It will surprise precisely no one that the current state of the world has led to even more insomnia than we were already suffering.
In the US, Google searches for “insomnia” went up by 58 per cent in the first five months of the pandemic (to 2.77 million), which surely is some indication of our sleep-deprived situation.
Of course, for serious and chronic cases, the help of a doctor is required, as ongoing sleep deprivation is debilitating.
You probably already know the obvious things you can do to help, such as regular exercise and relaxation techniques like mindfulness and yoga. It’s also worth being meticulous about switching off your devices before 8pm, as the blue light emitting from them puts the brain into an “awake” state.
However there are other little steps you can take that make a big difference. One of them might just make all the difference to you.
Take it from an ex-insomniac: there is a solution, but it will be different for everyone – so keep that search going….
Weighted blanket (if it’s your match)
It’s the latest thing for insomniacs and sleep-deprived toddlers, and it’s not as mad an idea as it seems. A mum I know says getting her small daughter one saved her and her kid’s sanity.
Weighted blankets come in between 5 and 30 pounds (they’re usually weighed down with glass beads), and should be about 10 per cent of your own body weight for best effects.
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They simulate “deep pressure stimulation” – a fancy term for what is basically hugging, squeezing, holding or massaging, and it’s proven to relax the nervous system.
So wrapping yourself in one of these really can get you in a state of calm, peace and easy-onset sleep. Try Oodie Weighted blanket, £99 here.
CBD oil (if you get the right one)
CBD oil contains a calming but non-hallucinogenic extract of the cannabis plant, and is being touted as a natural and effective cure for anything from irritated skin to anxiety and insomnia.
However any strong proof of its purported benefits has so far been lacking. That, says Melissa Sturgess of Montana Optimum Wellness, is because of the way most oils are produced.
“To extract the CBD oil from the cannabis plant, and to ensure none of the hallucinogenic THC compound is left, an extraction process is used that gets rid of most of the plant’s terpenes, other fragrant molecules that have proven soothing properties,” she explains.
It’s the combination of CBD and these terpenes that makes a good ingestible CBD oil so effective at calming the nervous system, easing anxiety and deepening sleep without drowsiness.
Montana No1 CBD Oil, £75 here, is a blend of CBD and 35 added terpenes in exactly the same ratio as they are found in the cannabis plant – which probably explains why it works so much better than any others I’ve tried.
Sleep mist (if it suits your nose)
A good pillow mist can calm your mind and lull you to sleep, and some are shown to deepen and improve the quality of sleep as well. The best ones combine the different therapeutic benefits of a range of calming essential oils (with the emphasis on essential oils – avoid products that speak of just the “scent” or ‘extract” of certain botanicals).
Lavender, camomile, valerian, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, vetiver, patchouli, myrrh, frankincense, geranium and clary sage have all been shown to do things like lower the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, have a sedative effect, calm nerves and improve mood.
But which one will work best for you may depend on your nose: different blends affect people in different ways.
I feel an instant lowering of my stress levels when I smell a blend heavy with grounding woods and deep florals; others will respond to a fresher mix of lavender and clary sage oils. So it’s worth sniffing around before you buy, and go with your gut instinct.
One lovely option is the lavandin, valerian and ylang ylang-based Aroma Active Laboratories Sleep Mist, £10, which you can find a full size of in this month’s OK! Beauty EditBox, a collection of green and vegan beauty treats by top brands. It’s worth £50 but you can get it here from £13*.
Get your clean, green beauty box here from just £13*– but be quick because stock is running out!
Going dark (that means really dark)
A properly dark and still environment is essential to keep light sleepers “under”. The best earplugs are BioEars Soft Silicone Earplugs, £5.50 here – they are properly noise-cancelling (be warned – you’ll hear nothing).
Blackout blinds in your bedroom are a small investment you will be happy you made, and you can supplement them with a decent sleep mask.
Drowsy Mulberry Silk Eye Mask, £49.50 here, may be pricey, but its wraparound design ensures light doesn’t seep in round the sides, as so often happens with eye masks.
The silk actually cares for your eye skin as you sleep, and the slight weight of the masks has a light “pressure simulation” effect comparable to that of a weighted blanket.
Bon voyage to the land of nod!