Sleep – where are you?

sleep problemsStress is the enemy of a good night’s sleep and there is plenty of it around at present. It’s such a vicious circle – you feel stressed, you can’t sleep, so you feel more stressed until you feel unwell.

According to Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, co-founder of The London Sleep Centre and neuropsychiatrist, ‘When our internal neuro-chemical systems are working normally, they regulate biological processes like sleep, appetite, mood and energy levels. If we are stressed, the Adreno-Cortical System is dysregulated and our energy sources are diverted, resulting in sleep disruption and mood changes.

‘Before we sleep it’s important to de-stress, reducing levels of cortisol, and replacing them with increased levels of melatonin, the hormone released in the brain that signals to the body it’s time to sleep.’

Tips for improving sleep

• Make sure your days as active as they can be – exercise every day, and try to get outside for some fresh air.
• Relax before going to bed – yoga and meditation really help and have become much more popular during lockdown. Alternatively, lie down for at least 10 minutes, listen to relaxing music and breathe deeply.
• Avoid watching stimulating or frightening films or television programmes just before bedtime, particularly in the bedroom.
• According to Performance and Purpose Coach Mark Whittle, ‘Turn off all ‘blue light’ (from laptops, tablets and phones) 90 minutes before bed. Blue light supresses the release of melatonin in our body, impacting our natural circadian rhythm and impacting quality of sleep.
• Coffee, tea or colas can disrupt your sleep due to the caffeine which stimulates the mind. Alcohol can lead to disturbed nights too.
• Herbal remedies might help  – any of these ingredients are helpful: Valerian, hops, Passiflora, lavender and Ashwaganda. Look for Rescue Peaceful Night Capsules (with Ashwagandha, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Rescue(R) Night Flower Essences, Rescue Dream Balm , A. Vogel’s Dormeasan, Kalms or Pukka’s Night Time. If you are on medication, check with a doctor, pharmacist or the manufacturer (of herbal medicines) before taking herbal remedies.
• Magnesium tablets taken in the evening help to relax the body and encourage us to sleep.
• Try using ear plugs if your partner snores.
• If light outside is a problem, you could change to darker curtains or blinds that block out the dawn or street lights.

Sleep well!


Top health tips

Eat porridge and wholegrains for long life. More research into eating plenty of fibre has found that eating fibre-rich foods like porridge mean that you are less likely to die prematurely.  The study of nearly 400,000 people in the US found that whole grains like oatmeal, wild and brown rice, fruit and vegetables had best results.  Read Sowing  Wild Oats.

Learn a second language to keep your brain active. Apparently speaking more than one language increases brain power and delays Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the York University in Toronto found that a second language was more effective than doing crosswords or Sudoko.  

Cut down on red meat: on the one hand it’s good for you as a great source of iron and zinc, but too much can be cancer causing scientists have declared. The Government is going to issue warnings about this, but it’s only for excessive amounts – 70g or three bacon rashers will be the recommended maximum level per day. Eating organic avoids traces of routine medication in animals.

Lavender oil for athlete’s foot: persistent athlete’s foot can become resistant to creams, but researchers at the Coimbra University in Portugal found that the antifungal properties of lavender work well against the fungus that causes nail infections, ringworm and athlete’s foot. Read more in Aromatherapy oils have so many uses.

Drink a moderate amount of red wine but the key is ‘moderate’. At a time when the number of people with liver disease has doubled, it is only red wine that offers protection to the heart when drunk in moderation – up to two glasses a day.

Limit high energy drinks which are packed with caffeine. I was shocked when I gave a talk to some schoolgirls about how to cope with exams. Quite a few of them took caffeine tablets to keep them going, at a time when they should be limiting caffeine. There is a tendency for teenagers to over-consume these drinks and recent research at the University of Miami found that high-caffeine drinks could cause strokes or seizures in children, especially if they have diabetes or behaviour disorders.

Take zinc for a cold as Indian scientists found that it could make it last for less time. Zinc has numerous other health benefits such as: fighting infection, normal growth in children, healthy hair, skin and nails, and for men healthy sperm and prostate gland.  Conversely, not enough zinc can lead to skin rashes, hair falling out, lethargy, sleep disturbance, infections, night blindness, loss of smell and taste, and more.   Read Vitamins and Minerals Chart.

Aromatherapy oils have so many uses

lavender 2Many people know aromatherapy as a relaxing massage with oils. But it’s much more than that. You can use essential oils in a variety of ways.
Take lavender oil – there’s so much you can do with it I wouldn’t go away without a bottle.

You can put a few drops in an oil burner to create an aromatic fragrance which is both relaxing and calming.

