It’s said that the average person spends about 26 years of their life asleep so that’s 9,490 days or 227,760 hours. Roughly a third of our life…….ummm mind blown!! And according to an article by the HuffPost - we also spend 7 years of our life just trying to get to sleep.
My relationship with sleep is much like Carrie and Big. A rollercoaster. Up and down. Up and down. Sometimes wonderful… and sometimes a nasty battle. Lately though I gotta’ say, my sleeping pattern is pretty damn satisfactory (despite two youngsters). Whether it be my iron deficiency helping my cause, my unwavering nightly reading habit or the best bed linen in the world 😜 - I really can’t complain in this department right now. But after speaking to some friends + the team recently about the effects of the pandemic on their health, I was beginning to see a common trend. Which was - lack of sleep, trouble getting to sleep and newfound insomnia.
I endeavoured to find out why this was happening and what we can do to assist/prevent it. After all - sleep is vital and we’re pretty passionate about it here at Sage x Clare. Now, I may know a thing or two about styling a bedroom but as for insight on how to get the best forty winks of your life?? I decided to bring in an expert. The brilliant Lisa Varadi - author of ‘Sleep’ and renowned naturopath. Keep reading for some srsly fab sleep secrets…
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Your occupation is incredibly unique, what made you choose this career path?
In my youth I struggled to get a good night’s sleep. I was diagnosed with insomnia and delayed sleep-wake phase disorder when I was a teenager. I sought help from medical professionals but I still had trouble getting to sleep most nights. When I entered university, I began to research different therapies and by the time I entered my twenties, I had successfully treated my own sleep issues. After that, I made it my mission to help others manage sleep disorders using safe and effective natural therapies.
I’ve had a few friends mention they’ve been suffering from insomnia or poor sleep patterns since the pandemic + lockdowns. Why do you think this is and what are your tips for avoiding/curing it? Have you noticed an increase in people seeking your help?
Yes, I have certainly received a number of inquiries from those who have never experienced insomnia before. The pandemic has brought forth a number of challenges that can set the stage for poor sleep. I would say the top four culprits are: lack of sunlight exposure, excessive internet/social media use, not enough exercise and high stress.
Daylight is an important regulator of the body’s internal clock. With lockdowns in place, people have certainly been spending more time indoors resulting in less sunlight exposure. The best way to remedy this is to step outside for at least 10 minutes first thing in the morning. Then, do the same in the mid-afternoon to counteract the natural dip in the circadian clock that occurs at this time. While indoors, sitting near a window that allows natural light in is an added bonus.
As we’ve spent the last year and a half distancing ourselves from one another, it makes sense that we’ve been relying heavily on virtual meetings, emailing and social media for work and socializing. Unfortunately, the blue light emitted from our devices can disrupt our bodies’ melatonin secretion. To combat this, we should turn off our laptops, mobiles and other devices as soon as the sun sets.
Exercise is very important for getting a good night’s sleep. Physical activity increases your drive for sleep, or sleep pressure. The greater your drive for sleep at night, the more likely you will fall asleep when your head hits the pillow. Exercise recommendations do vary by age and health status, so it’s best to consult with your doctor if you are just starting out. Typically, performing 20 to 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise per day can not only improve sleep, but can increase mood and mental clarity as well in a healthy adult.
Lastly, many people have reported increased levels of anxiety and worry as a result of the pandemic. This can make a good night’s sleep very difficult to come by. Stress management has become a significant part of my practise since the pandemic began. My top recommendation for this is to perform two relaxing activities just before bedtime. This could be a skin care routine, taking a warm bath, reading, listening to music, meditating or doing some gentle stretching.
I also suggest that people make a list of their worries. Then, write down possible next steps that can be taken to help reduce the worry or anxious thought. Performing this activity at least three hours before bed will prevent you from trying to work through your worries when your head hits the pillow. Most pandemic-related concerns (finances, job loss, homeschooling, etc.) do not have immediate solutions, but creating a step-by-step plan to achieve your desired outcome can help to minimize your stress and maximize your sleep.
On those nights where you’ve done everything right - exercised, eaten well, put your phone away, read a book etc - but you just cannot sleep and are laying awake for hours. What should you do?
