Sleep loss is estimated to affect one in three people in the UK, with the constant pace of modern day living and a heavy workload often blamed. While the causes of sleep loss can be complex and wide-ranging, the solutions can be surprisingly simple. Making even small adjustments to your lifestyle has been shown to aid sleep loss and to that end, Silentnight’s sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, recommends sleep trying essential oils.
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How can essential oils encourage the sleep process?
According to Dr Ramlakhan, the effect of essential oils is partly attributed to the psychological impact it can have on the nervous system.
As she explained: “We sleep when we feel safe. When the nervous system is settled, anything we can do to promote the increase in vagal tone, which is derived from the vagus nerve, will also help – this is the part of the nervous system which aids sleep.”
Certain scents are associated with feeling safe and work to soothe an overacted nervous system – a settling method that is especially effective for people who are not great sleepers – or “sensitive sleepers”, as Dr Ramlakhan refers to them.
Some people may find lavender oil fragrance promotes this effect.
According to Dr Ramlakhan: “Lavender will help promote a much better quality of deep sleep, as it is proven to slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, and ultimately promote relaxation.”
Studies bolster this claim. such as a 2005 study that assessed how lavender essential oil affected 31 young, healthy sleepers.
Researchers found that lavender increased the amount of slow and deep wave sleep in participants. All participants reported feeling “higher viguor” the next morning.
Slow and deep wave sleep is the sleep stage that is associated with the slowest brain waves during sleep.
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Eucalyptus oil, which is essentially peppermint oil, also helps to aid breathing, as well as problems such as snoring, she said.
Research suggests that eucalyptus can help break up the mucus in your respiratory system, including your sinuses and the back of your throat, factors that can cause snoring.
Other key tips to promote a good night’s sleep
Eating certain foods can also encourage the sleep-cycle.
As the National Sleep Foundation explains, certain foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness.
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“Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy,” noted the health body.
Proteins from the food you eat are the “building blocks” of tryptophan, which is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers, explains the health site.
Certain herbal teas have also been shown to aid the sleep process, such as chamomile, passionflower, and valerian teas, says the National Sleep Foundation.
“For an extra dose of calm, add a teaspoon of honey, which contains tryptophan,” added the health body.
Keep your bedroom sleep-friendly
According to the NHS, your bedroom should be a relaxing environment – experts claim there’s a strong association in people’s minds between sleep and the bedroom.
However, your external environment can disrupt the sleep-cycle, such as TVs and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and a bad mattress or bed so you should shun these distractions, says the health body.
“Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex (or masturbation). Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years,” advised the health site.
Optimal conditions also include keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, tidy and at a temperature of between 18C and 24C, it added.
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