Friday, 10 August 2018

Better sleep for anxiety sufferers

Now that the heatwave's broken, many of us are looking forward to more sleep. Those sticky, still nights are behind us, right? We may even be looking forward to - whisper it - electric blanket season.

This post on better sleep for anxiety sufferers has been in my drafts for a couple of months as there didn't seem any point while the entire country was moaning about the heat. When we got back from our holiday in Crete, I made a decision to sort my sleep, something I had thought might happen naturally during a week of relaxation. But when it didn't? Here's what I tried.

Now my sleep issues are down to anxiety around various things going on in my life but the result was the same - no problem getting to sleep but waking in the night and not being able to go back. Plus, that ball of anxiety in my stomach was always there in the morning, waking me too soon and preventing me from drifting back off.

After an extensive Google around the subject, I came up with a plan for some natural remedies and gentle nudges towards better sleep.

1. Eye mask

I've somehow become unable to sleep unless in pitch darkness, like a fully Gina Ford-ed baby. On holiday, the curtains were so light that the dawn crept in around 4am and woke me. Luckily, I had an eye mask to hand and have been wearing one ever since, upgrading to the Sleepstar Stellar Deluxe.

This is super soft and padded, with (slightly creepy sounding) internal eye chambers which alleviates that pressured feeling you get otherwise. I love it and am a total convert, taking it everywhere I go and believing entirely I'm the spit of Holly Golightly (pictured).

Buy it: Stellar Deluxe Sleep Mask

2. 5-HTP

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that our bodies naturally produce. It's used in the body to produce serotonin, a chemical messenger that sends signals between your nerve cells. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight gain and other health problems, and they appear to naturally drop with age.

5-HTP is produced as a supplement from the seeds of a plant, Griffonia simplicfolia, which is native to West Africa. It's easily available on the high street, not cheaply, but my experience of this supplement is that it's worth every penny. Of all my sleep regime suggestions, this is the one that's helped most of all as it's almost entirely removed the ball of anxiety that used to wake me up each day. If you want to take it, please check with a health professional first to make sure it's suitable for you but also play around with dosage and what time of day you take it. I've been taking it in the morning as some people report odd or vivid dreams if taken in the evening.

Buy it: Vegan 5-HTP

3. Lush Sleepy body lotion

This one was all over the news last year with insomniacs saying how it had transformed their nights. I'd bought a pot for one of my kids who had trouble dozing off and knew it was in the back of the bathroom cupboard somewhere. Now I see what all the fuss is about! It's a rich, pale lilac cream with a sweet fragrance (if you've ever eaten one of the floral lavender ice creams they make in the south of France you might recognise the scent), and the effect is quite remarkable. 

Buy it: Lush Sleepy body lotion

4. This Works Sleep Plus + Pillow Spray

The woman in Spacenk told me this stuff is magic and I really needed to believe in magic so I bought it. Apparently, the clinically proven formula of the original pillow spray (which is great if you're having trouble getting to sleep in the first place) has been reformulated into a spray that rests on your pillow. When you wake in the night, tossing and turning, the droplets burst which fills the air with, erm, magic. And then you're back off to the land of nod again. The company name is no lie: this works.

Buy it: This Works Sleep Plus + Pillow Spray

5. Magnesium oil

Magnesium deficiency is widespread and insomnia is a common symptom. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. One of the most direct ways to up your magnesium levels is to spray it directly onto the skin, which is what this oil spray does. Yes, there's a weird stinging sensation that lingers after you spray it but you very quickly get used to it. Magnesium oil also helps with muscle soreness and sports injuries, so it's a useful one to have to hand.

Buy it: Better You Magnesium Oil Spray

Other ideas

Ear plugs really help, although I do find it hard to use them when the kids are here. It's not that they often wake in the night but when they do they're distressed enough without a delay caused by my not hearing them quickly. 

There are plenty of herbal remedies that claim to help you sleep but I think if you really mean it and want to guarantee a good night's sleep then go over the counter. Boots make a good one in their Sleepeaze range that I occasionally take, but beware - you can feel groggy the next day so don't take the night before a big day. 

And then all the standard advice really does make a difference - no screens for about two hours before bed, try to stick to a regular bedtime, meditation and yoga help with general relaxation.


Do you sleep okay? Have you tried any of these ideas, or anything different? Leave me a comment and let us know.

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