It’s day seven, of week one in Anna Magee’s 21 days to better sleep blog in which she is trying magnesium therapy. As the first week ends, she is totally signed up to the relaxing, nourishing power of magnesium for sleep – scroll down to Day 7 to find out why
Every night is the same now. I fall asleep easily around 10.30pm 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 yours (I need to sleep, people), I am doing a 21 day blog in which I’ll be 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 and updating my progress daily in this post. 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, MagnesiumOil Goodnight Spray £12.20 and Magnesium Body Butter or Lotion both £9.95 (all pictured above). Intrigued (and kind of desperate for sleep) I’ll be trying these out every night for the next week and reporting back. Wilson’s free e-book End Restless Nights is available to download from the BetterYou website. Next 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 week’s focus therefore will be about using magnesium to help enhance my sleep quality.
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.
‘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 it internally as supplements. 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, he explains.
I’m intrigued. So watch this space each night to see how it goes.
Day One: dipping my toe in the (magnesium) water
I know that taking magnesium as a supplement can help relax muscles before bed (among a huge catalogue of other benefits including preventing muscle spasms and stiffness and even helping with PMS symptoms), so I have been taking that now for the last couple of years and am convinced it has a relaxing effect. However, a trial by Cardiff University showed that applying BetterYou Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray £12.20 to the skin provided a faster way of absorbing the mineral than tablets. if there’s any excuse to slough and soak and oil my body in the name of research, I awn taking it.
Step One: The foot soak
First, I had a warm shower. According to my new sleep guru, James Wilson, this is an efficient way to start producing melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. ‘To produce melatonin, we need a drop in heart rate and a drop in core temperature,’ Wilson explains. ‘Having a bath or shower can trick our body as we get really warm then really cold quickly so it triggers melatonin production.’
Then I poured about a cup (150 grams) of BetterYou Magnesium Flakes £9.95 (left) into warm water in a wide bucket and it dissolved instantly, leaving the water clear. All the BetterYou products are made from magnesium chloride because of its impressive rate of absorption. Your feet are among the most absorbent areas of your body and perfect for magnesium replenishment. Using a foot soak is ideal when you don’t have time to have a bath – like luxury of a spa treatment to your own home
The minute my feel hit the water, I began to wind down, the warmth on my feet sending a welcome rush of heat through my body. The mere act of soaking my feet – simple, straightforward – made me feel comforted, especially after initially thinking beforehand: ‘God, it’s 9pm, I don’t have time for this!’
I almost instantly relaxed, the sedative effect was so surprisingly fast. Who knows, it might have been the placebo effect. But it was definitely an effect. After 20 minutes I had to drag my feet out of the bucket, dried them and went to bed.
Step Two: The body rub
I drifted off beautifully and slept deeply. But then, the usual thing happened and I woke up in a cold sweat (to find out why, tune in tomorrow). This is the point where James suggested I use BetterYou MagnesiumOIl Goodnight Spray £12.20 spray on my arms, shoulders and abdomen. The spray tingled at first and then felt soothing, as I rubbed my belly in circular motions, a bit like my mum used to do when I was little and woke up with nightmares.
Again, the sedative effect seemed to kick in surprisingly fast, though I never really fell back into the deep sleep I was hoping for. Indeed, I got tired of tossing and turning and ended up getting up at 4am and pottering around the house until it was time to get ready for the gym at 5am. Am I crazy? Don’t answer that. Needless to say, I was feeling a little like the woman in the stock photo below, which is pretty much how I often feel because I literally, never sleep!
Having said that, I do need to say that I didn’t take all of James’ advice. I didn’t eat a magnesium rich dinner or unwind at all before bed, checking and sending emails until about five minutes before my bedtime shower. I promise to do better tonight.
Measuring my sleep
Instead of second guessing the amount and quality of my sleep, I am going to be wearing my new favourite thing, Withings Activité Steel – Activity and Sleep Tracking Watch £119.95 (left) which can tell me how much deep or light sleep I get in a given night. We might as well be as accurate as we can!
I continue on my magnesium testing odyssey PLUS James Wilson explains the importance of body temperature and sleep.
Your chance to win
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Day 2: OMG, I got back to sleep!
