Brits are the worst sleepers in the world, a new survey has found. Anna Magee – one of the sleepless – is testing out 21 days of sleep remedies as part of National Bed Month
If I had a penny for every press release that lands in my inbox claiming to contain the sleep remedy to end all sleep remedies, I would be a very rich woman. From pillow sprays, to light boxes, creams, oils, candles and things you sniff and slough, it’s safe to say sleep is the new black. According to a study published in the journal Sleep lack of sleep was linked to psychological distress and insomnia has been linked to both anxiety and depression.
Until about six months ago I slept like the proverbial wooden log. Then, Healthista got its first round of funding and went from being a hobby to a business. Now it keeps me awake at night – regularly, not-negotiably, irrevocably awake
But I am not sure what comes first. You see, until about six months ago I slept like the proverbial wooden log. I would be out within seconds of hitting my pillow and up with the larks at 5am, no interruption other than the technicolor of my REM dreams. Then, things changed. My life was turned somewhat upside down when Healthista got its first round of seed funding. Until then, it was a a bit of a hobby – albeit a successful one with around 10,000 daily viewers – that I did while working as a journalist at The Daily Telegraph. Now, I’m not only Healthista’s full-time editor, I’m also its CEO and it keeps me awake at night. Regularly, not-negotiably, irrevocably awake.
Every night is the same now. I fall asleep easily around 10.30am and then wake at around 2.30am fretting and worrying about work, or about not sleeping and how tired I will be the next day.
Now, as much for my own benefit as for your’s, I am doing a 21 day sleep blog and trying out various sleep fixes that have passed my desk and intrigued me in the last 12 months.
For the first seven days, I’ll be testing the magnesium sleep fix. This mineral is often called nature’s tranquilliser because of its calming properties and and because it can help the body relax and unwind at the end of the day. You can eat it – which I’ll be doing – in foods such as kale, spinach, broccoli, nuts and seeds and pulses.
But you can also bathe in magnesium, use a foot soak, enriched body oil and/or moisturiser, allowing it to be absorbed transdermally through the skin. Sleep expert James Wilson, who is helping me on my journey has recommended Better You’s Trandermal Magnesium range. That includes Magnesium Flakes £9.95, Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray £12.20 and Magnesium Body Butter £9.95 (all pictured above). I’ll be trying these out every night for the next week and reporting back. Wildon’s free e-book End Restless Nights is available to download from the BetterYou website. the following week I’ll try more sleep fixes, and the next week after that still more until I am back in the (uninterrupted) land of nod.
This mineral is often called nature’s tranquilliser because of its calming properties
Sorting out my sleep routine
But first things first. My sleep routine. Most of us are familiar with what we have to do to get a better night’s sleep but do we do it? I don’t. So, Wilson has provided a sleep routine makeover for me, recommending the following:
Focus on quality over quantity
‘Six and a half hours good quality sleep, with your body going through its sleep cycles is far better than eight hours of poor quality broken sleep,’ says Wilson. Thank God for that. I wake up at 5am some mornings to go to the gym and I am lucky on those days to get six hours sleep. For me, the benefit of exercise on my mood and exhaustion levels is better than tossing and turning until 7am – especially if I am often awake anyway! – I might as well go workout and be productive.
Wind down before bed
I know if I meditate and do a little wind-down yoga before bed I sleep so much better. But in that precious hour I have after dinner, it’s the last thing I want to do, with so much reality TV and crime drama to watch. ‘Make sure you turn off all your devices that emit blue light,’ says Wilson. these include your phone and tablet.
But what about my late night emails and tweets? The blue light from these devices tells your brain that it is still daytime and inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy, explains Wilson. This also includes not exercising in the two hours before bed. So any evening workouts need to be finished by 8pm.
Go to bed when you’re tired
Well, hooray for this. I get home at about 8pm every night then once dinner is cooked and I have watched some telly, talked to the husband etc. it’s often 10pm and I am exhausted. At least now, I don’t have to feel guilty for going to bed at the same time as a pensioner.
The power of magnesium
This week’s focus will be about using magnesium to help enhance my sleep quality. ‘A great way to help your body start its melatonin production is to take a bath or shower,’ suggests Wilson. ‘Melatonin is a hormone made naturally by our bodies which helps create the urge to fall asleep. It’s key in regulating your body clock.’
Research from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge has shown that there is a relationship between our cells magnesium levels and the body’s ability to follow its sleep cycle efficiently. ‘Basically, having the right levels of magnesium in the body means we find it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the right time.
I’ll be using magnesium transdermally – on the skin instead of taken internally.
‘Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible,’ explains Wilson. ‘GABA receptors help the brain switch off and without it, our minds would continue to race. It’s also essential for allowing your muscles to relax, particularly after stress or exercise.’
I’ll be using magnesium transdermally – on the skin – instead of taken internally as supplementing. Taking magnesium transdermally offers better absorption to tablets and capsules, says Wilson. Applied directly to the skin; magnesium will be absorbed directly into the skin tissue, entering cells immediately replacing magnesium lost through the stresses of modern life.
A clinical trial by Cardiff University found that applying BetterYou Magnesium Oil spray to the skin provides a faster way of absorbing the mineral than tablets. I’m intrigued, so I will be using the Better You range and reporting back.
Wake up at the same time every morning with natural light
This is James’ final tip and he suggests that even at weekends we should be waking up at the same time each day. That means 5am starts for me for the next 21 days including Saturdays and Sundays. I’m probably most apprehensive about this because I often use Saturdays and Sundays as catch up days but can’t deny that probably the one thing that most sleep experts agree on is this thing about going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (the natural light thing might have to wait as its March as I would end up at work for 11!). But will I be an exhausted mess or will all my sleep dreams come true?
Tomorrow: Week One focus – Is magnesium the key to better sleep?