Keep It Dark To Sleep Better

January 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Health

Many things can affect our quality of sleep, and the links between poor sleep and health are well established. A new study shows that just turning out the light when you go sleep is not enough and can increase your risk of both high blood pressure and diabetes.

This comes from a recent study in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) which reveals that exposure to electrical light between dusk and bedtime strongly suppresses melatonin levels. Why is this important? Because your body relies on processes regulated by melatonin signaling, such as sleepiness, body temperature, blood pressure and glucose homeostasis.

Our bodies produce this hormone at night via the pineal gland in the brain and because today we are now routinely exposed to electrical lighting at night the study wanted to establish whether exposure to room light in the late evening may inhibit melatonin production.

The study was carried out by Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass and involved 116 healthy volunteers aged 18-30 years who were exposed to room light or dim light in the eight hours preceding bedtime for five consecutive days. What they found was that exposure to indoor light has a strong suppressive effect on melatonin production;
exposure to room light before bedtime shortened melatonin duration by about 90 minutes when compared to dim light exposure and exposure to room light during the usual hours of sleep suppressed melatonin by more than 50 percent.

Suppression of melatonin through light exposure has been hypothesized to increase relative risk for some types of cancer and melatonin receptor genes have been linked to type 2 diabetes. This is obviously an important factor for shift workers who are exposed to indoor light at night over the course of many years, but also for anyone who happily sits up in bed reading for an hour so before going to sleep.

Daylight and darkness are both good for our health, but the availability of constant artificial light may need to be monitored. If you can’t reduce the amount of artificial light you are exposed to you could at least in the few hours before bedtime make sure your lights are dimmer – not full and bright as that apparently really will make a difference – and certainly keep light in the bedroom as low as possible.

The fragrant way to a good night’s sleep

July 20, 2010 by  
Filed under featured, Health

I am not a fan of sleeping pills, except in extreme need and for short term use as their side effects can outweigh the benefits.

There are many natural ways to help sleep from herbal concoctions to specially designed light systems, but now there is an entirely fragrant way that apparently can soothe, relieve anxiety and promote sleep with the same mechanism of action and strength as the commonly prescribed barbiturates.

Just what is this miracle worker? It is the aroma of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides and has been researched by Düsseldorf  University where they have discovered that the two fragrances Vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513) have the same molecular structure as barbiturates.

Who said you can’t make money out of nature? Well it appears that these researchers will as they have been granted a patent for their discovery, as they reported in the current online issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Sedatives, sleeping pills and relaxants are the most frequently prescribed psychotropic drugs and strange as it may seem the difference between calming and hypnotic effect depends solely on the dosage, not on the drug itself. Benzodiazepines, which are now among the world’s most widely prescribed drugs, are given to help relax the body so that it can drift naturally of sleep. Unfortunately, they are not only potentially addictive, but can also cause serious side effects including depression, dizziness, hypotension, muscle weakness and impaired coordination.

The researchers carried out a large screening study in which they tested hundreds of fragrances but it was just the two mentioned that proved to be effective. Of course this is something that serious aromatherapy student have known for many years but it is good to see science catching up and acknowledging that fragrances have a definite, measurable effect on the body. We absorb fragrance throughout skin and through the air breathed in, and the scent molecules go from the lungs into the blood and then transmitted from there to the brain.

The researchers concluded that their results can also be seen as evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy, so all you fans of aromatherapy massage have been vindicated — as if you needed it. So rather than the traditional lavender or camomile that you may have been using to ease yourself into sleep you could now try adding the rather more exotic fragrance of jasmine.

Lack of sleep encourages colds

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies


We all know that a good night’s sleep can make many things better, but it can also protect you from catching a cold. The less sleep you get, then the more at risk you are of developing a cold if you have been exposed to the virus according to a study conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. Sleep is vital to help the body repair and renew itself and a poor sleep pattern can lead to a compromised immune system. However it wasn’t before realised that something as ordinary as our reaction to a cold is dependent on us getting a good night’s sleep.

So how much is enough? In the study, people who slept an average of less than seven hours a night were nearly three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than people who slept eight or more hours a night. Restless sleeper? Well unfortunately you are nearly six times as likely to develop cold symptoms than those who put their head down and sleep right through.

The 5 Cs’ that stop you sleeping

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, Lifestyle, Natural Medicine

Everyone experiences occasional bouts of sleep disturbance, though if it is prolonged it can really impact your health. I have come across an excellent natural way to help you sleep, but I thought it might help you know the five main reasons why we can’t sleep. Knowing by itself doesn’t help, but identifying the problem is the first place to start. They are:

1. Change
2. Conflict
3. Criticisms
4. Concerns
5. Crises

Mostly during the day we manage to deal with them, or put them out of our minds, but at night they come back with a vengeance. Unfortunately they are almost automatic, your mind returns to them in order to solve the ‘problem’ so just telling yourself not to think about them doesn’t do the trick.

There are a couple of suggestions that I have tried, that might help you. First do not beat yourself up about not sleeping – it only makes it worse. Next, from that list of 5, what is the main thing that you focus on as being the root cause for you? If you can identify it then spend ten minutes or so before bed in just writing out everything in your head about that particular topic. Don’t make it neat, don’t make it orderly – just dump it all out on the page, thoughts, feelings, anger, pain, sadness. Whatever is in there, get it out. When you have finished, take the paper and put it in the bin. Say to yourself, that’s done with, anything on there can wait until tomorrow. Repeat this every night and you will find the list getting shorter, and you have made a commitment to yourself that it doesn’t matter until tomorrow.

Stage two, is to prepare yourself for bed by pausing for a few minutes and visualizing your day and all the good things in it that you are grateful for. Allow at least two hours after eating before going to bed, and don’t have any coffee or tea during that time either.

Finally, I have just come across a new item from the Bach Flower company called Night Rescue (they make Rescue Remedy) and it is a different combination of flower essences that I have found very effective in stopping the brain racing away. Five drops on your tongue before going to bed is recommended, and it is available from health shops, and Boots the Chemist. Worth a try.