First thing to do if you can’t sleep is to get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a calming activity. Your bed should be used for sleeping and your bedroom should be a place of calmness and tranquility. Laying awake in bed will make your brain associate your bed and bedroom with anxiety and frustration over not sleeping. Return to bed after about 20 minutes or when your body and mind feel ready to drift off. If you are still struggling to get to sleep, make sure you are comfortable. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can make falling asleep very challenging. If you are still unable to sleep, doing some deep breathing, meditation or performing a progressive muscle relaxation exercise will often do the trick.
An occasional night of poor sleep is not uncommon, especially if you are experiencing stress, have had too much caffeine or are just going to bed too late. However, if laying awake for hours becomes a recurring or frequent problem, it’s best to see your doctor.
Sometimes when I’m just about to enter a deep sleep, I have a huge twitch and wake myself up. What causes us to twitch in our sleep and is it something to worry about?
Sleep twitches, called hypnic jerks or sleep starts, are involuntary muscle contractions. They often occur when we are entering sleep. The exact cause of these twitches is not known; however, you are more likely to experience them if you are stressed, exercise heavily at night, have too much caffeine or are sleep-deprived. Hypnic jerks are quite common and not usually a cause for concern. Keeping a regular bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine after 2 pm and managing stress can often keep them in check. If you find that you experience these twitches frequently or they significantly disrupt your sleep, you should see your doctor.
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Is there any way we can control what we dream about? No more snake dreams, I want unicorns, Jake Gyllenhaal and butterflies pls! Sometimes I like to look up the meanings of my dreams, can they really indicate what’s happening in our real life or is that a myth?
The simple answer to the first question is: yes! We are able to control our dreams to a degree. Some people who experience lucid dreaming, which is knowing that you are dreaming while you are asleep, also report being able to control aspects of their dreams. That being said, you don’t have to be a lucid dreamer to have some dream control.
Although there is no guarantee that you will have the dream you want, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood that unicorns, Jake Gyllenhaal or butterflies will make an appearance.
Ensure you get enough sleep. The more sleep you get, the more likely you are to dream
Create a sleep journal where you write down your dreams. This will make you more aware of the dreams you are currently having and allow you to identify any recurring nightmares or other dreams that elicit strong emotions. If you dream about snakes every night, it may be time to figure out why!
Write down, in as much detail as you can, the dream you would like to have. If you have a picture or a keepsake that relates to the dream, keep it with the description
Before you go to bed each night, read the description of the dream. Use the description and photo or keepsake (if you have one) to visualise the dream.
The information your brain receives right before bedtime has a high likelihood of being retained. By hacking this bit of brain biochemistry, you can increase the probability that the dream, or more likely certain parts of it, will come through during your slumber.
I am quite familiar with the second question as I am often asked how one can go about interpreting their dreams. Although the study of dreaming has come a long way, we still don’t know the true meaning of dreams. What we do know is that they do not predict future events. No matter how many times you dream of being chased by a giant tarantula, it’s unlikely to happen in real life. In addition, it is also not very likely that our dreams reveal our unconscious desires, as was once commonly thought. You may have an upsetting dream about something terrible happening to a loved one, but that certainly does not mean that you wish them any harm.
What dreams can offer us is a window into our feelings. If you are having nightmares, it may be worth looking into any worries or fears you have in your everyday life. Similarly, if you dream of arguing with your partner or a co-worker, feelings of anger or resentment may be impacting your life. So, although dreams may not indicate exactly what’s happening in real life, a recurring dream or dreams that stir up intense emotions may be worth exploring.
What are your best suggestions for promoting a good nights sleep that people are often unaware of? And what is your personal night-time routine?
One of my top suggestions is to eat 4 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds or almonds before bed. Both are quick and satisfying snacks that just happen to be rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that plays an important role in the sleep cycle.
My personal night-time routine starts after supper when I enjoy a cup of chamomile or passionflower tea. Then I will either read a book or listen to relaxing music. Right before bed I will often do two “sleep-readiness” exercises. Presently, this consists of slow and deep breathing (an exercise I refer to as The Sleeper’s Breath) followed by a progressive muscle relaxation.
My favourite little nook at home.
1. A good book
2. Luxurious bed linen
3. Skincare routine
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4. Cuppa’ herbal tea
5. Sleep potions
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A big thank you to Lisa Varadi for her incredibly insightful sleep secrets - you can purchase her book ‘Sleep’ here on our website. There’s really no place like bed. I hope you found these tips insightful, BE GONE sleep demons. Sweet dreams lovelies. x