It’s day two and to be honest, I didn’t expect much change so early in. But I am pleased to report that – drum roll (and insomniacs reading this will know it deservse a drum roll) that despite waking up as usual in a cold sweat (more about that later) at 4am, I actually managed to fall asleep. Here’s what happened.
I tried the Better You Magnesium Body Butter £9.95 before bed. If you’re following this blog you will know that it’s one of four products in the BetterYou Transdermal Magnesium range that I am trying this week to improve my sleep. After my evening bath or shower (see above for why this is essential to promote melatonin production) I rubbed in the magnesium cream. It’s heavy and thick, just how I love my creams. It takes a while to rub in, which means you end up having to give your muscles a massage to get the product absorbed. Now, I am not joking, but after I did this I lay on the sofa to watch Bonus: StartUp – Season 1: Trailer, an Amazon series (it’s sooooo good) I am currently obsessed with and about ten minutes in, I was like a zombie, dozing off, my muscles screaming to melt into the comfort of my sofa. Just getting up to go to bed felt like wading through treacle. My Withings monitor said was asleep within two minutes of hitting the pillow.
But then, typically, I woke up in a cold sweat, anxious and irriated. It was 2am. Temperature is a big deal for me when it comes to sleep. I need to feel warm to relax my muscles to get to sleep but then wake up sweating in the small hours. Ugh! However, instead of laying there fretting, I rubbed some BetterYou Goodnight Magnesium Oil £12.20 on my belly, as directed by James. It took a while, but the next noise I hear was my snooze button going off at 5am. Hearing it, I was actually sleepy, for once, rather than lying there waiting for it to go off. That means I slept! I slept! Yes, slept!
Hearing it, I was actually sleepy, for once, rather than lying there waiting for it to go off. That means I slept! I slept!
How does the magnesium help? ‘Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible ,’ says James. ‘GABA receptors help the brain switch off and without it, our minds would continue to race.’ But why does the cream and oil have such a sedating effect? ‘The rubbing in of the oil, lotion or body butter helps build a cue for your body that when you do this, the next thing that comes is sleep,’ he explains. It is important to the production of the sleep hormone melatonin at the right time so any reinforcement for this is positive. James also explains that using the oil or butter pre-sleep works as an ‘anchor’ (mental cue) to my pre-sleep routine and during the night to relax me.
one thing is certain, I’m slowly signing up to this magnesium stuff.
Now, so sleepy was I in the morning that I kept hitting the snooze button, hungry for more slumber, and slept in until 6.30am. This is a fail I know, as my sleep guru James Wilson says I really, really need to get up at the same time every day. But I find that SO hard to do! Promise to keep trying. But one thing is certain, I’m slowly signing up to this magnesium stuff.
Day 4: I can’t wind down!
If you’re wondering where day three is, I’ve missed it because here’s the thing. Sleep routines take time and my husband Kevin was going away so by the time we went out to dinner and then spent some time together, the night had disappeared as had my sleep routine. Lo and behold, I was awake again at 4am.
Last night was a weird one. Nothing strange had happened during the day, and yet after my compulsory warm shower and even slathering myself in BetterYou Magnesium Body Butter £9.95, I just could not wind down. Mind you, I didn’t do my foot soak and – confession time – I literally couldn’t stop using my phone because this beast of a website had crashed and Van, our developer was texting me at 9.30pm with updates that I could hardly ignore. I guess that explains it.
So, note to self: SWITCH OFF DEVICES TWO HOURS BEFORE BED. This is the hardest thing for me, along with waking up the same time every day, in my sleep makeover. But starting tomorrow I promise to do it. Promise. Really.
I was left with this racing mind problem at 10.30pm last night, not even any bad boring telly to send me off to bed (I have so gone off terrestrial TV – how many Grand Designs and Come Dine With Me re-runs can one watch?).
Could yoga help?
I’ve done a lot of yoga in my life and have heard yogi mates – the calm, serene ones – going on about the power of Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep. Apparently, it is more powerful than actual sleep in relaxing the body and providing the benefits of deep rest to the nervous system. I haven’t done much of it as I find it so hard to do guided relaxation. So I tried one from Apple Music by meditation teacher Soraya Saraswati from iTunes. There’s a lot of breath focus and then feeling and relaxing all the different parts of the body – for 20 minutes. Though I felt as though I wasn’t really relaxing, with my mind continuing to race, I caught myself falling asleep – twice – before the sound of Swami’s voice woke me up again. It was a quick way to get my hyperactivity levels down before bed, and effective, given that I honestly thought nothing could wind me down. And yet, even after drifting off post Yoga Nidra, I was up again at 4am, lying there waiting for the alarm to go off. Is this just my rhythm? Maybe I should just get up and do some ironing?
