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  • Writer's pictureJan Johnson

How well do you sleep?

Sleepy baby with teddy bear, yawning baby

Did you know that regular reflexology sessions can be an effective way to help balance your sleep pattern and improve the quality of your sleep? This natural, holistic therapy promotes relaxation in both mind and body and helps to relieve the stresses of daily life. Using reflexology techniques to stimulate or sedate specific points on the feet, hands or ears, can aid more restful sleep.

We need sleep to maintain both physical and mental function. You’ll know how you feel the next morning after just one bad night’s sleep – slower reactions and reduced energy. Prolonged disturbed sleep can have negative health consequences affecting:

  • Energy

  • Learning

  • Memory and concentration

  • Decision making

  • Creativity

  • Mood

  • Motor function

  • Weight

We know how we feel when we don’t sleep, but why do we become unconscious and paralysed during each night-time? Surely evolution wouldn’t have made us so vulnerable without a very good reason! Surprisingly, science has no firm answers to this but it is believed to allow essential recovery time for our body and brain. During sleep the brain’s energy is restored and new brain cell connections are strengthened. It is also a time when the brain can clear out toxins produced when we are awake. Memories are stored and new learned experiences made accessible for the next time we need them. On the flip side, all the rubbish we have filled our brain with during the day gets erased and forgotten, leaving room for the important stuff.

Our mental and emotional health are affected by the amount of sleep we get. Areas of the brain that control the stress/fear response are more likely to over-react with sleep deprivation. Mental health and sleep are intertwined as these issues can often contribute to sleep disturbances, which, in turn, can trigger their progression.

Sleep can affect our weight. As energy decreases with sleep, hunger hormones fall into line by decreasing appetite. Lack of sleep over a sustained period causes these hormones to become out of balance making you hungrier; and may be associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

We need sleep to maintain a healthy immune system. Infection-busting proteins called cytokines, immune cells and certain antibodies are produced during sleep. Our bodies naturally know this, which is why we want to sleep more when we are ill. Risk factors from lack of sleep such as high blood pressure, increased inflammation and elevated cortisol levels may affect heart health. Recommended amounts of sleep depend on age, with children needing more sleep than adults. Around 7-9 hours is a good average for an adult.

Woman reading a book in bed
Reading before sleep helps you to relax
10 tips to help you get a good night’s sleep:
  1. Take positive steps to manage stress levels with holistic therapies such as reflexology.

  2. Prepare your bedroom environment – A comfortable bed is obvious but lower the room temperature and minimise light and noise. A clean, clutter-free space can also help you to relax.

  3. Your body has a natural clock known as circadian rhythm. Exposure to sunlight or bright light during the day helps natural time-keeping.

  4. Night-time exposure to light has a negative effect on your circadian rhythm. Blue light emitted by smartphones etc. is especially detrimental to sleep quality.

  5. Switch to decaffeinated drinks, as caffeine may prevent natural relaxation and avoid alcohol before bed as it can disrupt sleep hormones.

  6. Avoid eating a large meal late at night.

  7. Be consistent with sleep and waking times.

  8. Keeping well hydrated is vital for health but it’s wise to reduce fluids in late evening.

  9. Daily exercise is one of the best ways to improve sleep health.

  10. Maintain a sleep routine to help you relax. Listen to music, read a book – try different methods to see what works for you.

Sleep is often neglected as a vital component to health and well-being. Far from being a passive activity; it’s actually when the magic happens!

A point to note is there may be a health issue that is causing sleep problems. It is important to see your GP if you are concerned.

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