BlogSweet dreams, Sound health: Unraveling the secrets to better sleep

Sweet dreams, Sound health: Unraveling the secrets to better sleep

7 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Earlier this month, Self Care Week was celebrated all over the UK - but we think its importance rings true all year round. That’s why we’ve launched our latest blog series: Wellness Wednesday; to take a look at alternative, natural and holistic approaches to improving our wellbeing.

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Earlier this month, Self Care Week was celebrated all over the UK - but we think its importance rings true all year round. That’s why we’ve launched our latest blog series: Wellness Wednesday; to take a look at alternative, natural and holistic approaches to improving our wellbeing. 

This week’s focus is natural and holistic approaches to sleep management.

With an estimated 1 in 5 people struggling to get their recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, it’s clear this issue needs to be put to bed. And if you’ve ever found yourself in the vicious cycle of being too stressed to sleep, which inevitably causes you to feel more stressed the next day, - you’ll know it's a living nightmare. 

In this blog we will explore how our emotional wellbeing and our sleep are intertwined, highlighting some of the most popular holistic or natural methods, that take a more compassionate and nurturing approach to improving sleep. 

Understanding Sleep Challenges

Because our emotional wellbeing often aligns with the amount, or quality, of sleep we get, there are a plethora of things that not only affect our mental health and emotions, but our ability to catch those much desired z’s. 

Stressful life events, such as an upcoming exam, or an important work presentation, can cause us to feel distracted or worried, which can make it difficult to unwind and relax before bed. 

Other life events, such as experiencing a death or a trauma, can take a large toll on our emotional wellbeing and impact our sleep in a number of other ways, causing dreams or nightmares, low quality sleep, or even cause us to always feel tired, even if we’ve had enough sleep. 

Our sleep is also at the mercy of our thinking cycles, our general health, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors. Suffering from anxiety, pain, or having poor sleeping habits, like a lack of routine, consuming caffeine or food late at night can all affect our sleep, as can our comfort level, blue light exposure, and the presence of nighttime noise. 

This can all have a knock on effect on our general wellbeing. And a lack of quality sleep can cause mood swings, increased stress levels, poor performance or sense of motivation, and decrease our overall quality of life. So, it is important to tackle these issues. 

Embracing Holistic Solutions

When it comes to achieving better sleep, nurturing our emotional wellbeing plays a pivotal role. Simply counting sheep or following a bedtime routine is not enough, we need to acknowledge how intimate the connection between our emotions and our sleep quality actually is.

One popular approach is mindfulness. The practice of being present and aware of our feelings and thoughts without judging them has proven to be a powerful tool in improving both emotional wellbeing, and sleep. Embracing mindfulness techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises invite a sense of calm, and make it easier to unwind before bed. 

There are also a number of relaxation techniques that can be a game changer for those struggling with slumber. Practising guided imagery techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, or listening to self-help audiobooks, may help to create a buffer in-between the chaos of everyday life, and the peace and tranquillity that sleep can offer.

The beauty of these holistic approaches lies not only in their direct impact on sleep, but also in their wider influence on our emotional well-being. When we practise or engage in these techniques, we’re nurturing a mindset that extends beyond bedtime.

Integrating these techniques into your daily routine can help to refocus the mind throughout the day, fostering a sense of calm and inner peace - which should carry over into a restful night and better sleep.

Exploring Mind-Body Practices

Now that the connection between our emotions and our sleep has been explored, it is important to mention the relationship between our mind and our bodies, which also ultimately affects our sleep. 

One way of uniting emotional balance with physical relaxation is by taking part in exercise practices like yoga or tai chi. These mind-body practices aren’t just about stretching or exercising; they harmonise our mental and physical states, to sooth our minds and relax our bodies.

Yoga involves movement, mindfulness, and breath work, and so It is much more than just bending and twisting. Many have found that yoga helps them to listen to their bodies and alleviates stresses, which improves their sleep quality and their ability to fall, and stay, asleep. 

Tai Chi is another popular choice, because its physical activity eases tension from both the body and mind. Strength, flexibility, and mindfulness are all incorporated in tai chi, and its blend of meditation, gentle but deliberate movements, and deep breathing can greatly benefit a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

The Role Of Natural Sleeping Aids

There are also a number of herbal remedies and supplements that have been used for millennia around the world as natural sleep aids. All plants are made up of countless chemical compounds, and some of these compound types (like terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids) have associated health benefits that give them appealing qualities. 

Chamomile, for example, is an extremely popular sleep aid because of the flavonoids it contains. These compounds bind to benzodiazepine receptors in our brain and act as a sedative to induce sleep. 

Lavender is another popular choice, and can be found in aromatherapy oils, room sprays, body oils, and teas sold all around the world to promote a natural approach to getting better sleep. Back in 2005, researchers at the University of Southampton conducted a double-blind sleep experiment to test if the presence of lavender can improve sleep quality, and their results were largely positive, but the study size itself was very small. 

In recent years, CBD has also shown great popularity in this area.  Available over the counter in capsule, tincture, tea, and bath or body products, CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis. Research has shown that CBD is effective in reducing anxiety and can instil a sense of calm - which can help when trying to relax or unwind after a long, stressful day. 

In certain cases, prescribed medicinal cannabis treatments, or cannabis-based products that also contain THC, may be a suitable option for those struggling to sleep on a daily basis. 

Although medical cannabis is not conventionally prescribed in the UK to treat sleep disorders or sleep issues until other pharmaceutical options have been explored, evidence in this area is promising. Amongst other conditions, patients with insomnia and other sleep disorders have reported that medical cannabis improved their overall sleep quality, and in some cases allowed them to discontinue the use of prescribed pharmaceutical sedatives or sleeping medications. 

Conclusion

To conclude, understanding the multitude of factors that affect our sleep highlights the importance of addressing these challenges. Although these holistic approaches won’t solve all your problems, they may help to improve your sleep in a calm and compassionate manner. 

Amidst all of these solutions, self-care remains paramount. Implementing winding-down rituals, like relaxing in a warm bubble bath, or creating a calming bedtime routine, signals to our bodies that it is time to rest, and that we are taking care of it. 

Self-care is not indulgent or selfish, it’s a vital investment in your emotional wellbeing. By nurturing ourselves, and implementing holistic or natural approaches like these, you may be a few steps closer to sleeping like a baby.

Stay tuned for more insights and guidance in our ongoing Wellness Wednesday Series! 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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