Does It Matter If You’re An Early Bird Or A Night Owl?

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Some of us leap out of bed in the morning with all the gusto of a Duracell bunny, while others don’t fire up their energy until later in the day. Aside from feeling a little groggy in the mornings, up until now there hasn’t been anything wrong with being a night owl. What morning birds achieve before work, they fulfill in the evening. Read More…

How To Boost Your Overnight Skincare Routine

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New figures suggest that we’re honing in on our overnight skincare routines. Sleep has always been big business, but now we’re as obsessed with boosting our skin as we are with getting enough shut-eye. According to NPD UK, sales of night creams in the UK have risen sharply in the past year and the night-time skincare market was valued at £43 million between October 2017 and September 2018. Read More…

Is Overtiredness Stopping You From Sleeping

Clocks Going Back

Whether they go forward or back, the change in the clocks can often impact our sleep. This weekend, they’re going back so we can all enjoy an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning, but be warned, the days are about to get shorter and the cold, dark nights are going to become longer.

Sleep, or lack of it, is big business. In the US, its been reported that some have resorted to paying anywhere between $1100 and $5000 a month on sleep coaches in a bid to ease their insomnia. On the other side of the pond, since the clocks went forward in March, there has been plenty of discussion about sleep – how much we should be getting, how to get more et cetera.

But more recently, experts have been suggesting that overtiredness could be impacting the amount and quality of shut-eye we’re getting. Physiologist and sleep therapist, Nerina Ramlakhan told the Guardian, ‘We have become restless as a society – and that places more demands on us when we get into bed at night.’

‘We have lost the rituals and practices that gave us little respites during the day. In the past, you would go to the supermarket and, while you were waiting in the queue, you’d daydream, be a bit bored, look around,’ she says. ‘Now, any window like that will be filled by looking at your phone, answering some emails, sorting out your Amazon account.’

How can you reduce overtiredness?

The obvious answer might appear to be get more sleep, but as Ramlakhan has explained, too many of us are in constant overdrive during the waking hours that we’re too wired to relax at night. We should be looking at ways the tweak our lifestyle and introduce moments of respite throughout our days.

While it is easier said than done, limiting the amount of time you spend on your phone can help. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that those who don’t switch-off from work-related emails and activities at home struggle to relax and recharge for the next day.

The iPhone Screen Time app is a good way to introduce time restrictions on emails, social media and various apps. Putting your phone on DND (Do Not Disturb) between the hours of 6 pm and 7 am can also help ease you off late night work emails and mindless scrolling of your Instagram or Facebook accounts.

As with every article on sleep, we had to drop in meditation and yoga. Both practices are good at helping you to switch off and reconnect with yourself. If the idea of an hour of Vinyasa Flow feels you with dread, try swimming or joining your local bouldering club – both require you to leave your phone in the locker and keep your mind focused on the activity at hand.

If you get those moments of tightness in your chest or want something to help ease your stress, look to Magnolia Rhodiola Complex, £26. It’s a supplement we recommend time and time again for the simple fact that it does genuinely offer some relief. Interestingly, new research has also suggested that your other half’s body odour can also help you to de-stress, so keeping a T-shirt aside could potentially do the trick too.

What if you still can’t sleep?

If you’re still struggling to sleep after introducing pockets of rest during the day, it might be worth looking at your bedroom environment. Is the temperature cool enough? Is there any light coming through the curtains? And, is there a noise that could be silenced? None of these things are particularly ground-breaking, but a lot of us don’t have good sleep hygiene. For instance, not eating an hour or two before bed, or partaking in an intense cardio class too close to bedtime.

Upping your levels of melatonin (sleep hormone) can also help you to drift off (Cherry Night, £25.95, by Viridian is a good option). But, this does take a week or so to take effect. If you want a little helping hand in the first instance, look to Sleep Tight, £25.50, which contains a range of relaxing and sleep-inducing herbs, including magnesium, oat straw and ashwagandha.

Could Tapping Reduce Your Stress Levels?

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We all have those moments when everything mounts up. For some it lasts for mere moments, for others it can go on for days or weeks. It could be a mammoth project at work, a renovation at home, or an amalgamation of overwhelming things. Even the toughest, most mentally and emotionally stable people waver on occasions. A tightness in your chest that takes more than a couple of deep breaths to loosen or a racing mind keeping you up until 3 am.

There are around three million people in the UK who suffer with anxiety disorders. While there are prescription medication that can ease anxiety, there are also plenty of natural remedies that don’t have any known side effects. Magnolia Rhodiola Complex, £26, is the one that Shabir recommends time and time again as the blend of herbs not only helps you to relax, but also makes your body more resilient to stress.

Over the past year or so, another technique has been receiving a fair amount of attention, tapping.

What is tapping?

Tapping, or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is essentially like acupuncture but without the needles. Instead, you use your fingertips to tap on the meridian pressure points outlined in Chinese medicine to help release blockages of energy.

