Sleep is one of the things you ask us to help with most and the reason we created our relaxing Tranquillity blend, so we asked Anandi, aka The Sleep Guru to let us know what else we should be doing to get the best night’s sleep tonight.
What do you find with your clients is the most common mistake we can make when it comes to sleep?
People think that sleep issues are a matter of an overnight cure and give up before they have even started a holistic approach. If they could dedicate at least 30 days and stick to it, there will certainly be some improvement. However, any 'one' thing will not work without the support of some lifestyle changes and dietary changes.
You’re a great proponent of Yoga Nidra, or Yoga Sleep – what is this and how can it help?
Yoga sleep is a stupendous relaxation technique that takes you into a similar state as hypnosis (a state called the hypnogogic state). It is an amazing physical and mental rejuvenation process and I recommend it for anyone suffering from exhaustion. You can do it to wind down before bed, or during the night if you are tossing and turning. You can also use it as a recovery tool if you have had a bad night.
We know about cutting down on coffee before bed but how else can diet have an effect on sleep and what should we be eating to make the most of it?
Eating huge meals late in the evening will affect sleep as will refined sugar as it will play about with your sugar levels. A clean healthy diet rich in foods that contain Tryptophan (an essential amino acid that makes serotonin and melatonin) like yoghurt, milk, chickpeas, wholegrains, hazelnuts, almonds, bananas and kelp will help with sleep issues.
Why do you think it’s important to take such a holistic approach, looking at all aspects of life, when it comes to getting the best night’s sleep?
I always say sleep is a matter of balance, as is good health. Our physical, mental and spiritual being works in synchronicity and as a whole, not in parts, therefore one cannot just take a pill that will treat a symptom, it has to be a holistic approach to make long term change and maintain health.
Of course, we at Neom know the positive effect essential oils can have on sleep – do you use them with your clients?
I love to use essential oils like lavender, sandalwood and jasmine. I think ambience is everything when it comes to creating the right space for relaxation and sleep.
There seem to be countless studies being conducted at the moment around melatonin levels and sleep – can you explain a bit about how melatonin works and the practical, natural ways we can use this information to get better sleep?
Serotonin regulates sleep, calms you down and is light sensitive, and melatonin controls your sleep cycle, and they are totally interrelated. As the evening draws in the darkness, the body’s serotonin levels rise and melatonin is released to start the natural sleep cycle. It is very important to get out in the natural light in the morning and dim the lights in the evening. Harsh strip lights or staring at your computer screen will inhibit the natural sleep process.
New research suggests that pretending to be tired by yawning and so on can actually bring on tiredness. What are your thoughts on such visualisation?
Our thoughts and intentions create our reality, this goes back to ancient eastern philosophy to modern quantum physics. What we focus on we get more of so if we focus more on positive nourishing thoughts our health will improve, if we focus on being tired we will get that and if we focus on negativity, we will get that! I think there are probably better things to focus on at bedtime than tiredness like focusing on deep breathing - tiredness will come authentically!
We’re fascinated by the study of sleep and all the interesting findings – what studies are being conducted now that we should be aware of?
Sleep is such a current issue, there are so many studies being done and have been done in the past. One that I have found very interesting is the fact that there is a special gene that enables people to get by on only 6 hours sleep, but this is only 3% of the population*... the rest of us need at least 7 hours sleep to enable us to function fully. My advice, make sure you get at least 7 hours sleep! Don't skimp, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury!
What is your personal process for getting your best night’s sleep?
The most important thing to me personally is to maintain my practice. I have a 1.5-2 hour practice in the morning made up of breath work, yoga posture, meditation, visualisation and mantra. In the evening I absolutely have to unwind for 2 hours before bed and then I use deep breathing to relax before going to sleep. I also eat lightly in the evening and never drink coffee!
* Research by University of California-San Francisco, 2014