It’s time to wake up!
How well do you sleep? Do you wake up anxious in the middle of the night, or have trouble getting to or staying asleep? Are you watching the minutes pass in the early hours of the morning, only to fall asleep just before your alarm goes off? Or do you find yourself heading to the sofa to escape the snores of your partner?
Are you getting enough sleep?
The recommended amount of sleeping hours varies depending on how old you are, but it’s roughly around seven hours a night for the average adult.
However, various recent surveys about the UK’s sleeping habits reveal worrying results. For example, most people in the UK are getting less sleep than is recommended. This is particularly worrying for those under 25 because their brains are still developing, and they need rest and recuperation. What’s more 22% of people in the UK struggle to fall asleep every single night.
Common causes of insomnia are reported as stress, children (on average, adults who have children get 34 hours less sleep per year than non-parents) and the perimenopause, menopause and post menopause.
The importance of sleep
We often underestimate the importance of sleep. We may feel grumpy, sluggish and tired but there is a tendency to have another coffee and push on through. After all, we have busy lives and things we need to do. What we often forget is that there is an important connection between sleep and our physical and mental health and if you ignore the fact that you’re not getting enough sleep, it can have a significant, cumulative effect.
Common symptoms of a lack of sleep include poor performance and memory, being in a bad mood, taking risks and being more prone to accidents and injury. Being tired can make it difficult to judge situations and people, and leave you feeling frustrated and angry. In children, a lack of sleep can often result in bad behaviour in school, not paying attention and poor results.
Your physical and mental health
Lack of sleep can also impact your physical health and has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, obesity, anxiety and depression. In short, getting enough sleep is vital for mental health, physical health, your quality of life, and sometimes your safety.
Time to refocus
There are many reasons at this time of year to reassess your sleeping habits. For a start, March is National Bed Month and the 13thMarch is World Sleep Day.
Perhaps most importantly for me, the 20th March is officially the first day of spring and the Spring Equinox. The equinox marks the day when day and night are the same lengths all over the world, with the word equinox literally meaning equal night‚ in Latin. With the clocks changing on the 29thMarch, suddenly everything seems to be lighter and brighter as we start to look forward to summer.
For most of us, spring is a time of new beginnings (think “spring into action”) and in Chinese Medicine it’s a time for growth, renewal, development and expansion and is governed by the Wood element responsible for clear vision and perspective.
For me, that means it’s a time to review and reassess our habits and health and think about ways we can refresh and improve our wellbeing and bring ourselves into sync with the seasons. Sleep is so fundamental to our overall health, so for me (and I hope for you), that means reassessing your health needs to start with reassessing your sleep.
Your sleep re-boot
New routines. Everyone’s different, but let’s start with the basics. Create some new habits and routines around bedtime. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals and sugar rich foods for a couple of hours before you go to bed.
Aim to be in bed by between 10pm and 11pm and try and remove technology from the bedroom. Dig out that old fashioned alarm clock rather than use your phone that you might be tempted to check. Go back to a book rather than an electronic tablet and try not to have computers or TVs in the bedroom.
Avoid stressful activities shortly before bed, such as work, doing your accounts or going for a really strenuous work out and instead think about having a warm bath with Epsom salt for added relaxation, practising some yoga or meditation or just reading a book to help you relax.
Try and make your bedroom a relaxing place to be. If your house is untidy, make sure the bedroom is the one place that isn’t. Choose soothing colours for your bedlinen and ensure your room is well ventilated but not too cold.
Check the quality of your bed, pillows and bedding. Lumpy old mattresses and pillows that are too chunky can cause all sorts of aches and pains and deprive you of sleep. We spend a significant amount of our lives in bed, so it’s worth investing in a good mattress and replacing it every eight years.
If you do wake up in the night… Don’t panic. Turn your clock face away, so you’re not counting the minutes. If you don’t get back to sleep fairly quickly, try reading a book or listening to music or audio meditation. If that doesn’t work, a short walk to the loo or to get a drink of water is also sometimes just enough to help us get back to sleep.
Work on your wellbeing. Acupuncture is often used to alleviate symptoms of insomnia, because it can help you feel more relaxed and less anxious. In general, acupuncture is believed to promote physical and emotional well-being and according to the British Acupuncture Council, “Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the 'analytical' brain, which is responsible for insomnia and anxiety (Hui 2010)”.
In short, research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically be of benefit in people with insomnia. And better still, massaging acupuncture points during the week of the equinox can release the energy of Wood and clear stagnation in the channels. What a great and natural way to start the new season!
A Mother’s Day treat
Women do seem to be hit hard with insomnia. No sooner have their children reached the age when they’re not causing sleepless nights, then many women hit the menopause. A lady I know told me recently that what with children, a snoring partner and the menopause she hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep since 1999 and stayed awake mainly with coffee. She went on to add that her children commented recently how much nicer she was after getting her first full night of sleep!
and I’ll give you 20% discount. After all, everything always seems better after a good night’s sleep.
With Mothering Sunday on the 22nd March and National Complementary Therapy Week the week of the 23rd March (which promotes the use of Complementary Therapies in the UK) what better way to celebrate all things sleepy and spring like than by offering all mothers a spring clean acupuncture detox treatment.
If you’ve never tried acupuncture before and are curious, or if you know a mum who could do with some rest and relaxation, just book a treatment today and quote the code SleepWell and I’ll give you 20% discount. After all, everything always seems better after a good night’s sleep.