  • You can apply it to stings and bites to ease itching and soreness.
  • You can put a few drops in the bath to relax before bed, or if you can’t sleep you can put some on a tissue and leave it close to your face.
  • The soothing vapours help you to sleep and you can put it in a spray bottle instead of a can of air freshener.

Tea tree is the next best oil to have in my bag. It’s antiseptic and has a strong pungent ‘clean’ smell so it’s great for cleaning – put a few drops in water and clean up your phone, your computer and other surfaces or even your kitchen. Put a few drops in the bucket when you clean your floor or use it in the bathroom to dispel other odours.

Tea tree is also antifungal and can be used diluted in water or in oil on athlete’s foot, or a few drops in a bidet or shallow bath are good for thrush.

Both lavender and tea tree oils can be inhaled in steam when you have a cold, cough or flu. Boil the kettle and put the steaming water in a bowl with a few drops.

Essential oils can be:

  • inhaled in steam.
  • used in a compress or poultice
  • used in massage
  • put in the bath
  • burned in an oil burner
  • put in a spray bottle
  • used in water for cleaning.
Eucalyptus is excellent for clearing blocked noses and can equally be put in the bath to steam.
Geranium is calming and is a great oil to burn.
Ylang ylang can ease depression, so keep some on a tissue tucked into your clothes so that you can breathe it in, or put in a bath.
Rosemary wakes you up so the best way to use it is to have a bath and breathe in the vapours. It is also good for tired legs – so mix in a carrier oil and massage in.
Just sniffing Basil oil can switch your brain on.
Citronella keeps flying insects away so burn a few drops in an oil burner with water and place on the table.
Clary sage is great for period pains – mix in oil and massage on your stomach. It also eases depression – put on a tissue and breathe in the pungent aroma.
Thyme helps to ease a cough and can be sprayed in water to the back of the throat
Jasmine is expensive but very uplifting and relaxing
Ginger helps to stave off travel sickness – just sniffing the bottle will do. It also helps to warm the muscles if you massage it in. Dilute very well.
Frankincense in an oil burner lifts mood and makes you feel confident. It’s a lovely smell too.
Bergamot is made from the peel of bitter orange fruit and is a delightful smell. It is helpful for anyone feeling depressed or tired and irritable. It is antiseptic and can kill germs in the home
Mandarin in carrier oil helps to prevent stretchmarks and scars
Cypress oil in water stems blood from haemorrhoids, particularly after having a baby
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Tea Tree essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £5.35
Thyme essential oil Health Aid 10ml £7.99
Ginger essential oil Absolute Aromas 10ml £10.15
Jasmine essential oil Absolute Aromas 2ml £20.85
Ylang ylang essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £10.20
Mandarin essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £6.80
Cypress essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £6.85
Bergamot essential oil Absolute Aromas 10ml £6.25
Clary sage essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £9.35
Rosemary essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £6.05
Eucalyptus essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £4.85
Geranium essential oil Tisserand Aromatherapy 9ml £8.50
Basil essential oil Health Aid 10ml £7.49
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Lavender fields revival

Lavender fields have returned to Surrey over 100 years after they were big business.
From the 18th to 20th centuries anyone standing on the hills of Chipstead, a village close to Banstead, Surrey could look towards London and see a sea of blue lavender fields. There were literally thousands of acres of lavender in the Woodmansterne/Carshalton/Mitcham/Croydon/Wallington area.

Now there are 25 acres owned by Lorna Maye, who together with her husband has done all the hard work of planting, mowing and harvesting to produce organic lavender oil. Alongside, several acres have been revived by BioRegional, a local sustainability group, who initially ran a project with Downview prisoners.

Visitors to the lavender fields which are on the Croydon Road between Banstead and Purley can pick their own lavender or buy bottles of the organic oil on site. The plants are organic meaning that no pesticides are used in their cultivation and they are also Soil Association certified.

The old fashioned connotation of old ladies with their bottles of lavender water and drawers of clothes smelling of lavender has been completely transformed. Lavender oil is now a hugely popular aromatherapy oil and is used in a variety of health and beauty products worldwide.

Lavender oil has plenty of uses:

• It has relaxing properties and a few drops on a tissue can you help you sleep
• A few drops in the bath are great for relaxing
• It is antiseptic and can be put neat on spots, bites, cuts or burns – do a skin test first to check you aren’t allergic
• It is effective for bruising or bumps – a few drops diluted in water can be applied on a compress
• Diluted in water it can ease skin rashes or sunburn
• It can be put on the wrist pulse points to keep you calm
• It can be burned in an oil burner to make a room smell nice and to release calming vapours
• It is astringent and moisturising and a few drops can be used in a carrier oil on the skin to hydrate and wake it up
• Carry it around with you and you can use it to cover up unpleasant smells!

For more information go to