I was up again at 4am, lying there waiting for the alarm to go off. Is this just my rhythm? Maybe I should just get up and do some ironing?
I have asked James Wilson, my sleep guru this week for more tips, perhaps helping me with my diet and other lifestyle tips to help me stay asleep? At the weekend I’m going to do everything in his sleep routine instructions and will report back on what happens. Watch this space.
Day 5: I slept ALL through the night. Life is good again.
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I slept ALL the way through last night. According to my Withings tracker, for 10 hours and 19 minutes with seven of those in deep sleep. I honestly feel so good today I could run a marathon. In the Sahara. With no food. Okay maybe not. But blimey I feel fantastic. Clear-headed. Without the sniffles and headaches and watery eyes I usually get most days. Rested.
Did retail therapy help?
Here’s what happened. It was a kind of a crappy day at work actually. The end of a week where I seemed to not even have touched the sides of the things that needed to be done. I had to go to a meeting in town that I had spent time prepping and the person didn’t even turn up. I know, right? So, depressed, I did what any self-respecting woman would do and went shopping.
I drive to the gym in the mornings and park my car at the car park in the Westfield mall in Stratford City (that’s London, UK, for the internationals reading) where my gym is. That means I have to go back to Westfield every night to pick up my car. A dangerous side effect is that Westfield is not only the home of my gym but also of my favourite high street fashion store Zara, the biggest Victoria’s Secret boutique you have ever seen, and a humungous TKMaxx heaving with ridiculous bargains screaming ‘Buy ME!’. And. And. And. So, I got my eyebrows threaded at Blink in John Lewis (Shushma, is a legend, the best), bought some Kurt Geiger shoes and a glorious Ted Baker dress. I’ll stop explaining now, in case the husband reads this.
Then, exhausted I drove home and dumped it all in the hallway, had a quick dinner and thought, ‘oh dear, it’s 9pm I should be sleepy but I am fully awake and pretty much want to go back out again’. It was clearly time to wind down. This time I followed the instructions from my sleep guru, James Wilson aka The Sleep Geek and not only had my hot shower to get my melatonin production kicking in, I also used the the entire BetterYou Transdermal Magnesim range. See above for details. But to summarise, I filled a bucket with warm water and added 150 grams of BetterYou Magnesium Flakes. I soaked my feet and again, the minute they were immersed in the water I felt calmer.
I am honestly so hooked on this magnesium therapy
While soaking, I used the BetterYou Goodnight Magnesium Oil Spray all over my body, really massaging it into my belly. That ritual alone is just so delicious and has an instantly relaxing effect on me now. I do have to warn you, it can sting in parts of the body (for me the elbows) and also feel somehow a little grittier than other oils, thanks to the magnesium salts in it. I then rubbed the BetterYou Magnesium Body Lotion on my body, where before I was using the body butter before which is thicker – it takes less time to rub in than the butter.
As with Day two, the mere act of rubbing the oil and lotion into my body whilst also soaking my feet for 20 minutes represented a compulsory ‘stop and relax’ moment in the evening that I would never otherwise give myself. When I finished, again, I was so chilled I was almost comatose on the sofa, barely able to lift my feet out of the soak dry them, so intensely does this powerful combination relax my muscles and mind.
I am honestly so hooked on this magnesium therapy and happy to have found something I can do that not only feels nice, but is also guaranteed to relax me (well, yes, there IS always that, but the husband is away and you can’t do that every night, can you?). Watch this space.
Day 6: Identifying your sleep type
It all went so well on Friday night and then the weekend fell apart in the sleep stakes. I had a busy day seeing friends and then cleaning out the house on Saturday evening but my sleep was appalling. Tossing and turning and thinking, thinking, thinking. I woke up tired and grumpy. The same thing happened last night, only worse, so anxious was I about work the next day. I’m not alone. Research by Monster found that 62 per cent of people admit to having Sunday night blues. Experts suggest it’s a combination of stress from work but also sleeping in and staying up late on the weekend. I’m guilty of that and STILL haven’t managed to follow my sleep guru James Wilson’s advice to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Given this last weekend’s sleep failures, I’ll try that this next weekend.
