Over the past 10 years my work as a holistic therapist has highlighted a very common problem that seems to affect, certainly the majority of people I see at the Garden Room, and most likely a large section of the UK’s population.
Insomnia- the problem with sleep and a lack of it seems to be a constant theme. At a guess I would say 90% of the aromatherapy blends I make for clients include an oil to support good sleep and address the problem of insomnia.
I recently caught part of a Radio 4 programme dedicated to just this topic and featured Matthew Walker a neuroscientist and director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science. The point at which I switched over to this programme immediately peaked interest, a discussion about the long-term health effects of sleep deprivation, and at that point in the discussion, specifically for those who worked night shifts. Although it makes sense to most that working at night can be unhealthy (you don’t have to be very in tune with your body to know that sleeping during daylight hours and working through the darkness makes you feel bad), it was news to me that there appears to be an intrinsic link relating to incidents of cancer and sleep deprivation. A link so strong, that the world health organisation has classified any type of night shift work as a probable carcinogen. Right, ok, so this is serious…
Having previously had a sleep deprived night, I portentously fell asleep whilst listening to the programme zzz… Fortunately I wasn’t driving on this longish car journey home, but I was utilizing my ability to fall asleep at any time of day in the car (perhaps a nod to my diminishing average hours of sleep a night). So between the customary sudden panics about crashing cars (a constant companion of mine whilst dozing as a passenger on a long car journey) that frightening statement kept throwing me into sudden consciousness.
So a few weeks has passed since and I have looked to Matthew Walker for some more wisdom, though for some, wisdom dressed as reasons to lay awake at night…
Walker states that the quality and quantity of sleep has a direct correlation with the risk factors for many other illnesses including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, and unsurprisingly mental health. Walker talks in terms of epidemic and catastrophy when discussing this modern and cultural problem of sleep deprivation, weighted by alarming facts such as a 24% increase in heart attacks when the clocks go forward and we lose an hours sleep, and respectively a decrease of 21% in the autumn when we claim that hour back.
So clearly the problem of sleep is a worrying one, and one that we already are well versed in tackling, we all know that chamomile tea rather than coffee is helpful, meditation and yogic breathing are essential for some, a multitude of us use lavender in its many forms to aid a good nights sleep. Lavender along side many other essential oils with sedative properties is in frequent use in the Garden Room. Beautifully aromatic ylang ylang, neroli, and sandalwood to name but a few are seemingly impervious to insomnia, but of course all of these remedies are treating a symptom.
It’s a long hard and uncomfortable look at our lives to discern the cause of a society wide problem such as sleep deprivation. The reasons are numerous, too much stress and anxiety, stimulants like alcohol, sugar, coffee and cocaine, irregular working patterns designed to meet the need of the ever hungry consumer who wants a meal brought to them at 2am or a next day delivery from amazon, and so the list goes on. Modern life seems to be compelling us to self destruct, but can we remedy this, how on earth can we reverse this sort of progression? Well one thing’s for sure as with all problems of magnitude the most important thing is that you do tackle it, tackle it in some way, maybe we all have to start small.
Think about what it is that is important to you, maybe it’s time to weigh it up, have you got the right balance in your life? Could you reduce your stress load? What’s stealing your sleep and what would it take for you to steal it back…?