Eyes Closed Healing

One of the most effective, and overlooked, ways to improve your well-being is to lie back, close your eyes . . . and sleep.

Your body does more than just reenergise during those eight or so hours of rest. It works at repairing and renewing cells, and strengthening your immune system, while dreaming helps you to cope with the mental clutter and emotions of the previous day.

A lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, can lead to irritability, poor concentration, impaired judgement, memory loss, depression, stress, reduced resistance to illness, and of course, tiredness.

So how do you get a good night's sleep? First of all, move yourself towards setting a regular bedtime pattern; bodies thrive on the discipline of regular cycles. A warm drink, brushing your teeth, getting changed for bed - these little steps tell your body to prepare for sleep. Set yourself a regular bedtime, preferably before midnight, and stick to it.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and large late meals. Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep (and not through sheer physical exhaustion!), but don't exercise late at night as this will work towards wakening your body instead.

It's also important to take a good look at your bedroom, as your environment has a big impact on your ability to rest. Declutter your bedroom, and keep electrical equipment such as computers and televisions to a minimum. Make sure that fresh air can flow through the room, and that light and noise don't disrupt your sleep. And as basic as it sounds, check your bed and pillows - quality sleep needs a comfortable, well-supported body.

Still can't get your eyes closed? Drink a soothing cup of chamomile or melissa tea before bed. Try a drop or two of a relaxing essential oil such as lavender or vetiver on a tissue tucked inside your pillowcase, or look into buying a herbal sleep pillow to allow sedating herbal aromas to drift through your night.

For more information, read "The Healing Power Of Sleep" by Sheila Lavery.

The Guardian, January 27 2000