Sleeping beauty: Overhaul your sleep routine for a boost to mind, body and soul
As we're all knee-deep in push-ups and squats in an attempt to fulfil our New Year's resolutions, how many of us will think to overhaul one of the most crucial (and neglected) parts of our health - our sleep patterns?
We all know how burning the candle at both ends will adversely affect our looks - grey skin, bloodshot eyes, facial bags and sags are all unwelcome side effects from lack of proper rest. As we age, our bodies and skin repair while we sleep, proving that beauty sleep is no old wives' tale.
However, the effects of lack of a healthy sleep pattern go deeper than simply not looking our best - research shows that lack of proper sleep makes us unfocused, prone to weight gain, anxious, more likely to develop heart disease, suffer from depression, and type 2 diabetes.
As a working single mum, who was studying a master's at night for many years, I can attest to the detrimental effect lack of sleep had on my health. I looked and felt so unhealthy, so two years ago I overhauled my sleeping patterns and saw a huge difference in my skin, overall health, and mood. Here are my tips and top products for giving your own sleeping routine a bit of TLC.
Treat vs Cheat
The Goodnight Co Goodnight Oil
This soothing oil blend is a best-seller in the States as a sleep aid. Massage a tiny amount onto your wrists to help calm down mind and body before bedtime. goodnightco.com
If your budget is blown this New Year, try instead Neal's Yard Remedies To Roll in Relaxation, from pharmacies nationwide
6 of the best Dream Team - Overnight products and sleep aids
Nourish dry, chapped, winter nails with a slick of this overnight mask for a nourishing mani/pedi while you sleep. NailsInc Overnight Mask, €18, pharmacies, Boots and department stores nationwide.
The orange tone that emanates from candles promotes the production of our sleepy hormone melatonin, and helps our minds de-stress. A really gorgeous and long-lasting scented option is The Ritual Of Light candle, €18.50 from Rituals, available at Arnotts
As we age, our bodies repair when we sleep - so beauty sleep is actually a scientific reality! A great way to amp up that skin renewal is Sarah Chapman's Overnight Skin Supplement, €53, net-a-porter.com
Silk pillowcases are a godsend for women with frizzy, fuzz-prone hair, or "dead" sleepers (those who don't move a lot in their sleep and are prone to deep sleep wrinkles in the morning). The Ethical Silk Company's ivory silk pillowcase is €48, and available at theethicalsilkco.com
SNOOZE AND LOSE
If you are prone to breakouts and troubled skin, try this Dermalogica Breakout Overnight Treatment, €16.50. Apply after your usual cleansing routine. Find it at department stores, selected salons and dermalogica.ie
As part of your new night-time regime, spritz this calming lavender-based spray on your pillow. Thisworks Deep Sleep Pillow spray, €19.50, from pharmacies and department stores nationwide.
TIP: There is a baby-safe version of this spray that works a treat on little ones who won't settle at night.
Sleep like a baby
Research has shown that nearly 50pc of us are suffering from poor sleep patterns, with women 40pc more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. This number is surely set to rise as we become more engrossed in our devices, from mobile phones to Fitbits. The good news is that, for most of us, this unhealthy pattern can be overturned. Read on for some handy tips on everything from sleep research labs to overhauling your night-time routine.
Limit or avoid using blue-light devices (phones, laptops, eReaders and tablets) for two hours prior to bedtime. The blue light emanating from these devices acts as a melatonin suppressant, and tricks our minds and bodies into thinking it's daytime. In her book Sleep Revolution, business woman and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says: "Think of blue light as the anti-sleeping drug." Sleep experts say that 9pm is the ideal time to stop using these devices for a sound night's sleep.
• Go old school
Research has shown that melatonin levels in people using eReaders was decreased by 55pc, compared to those reading good old-fashioned paper books.
• Natural nightcap
An alcoholic nightcap might make you feel initially sleepy, but disrupts sleep patterns later in your sleep cycle. Try instead a natural, non-alcoholic nightcap like Moon Juice's Dream Dust, €28.20 - an edible supplement that can be added to milk, tea or water. For a cheaper alternative, try Celestial Seasoning's Sleepy Time Tea €3.80, or Pukka's Night Tea €3.90, from health food shops nationwide. Always consult your doctor before taking supplements.
• Create your own cocoon
To block out light and noise, use whatever works for you, for example, blackout blinds, eye masks, earplugs or specific night-time sleep headphones. Keep your room on the cooler side (15-18°C is meant to be ideal). Opt for cozy, soft fabric pyjamas.
• Don't feel guilty about napping
If you're exhausted, don't feel in the least bit guilty about taking a nap. Your body and mind may just need more rest time - every one is different, so if your schedule allows it, by all means take 40 winks if possible.
• Be patient
Creating a healthy night-time ritual that you can actually stick to will take time and a little bit of adjustment. My best advice is to start your ritual earlier than you think, for example if you plan to be in bed by 10.30pm, start the wind down an hour-and-a-half earlier. It may take trial and error to get to a ritual that works for you, but I promise you it will be worth it.
• Listen to Max Richter's Sleep
This eight-hour therapeutic musical piece by composer Max Richter was created with the input of American neuroscientist David Eagleman in order to use music to mirror and calm the human mind during its sleep cycle. Richter describes this composition as "An invitation to dream." It's simply magic - it never fails to send me drifting off.
Arianna Huffington's Sleep Revolution is available in hardback for €23.99, from bookshops nationwide.
• Natural supplement
Lots of people swear by the calming and sleep-inducing properties of the herb valerian. Available at health food stores nationwide. Always consult your doctor before taking supplements.