According to James, identifying my sleep type might help me not worry so much about getting the traditional eight straight hours sleep. I recently wrote a piece a piece about the sleep perfectionism many of us suffer with; the need to have the perfect night’s sleep. It leads to sleep anxiety, that is ironically making our sleep worse!
James suggested I do this questionnaire identifying my sleep type. It’s from The Institute of Medical Psychology’s Centre for Chronobiology and identifies your ‘chronotype; that’s whether you’re a lark or an owl or something in between. Turns out I am a ‘moderate early type’, waking up early but sometimes getting too little sleep on weekdays because of social dictates.
I am a ‘moderate early type’, waking up early but sometimes getting too little sleep on weekdays because of social dictates.
Wilson says the questionnaire could help me understand my sleep better and explain my 4am wake up times. ‘It isn’t abnormal for someone to wake up at four in the morning,’ he says hearteningly. ‘It is when our body is at its coolest, often when our bladders want to empty and psychologically we worry that we only have a few hours until our proper wake up time’.
It isn’t abnormal for someone to wake up at four in the morning
Wilson himself has had insomnia like this. ‘What I do is if I haven’t got back to sleep is I get up and try and use the sleep deprivation to get better quality sleep the next night and I try not to worry about it!’ This isn’t the most appealing idea but I have heard it re-iterated by sleep experts time and again – don’t worry so much about lack of sleep and the sleep deprivation will force your body to have a decent night’s sleep when it needs it.
See you tomorrow in the wee hours then.
Day 7 – why I’ve signed up to magnesium therapy
Here’s what’s happening. Since I started the magnesium therapy, I can’t say I am getting more sleep per se. However, the sleep I AM getting is deeper and more restful. That my friends makes this agnostic believe there is a God.
I can’t say I am getting more sleep per se, but the sleep I AM getting is deeper and more restful
Last night I got home typically at 8.30pm and once dinner had been cooked and eaten was feeling my usual hyper-self. But this time, I didn’t really mind because I knew I had my secret weapon in magnesium therapy, knowing it would have an almost guaranteed relaxing effect on me, no matter how wired I felt at the time.
My sleep guru James Wilson was right about the fact that this night ritual: a food bath in Better You Magnesium Flakes (I’m now using Better You’s inflatable foot bath £9.95 – above, which feels fabulously squishy and cushiony – rather than a bucket) followed by Better You Goodnight Magnesium Oil Spray £12.20 and then Body Lotion £9.95 rubbed into my abdomen and limbs. That trilogy works as a cue, signaling my brain that it’s time to relax.
How? ‘Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible ,’ says James. ‘GABA receptors help the brain switch off and without it, our minds would continue to race.’ But why does the cream and oil have such a sedating effect? ‘The rubbing in of the oil, lotion or body butter helps build a cue for your body that when you do this, the next thing that comes is sleep,’ he explains. It is important to the production of the sleep hormone melatonin at the right time so any reinforcement for this is positive. James also explains that using the oil or butter pre-sleep works as an ‘anchor’ (mental cue) to my pre-sleep routine and during the night to relax me. That’s exactly what happened to me.
Last night, my Withings Sleep Monitor said I slept for six hours and 51 minutes. Where typically about four hours of that would be deep sleep for me, last night I was in deep sleep for five hours and 21 minutes, much more than usual. I woke up at 5am this morning feeling refreshed; proof that indeed, I may not be sleeping more, but I am definitely sleeping better.
Having found something that relaxes me (and makes my skin softer) almost without fail before bed and improves what feels like the quality, if not quantity of my sleep, I’m not going to stop now.
Will I continue with the magnesium therapy? Will I ever. Having found something that relaxes me (and makes my skin softer) almost without fail before bed and improves what feels like the quality, if not quantity of my sleep, I’m not going to stop now.
Stay tuned for the next two weeks to see what other sleep remedies I discover – coming up: bamboo sheets, hypnosis for sleep, wool bedding and light therapy.
For a chance to WIN the full range of Better You Magnesium Products click here.