While tapping is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese medicine techniques, it wasn’t invented until the 90s by a man called Gary Craig. Since then some practitioners have suggested that the technique can help ease phobias, chronic pain and addictions, as well as help reduce anxiety and stress levels by lowering your cortisol levels.

So, how do you ‘tap’?

Not everyone is going to feel comfortable about tapping various parts of their body in public, but there are a couple of options that can be done discreetly on a crowded bus. It’s also surprisingly easy to mentally get into it. Unlike meditation where you’re encouraged to focus on blank space, when it comes to tapping you hone in on the issue at hand and target the negative emotion or stress. At the same time you tap up to seven times on the key meridian points.

If you’re not au fait with Chinese medicine, the key points to ease stress are found on the side of your hand; the inner section of your eyebrows; to the side and below your eye socket; underneath your nose; on the crease between your lip and chin; your collar bone; just below your armpit; and the top of your head. If you want to follow a specific routine, it’s worth looking up The Tapping Solution, which offers short video tutorials and help finding tapping experts near you.

What are the alternatives?

For those who still remain unconvinced about tapping parts of their body, there are plenty of other methods to relieve moments of stress and anxiety. Breathing properly sounds very straightforward, but most of us don’t do it correctly. The result is higher stress levels and poor posture.

Getting enough sleep is obvious, but if you’re stressed out it’s likely that you struggle to drift off too. A lot of experts recommend partaking in at least two hours of good cardio exercise each week and avoiding eating at least two hours before bed.

There’s also some research to suggest that setting out a structured sleep routine can help. It might sound ridiculously simple, but when you think about it, do you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day? If you need a little extra help, Shabir recommends Sleep Tight, £25.50. It goes without saying that combining it with some light tapping could be just the ticket to help you drift off…

How Much Sleep Should We Be Getting?

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Eight has always been deemed as the magic number when it comes to the amount of hours we’re supposed to sleep each night. Yet most experts cast the net wider and suggest anywhere between seven and nine hours will ensure you look and feel good. While some of us are lucky to get six hours of shut-eye a night during the week, earlier this year scientists revealed that you can catch up on lost sleep by pressing snooze at the weekend.

But, before you get carried away and whittle away your Saturday morning in bed, this week a new study revealed that you don’t need as much sleep as you think. According to new research presented at the ESC Congress, between six to eight hours of sleep is the healthiest amount necessary to ward off heart disease and strokes.

The study found that those who had less than six hours of sleep were 11% more likely to develop coronary issues, while those who got more than eight hours were 33% more likely.

Author of the study, Dr Fountas said: “Our findings suggest that too much or too little sleep may be bad for the heart. More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation — all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease.”

So, how can you ensure you get the right amount of sleep regularly? Here’s some helpful tips…

How can you get a better night’s sleep?

First and foremost, stop worrying about the amount of sleep you’re getting. The more you stress about it, the less likely you are to drift off. If you struggle to switch off and stop your mind from whirling, we recommend taking Magnolia Rhodiola Complex. It’s a natural remedy to help reduce anxiety and relax your mind.

Other tricks, such as keeping your bedroom cool and banning any digital devices at least an hour before you go to bed can also help. Upping your magnesium levels will also help. Despite being a key mineral, a lot of us are deficient in magnesium, which can affect our mood, energy levels and sleep patterns. The best way to absorb magnesium is by taking a bath with flakes. If you don’t have a bath, try Better You’s Magnesium Sleep Lotion and massage it into your feet before bed.

What are the best natural remedies for a good night’s sleep?

Shabir has written several pieces on Cherry Night by Viridian and regularly recommends it for the simple fact that it works. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and the lightly flavoured powder helps to top up your natural levels over time. You do need to persevere with this supplement though as it takes at least two weeks to feel the benefits.

If you prefer taking a capsule, try Sleep Tight by World Organic. It has a blend of magnesium, magnolia and tart cherries to help you relax, unwind and drift off. You just need to take two capsules an hour before bed.

What if you’re getting too much sleep?

When it comes to sleep the focus is often on not getting enough, but there are some people who feel like they can sleep forever and yet still wake up feeling groggy and tired. “This is often because you have too much cortisol, the stress hormone,” says Shabir. It’s worthwhile taking Magnolia Rhodiola, or looking into adaptogens, which help to reduce stress and boost your energy levels. “Moringa helps increase resistance to stress, whether this stressor is physical, chemical or biological,” says Shabir. “It also helps to bring the body back into balance no matter where the stress is coming from and it does not interfere with the body’s normal functions.”

Adding a couple of spoonfuls of Moringa Green Superleaf Powder to your morning juice or smoothie will help you feel a little more energised. And, you can sprinkle it on your salad or mix it into your soup to recharge throughout the day too.

