Sleep & Relaxation – Sue Potgieter

Following on from last month’s article, I would like to start by discussing the first core imbalance seen in disease  which  is the subject  of  sleep and  relaxation. Life has radically  changed  over the past 20 years with the introduction of smartphones, tablets and laptops and we are now ‘connected’ for many hours during the day. You may have heard of  the phrase ‘sleep hygiene’ and wondered what it means.

Researchers have identified a variety of practices and habits-known as “sleep hygiene”-that can help anyone maximise the hours they spend sleeping, even those whose sleep is affected by insomnia, jet lag, or shift work. Sleep disruption is common and can range from difficulty getting to sleep and difficulty staying asleep. The importance of getting good quality sleep and it’s effects on the body is only just being fully understood by  scientists,  and we will undoubtedly hear more about it in the next few years. In the meantime what can you do to optimise your sleep, and why is it essential for the body?

We all know that sleep is extremely important to normal function. Without it our body doesn’t get to regenerate and repair, stress gets more stressful and life generally gets harder. The causes of sleep disturbances vary from person to person, and these are amongst the underlying factors that a Nutritional Therapist will consider during an appointment.


In the meantime here are some ideas for a better night’s sleep:

  • Get some daytime exercise in the fresh air. Even a 20 minute walk can help to reduce stress and pro­mote sleep. Avoid exercising after 8pm.
  • Go to bed by 10.30pm each night and get up at the same time each morning (yes, even on weekends!
  • Aim for 7-8 hours. This will help to reset your body clock.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary, remove TVs, computers to reduce ‘electronic smog’ and keep it clean, and free of clutter.
  • Use blackout blinds or heavy curtains to block out the light. The eyes are very sensitive to light and be­gin producing the sleep hormone, melatonin as night falls and stop production as dawn breaks.
  • Establish a nightly routine by switching off blue screens (TVs, phones, tablets and laptops) at least an hour before you get into bed. This helps the body to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  • If you’re a late night snacker, switch from refined foods like chocolate or biscuits or pizza!!! Rather have 2 oatcakes with nut butter as a pre-bed snack, or a ‘sleep’ smoothie (see recipe).
  • Limit both your caffeine and alcohol intake as both can disrupt the sleep cycles.
  • Have an epsom salts bath with a few drops of lav­ender essential oil in it to promote sleep. Soak for 20 minutes (without the glass of wine!!)

Sleep Smoothie


Sleep smoothie

1/2 banana
a handful of almonds
250ml almond milk

Blend all the ingredients together and drink an hour before bed.



Many of the above tips are also relevant for relaxation, but ensuring  social  contact and  fun time during the week or at the weekends will give you some ‘downtime’. This is essential to move you out of the ‘fight or flight’ response into the ‘rest and digest’ response and to support your adrenals. Getting your work/life balance right is crucial for good health.

Another way to encourage relaxation is to do yoga or to practise some deep breathing. Many people also now use apps on their smartphones to help with their meditation and relaxation e.g. Head space or The Honest Guys. Even if  you can’t do all the above tips, it’s always good practise to start with one or two as they have a cumulative effect. Here’s to some good nights’ sleep!!


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