This is a subject I’ve written about before, as it’s one that’s very close to my heart, as I’m sure it is for many parents of young children.. and that’s precious, precious sleep. When my eldest was a baby, I tried all sorts of different things to help him sleep, which I wrote about in my post ‘5 ways to help baby to sleep‘. This time I’m focussing more on how you can help yourself to sleep. One of the most frustrating things I find, is when Alfie is snoozing soundly, I know that I have limited time before he wakes up again, and I can’t seem to drop off myself. I tend to work in the evenings and I give myself little time to wind down and relax, so of course getting into bed and hoping for a restful sleep immediately is quite a big ask.
However, there are wonderful, natural ways that you can help, so I wanted to share what I’ve been trying.
My friends at Indigo Herbs kindly sent me some of their Sleep Deep Tea blend to try. This is so much more than just a chamomile tea. It’s a blend of chamomile flowers, passion flowers, valerian root, lemon peel, lavender flowers, skullcap and St. John’s wort. It’s a loose leaf tea, and as you can see is absolutely beautiful. One of the things I love about this tea compared to say, chamomile teabags, is that all of the flowers and herbs are whole and not crushed up. Making your tea can be a relaxing bedtime ritual in itself. You can either make it up in a pot and use a tea strainer, or use a tea infuser, which you just pop into your mug filled with a couple of teaspoons of the tea, then let your tea brew for 5-15 minutes. If I use an infuser, I find a better result leaving the tea infuser in my mug while I drink.
Chamomile flowers are widely regarded as a sleep inducer, which is thought to be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. (US national library of medicine) Studies also show that passionflower, valerian root, lavender, skullcap and St John’s wort also help with mild anxiety and insomnia. Perfect if, like me, you’re a parent who needs good quality sleep but can’t quite switch your brain off.
Not only that, but this blend of herbs tastes delicious. I am a big fan of both chamomile and lavender teas, so I find this a real treat at bedtime.
I love using aromatherapy in our daily lives, and I’ve been making up a bedtime blend since my eldest son was a baby. I recently invested in an aromatherapy humidifier, which is something I’ve wanted to try for ages, and each night I set it going in my bedroom, which I share with my 6 month old.
There are so many different combinations of essential oils you can try for a relaxing atmosphere. At the moment I’m using a blend of lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang, all from Indigo Herbs. Lavender oil is one of the most used essential oils in the world, and like chamomile is well known for it’s relaxing qualities. Bergamot has a lovely scent – it is the oil that’s used to give Earl Grey tea it’s distinctive flavour. It can help relieve headaches and stress. Ylang Ylang is one of my favourite oils. It’s has a beautiful, sweet, floral fragrance and is known as an antidepressant and a sedative – and also an aphrodisiac!
You can use aromatherapy in other ways too. You could use a traditional oil burner with a tea light candle underneath, but be careful not to leave this unattended in your bedroom. If you don’t have a diffuser you could just pop a few drops of oils in a cup of water placed on a radiator to act as a humidifier.
You can also make up a relaxing blend easily by putting a few drops of essential oils in with a base oil such as sweet almond or jojoba to use for massage, or, for the ultimate luxury, an aromatherapy bath is a lovely way to wind down at bedtime.
I always have some fairy lights on in my room all night – this is so that I don’t have to put the light on to see when my baby wakes up for his night feeds and wake us both up with a bright light. But I recently learned that white and blue based lights don’t do anything to help sleep. They affect the body’s secretion of melatonin as the brain is tricked into believing it is still daylight. It is much better to have a red based light, which doesn’t have this effect. Have a look at The Gentle Sleep expert’s article here for more information. I have a red based light bulb in my toddler’s bedroom, so it’s a red light in there as we are winding down as part of his bedtime routine. However I do sometimes need to squint to read his bedtime stories!
Switch off your brain
This leads me quite nicely on to the one bedtime habit I find hard to quit, which again does nothing to help the quality of my sleep and my ability to drop off. And that’s the blue screen. I’m sure many of us find ourselves scrolling through our phones after we get into bed. One of the things I like to do occasionally is watch an episode of something to help myself switch off. However the blue light, as I said above, actually inhibits your body’s natural ability to sleep.
I’ve read quite a few articles that suggest reading a book instead, but for me personally, this doesn’t work. If I get into a good book I find myself unable to put it down, and I’ve often stayed up in bed reading for hours on end! So for me, I find colouring in works to help me relax at the end of an evening. Adult colouring books are available from so many places – try your local newsagent for example. It’s a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable activity which helps me do that most difficult thing – switch off my brain!
I hope you find some of these tips helpful – and have sweet dreams.
Thank you to Indigo Herbs for sending me their amazing sleep products to try. The products I’ve mentioned are available to buy from their website.