Donna Duggan – marketing consultant, talks to us about her top 5 tips to curb insomnia
Despite December being ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, many of us find this month a real struggle. As well as continuing to deliver results at work there are those extracurricular activities, the work Christmas ‘do’ and obligatory festive drinks with clients. All fabulous of course, but meanwhile the demands of home life continue apace with present buying, food shopping and dashes to ‘golden assembly’ causing even the most organised of us to feel overwhelmed.
This level of output is fine in short bursts, but continued over a longer passage of time can result in tension headaches, churning stomachs, skin irritations and the king of all anxiety conditions, that of insomnia. Lack of sleep is debilitating and affects every facet of life. Insomnia and I have a flirtatious relationship. When I burn the candle at both ends insomnia is my near constant companion in the wee small hours. Lack of sleep affects my judgement at work and alters my moods. Those crucial hours in blissful repose re-energise the body’s cells, clear waste from the brain and support learning and memory. That’s why sleep is so important to our well-being.
If you’re surviving Christmas with clenched teeth (bah humbug!) and suffer from insomnia you may find my thoughts on combating it useful.
We’ve all been there. The constant clock watching through the night and horror as those elusive 8 hours of sleep dwindle to 3, 2, 1… The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your sleep time to the amount of sleep you’re currently getting which immediately eliminates any worry. The trick then is to increase your sleep by 15 minutes every few days which ‘squeezes out’ the middle of the night.
Good sleep hygiene
Just the phrase has a calming effect on me. This is when you let your brain relax before bedtime. No work emails or social media for at least 2 hours before you go to bed. The experts say that watching TV is OK (which is a relief as I won’t be relinquishing my Netflix addiction anytime soon). Another tip is to set up ‘Night Shift’ on your iPhone. ‘Sunset to sunrise’ mode automatically reduces the brightness of the screen allowing your brain and body to relax into its circadian rhythm.
I was reading India Knight’s column in The Sunday Times Magazine recently and she was talking about the convivial spirit engendered by sharing a festive tipple with friends. I completely agree with her, and at Christmas socialising and spirits go hand in hand. My only caution is that over indulgence doesn’t help insomnia. Dehydration will leave you thirsty during the night and wakeful. Unless you drink so much you pass out…. But we’re not advocating that!
This recommendation is slightly left-field. And a little in the vein of an old wives tale. BUT there’s anecdotal evidence that lavender promotes sleep. It’s soothing and calming properties aid relaxation and with that comes rhythmic breathing and (hopefully) sleep. If you’d like to try it pop along to your local Neal’s Yard (other stockists are available…) and pick up a vial. Rub it on the soles of your feet, pop some cashmere socks on and you’ll be in the land of nod in minutes.
If you’re at your wits end and have tried everything possible in pursuit of a whole night’s sleep you could consider consulting a sleep expert. Nick Littlehales is an elite sports sleep therapist and comes recommended. His book ‘Sleep’ provides practical and easy to implement advice to improve the quality of your sleep and achieve maximum productivity. OK we’re not elite athletes but his recommendations can certainly be adopted by those of us ever so slightly more sedentary.
With Christmas now peeping around the corner you’re on the home stretch. Wrap the final present, stuff the fridge with food and breathe. ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring…..
Author – Donna Duggan, Senior Marketing Consultant