Natural Ways To Brighter Eyes

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You’ve probably noticed that D.I.Y beauty – whizzing up ingredients to make your own cosmetics – has become a bit of a trend. Well, with all respect to the millennials who are all over #Instagram with their home-made beauty treats, we’ve been doing it since we were teenagers ourselves. Here’s what we’ve always known: making your own beauty treats is fun. (Especially if you do it with a friend/child/goddaughter.) It’s easy. And because these little beauty treats are packed with lashings of botanical ingredients, they can  can be super-effective.

With hay fever a particular challenge right now (Sarah suffers terribly), puffy eyes are a particular problem. So this month, we thought we’d share with VH readers our top treatments for dealing with under-eye baggage and the eye zone generally. And, we thought we’d also share a little ‘beauty craft project’: making your own eye bags. Easy to do, even if your expertise generally doesn’t extend beyond sewing on a shirt button.

Chamomile Eye Bag Blitzer

  • 10g. (1/2  oz) dried chamomile flowers
  • Mineral, purified tap or rainwater

Chamomile has a near-miraculous effect on tired and puffy eyes. If you know you’re heading for a morning-after-the-night-before, make this chamomile infusion before you go out and it’ll be ice-cold and ready for bag-blitzing the next day. (It keeps for just a few days in the fridge.)

Place the flowers in the bottom of a mug and fill with boiling water; allow to cool and strain into a sterilised jar, which you should pop in the fridge. Soak cotton wool pads in the cold tea and place over the eyes. (Pads are better than cotton balls because they cover more of the eye zone.)

Relax for 15-20 minutes (we always love being told to do that!). During this time, use the pads of your fingers to tap outwards along the ‘orbital bone’ above and below the eye, to help the de-puffing action. (At a pinch, you can also use a cold chamomile tea bag as an eye compress; stew and cool in the fridge before use.)

Potato De-Bagger

  • 1/4 potato

Slice the potato in 5-to-10 very thin slices that can easily be moulded to the skin, rather than a couple of thick slices (which is the traditional advice).  I’ve found the thin slices are much more effective because they’re in contact with the skin. Simply spritz the eye area with plain water and arrange the potato around the eyes; leave in place for 10-15 minutes – and see that puffiness disappear, thanks to the potato’s decongesting action.

TIP: If eyes are puffy in the morning, take a leaf out of supermodel Linda Evangelista’s book and reach for a cube of ice. Wrap it in Clingfilm and use it to ‘massage away’ eye bags, working in an outward direction. The cold will reduce the swelling.

Eyebright Eye Brightener

  • 10g (1/2  oz) dried eyebright flowers
  • 225ml. water

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is the eye-friendly herb; it grows in natural grassland. You might be able to introduce seeds of this dainty, blueish-white flower into a wild, grassy corner of the garden, if you don’t pamper it too much – but if not, the dried herb just as effective.

Eyebright’s power was first recorded in the 14th century, when it was deemed useful for ‘all evils of the eye’. It’s rich in the mineral zinc, which helps repair skin tissues – probably explaining why it’s good at caring for the fragile skin around the eyes. Eyebright’s also a good skin disinfectant. (But be super-aware that natural cosmetics – made without synthetic preservatives – can become contaminated; immediately ditch any eye preparation that you make using eyebright if it starts to smell different or if you get any kind of eye infection – and always ensure your hands are clean when you use any kind of home-made eye treat. Never use a homemade infusion of eyebright directly in the eyes; it may not be sufficiently sterile.)

So: the how-to. Put the flowers in the bottom of a saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Cool and strain, then pour into a sterile jar. Store the eyebright infusion in the fridge, where it will keep for three or four days. (Don’t keep it longer than that.) When your eyes feel tired, soak a cotton pad in the mixture, squeeze to remove almost all the liquid and place the damp pad on the eyelids for 5-to-10 minutes.

Herbal Eye Pillows

  • 25cm/ 1/yard of silky or natural fabric (cotton or linen)
  • 150g (5 oz) dried lavender flowers
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

Cut two rectangles of fabric, around 22 cm. by 13 cm. With right sides together stitch a 11/4cm/ 1/2inch seam around the two long sides and one end of the pillow, either by hand or using a sewing machine. Turn the right side out. Put the flaxseed and the lavender flowers in a bowl, add the lavender essential oil, drop-by-drop, swirl to mix – and (using using a funnel) pour the mixture into the bag. With a hand stitch, neatly sew the remaining side closed.

These eye bags are wonderfully relaxing – helpful for getting to sleep, during an at-home spa treatment or any time you need to relax;  the weight of the grains seems to quiet the eyes – and in turn, the mind.  These make wonderful gifts, too. Your herb pillow should last for about a year;  when the next lavender harvest is in, renew it. The herbal eye pillows page can be made of almost any natural material, but silk is particularly soothing and gentle on the skin.