Whether it’s the TV, laptop, smart phone etc, switch it off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed and that will help switch off your brain! These devices emit the short wave-length, artificial blue light, which acts as a stimulant.

– Heaven scent. When it comes to choosing an essential oil for bedtime that one that always comes top is Lavandula Augustifolia aka Lavender. Thanks to the high Ester content this bushy perennial calms and soothes the nervous system making it the perfect bedtime companion. You could also try drops of roman chamomile, mandarin or ylang ylang on your pillow or oil diffuser. I like to use a combination of these essential oils in a nourishing face oil.

– Is there something on your mind? Whether you’re struggling to get to sleep or you wake up during the night unable to get back to sleep, our monkey mind can be a nightmare to keep at bay! It might help if you get up and write things down. Or picture a relaxing scenario – lying on the beach, designing your perfect house, picking your dream football team. My cousin does the tried and tested – she counts sheep!

– Too light? We’ve just had the longest day of the year – sunrise at 0426 and sunset at 22.02. Bliss! However you might find the light creeping in to your bedroom when you don’t want it to. Make sure your room is dark enough. Use a sleep mask or invest in some blackout curtains.

– Book a massage. By making an appointment for the late afternoon / evening, this is a great way to help the mind and body relax before bedtime.

Part of my run. Holyrood Park – looking to Saint Margaret’s Loch

– Do your exercise in the morning. The World Health Organisation recommends we do 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise every week. When we exercise our body produces certain hormones, including dopamine and cortisol, which play an important role in regulating our circadian rhythm (body clock). Better to do more vigorous exercise earlier in the day and do yoga or stretches closer to bedtime for good quality sleep.

– Eat a healthy & balanced diet (not too late in the evening). I’m always on the look out for a good recipe book. The two that I can’t get enough of at the moment are: Anna Jones The Modern Cook’s Year and Hemsley Hemsley The Art of Eating Well.

– Keep hydrated. During the day carry a reusable bottle with you. There are plenty of places where you can fill it up and Scottish Water have installed Top Up Taps in ten locations around Scotland. To find out the nearest one go to https://www.yourwateryourlife.co.uk/find-your-nearest-top-up-tap/
In the evening, drink herbal teas. Clipper is good quality.

– Okay, now I know I said switch off your phone but the Insight Timer app is worth checking out. It includes hundreds of guided meditations on various topics (sleep, anxiety, depression…the list is endless), of various lengths of time (from 3 minutes to 60 minutes). It switches itself off at the end and it’s free!

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