All posts by Charlotte Parker

National Bed Month: Learn the A-Zzzz of a good night’s sleep

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It’s National Bed Month (March 2018) and time to focus on the place we spend one-third of our lives: our bed.

Lisa Artis, sleep guru at The Sleep Council says: “Our polls show people rate a good bed as vital to a good night’s rest and there’s no doubt that a comfortable and supportive mattress is essential.”

“We recommend replacing a bed at least every seven years and buying from a reputable retailer, either online or instore, and that stocks beds from manufacturers which are members of the National Bed Federation (NBF).  The NBF’s Code of Practice ensures that products can be trusted to be safe, clean and meet trading standards requirements.”

To celebrate National Bed Month, The Sleep Council have shared with us this handy alphabet for a good night’s sleep:

A is for alcohol: alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes are all stimulants reducing sleep quality and preventing you feeling rested.

B is for bed!: invest in the best you can afford, replace at least every seven years and buy one made by a NBF member.

C is for circadian rhythm: this 24-hour internal clock works best when you have a regular sleep pattern.

D is for diet: avoid over-eating before bedtime and choose foods with sleep-promoting chemicals such as chicken and turkey, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, peanuts, beans and milk.

E is for exercise: essential for good health and restful sleep but try not to exercise too vigorously close to bedtime.

F is for forty winks: while a nap doesn’t make up for poor quality sleep at night time, grabbing forty winks, or a short nap of 20-30 minutes, in the afternoon can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.

G is for gadgets: laptops, phones and even the TV are sleep stealers!  Switch them off at least an hour before bedtime.

H is for health: sleep is crucial to health and well-being as it’s involved in the repair and restoration of our bodies.

I is for illness: sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and obesity.

J is for jet lag: eating three balanced meals containing fresh fruit, vegetables and protein the day before you fly can help your body clock re-set more quickly at your destination.

K is for keeping a perfect sleep environment: temperature, lighting, comfort, banning gadgets and gizmos, relaxation and reducing noise are all vital to creating a restful sleep sanctuary.

L is for lifestyle: making small adjustments to your lifestyle or environment could significantly improve the quality of your sleep.

M is for meditation: along with massage, meditation can promote relaxation and drifting off to a good night’s sleep.

N is for National Bed Federation: buy a bed made by a NBF member and you can be sure that it meets all required safety and trading standards.

O is for oils: aromatherapy oils are also brilliant sleep-inducers, particularly traditional favourites such as lavender.

P is for pillow: your head weighs 4.5-5.5 kilos (10-12lbs) and your neck contains seven of the spine’s 33 vertebrae.  A good pillow should hold your head in the correct alignment and help avoid neck pain and even persistent headaches.

Q is for quiet: of course, loud, sudden or repetitive noises can interrupt sleep but others can be soothing, particularly soft, steady sounds. Double-glazing and foam ear plugs can all help to promote sleep-friendly tranquillity.

R is for relaxation: a bubbly bath, warm milky drinks or herbal teas and curling up with a good book can all help you wind down.  And the old adage “never go to sleep on an argument” holds true: conflicts can leave us stressed and angry, which can make it near impossible to fall asleep.

S is for snoring: one of the biggest causes of partner sleep disturbance, snoring has no known cure but its effects can be diminished with ear plugs and separate beds!

T is for the Thirty Day Sleep Plan: answer a few questions about your sleep, lifestyle and health and the Sleep Council will create you a unique online 30 day plan.  Go to  https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/30-day-plan/ and you could hopefully be sleeping better in a month.

U is for unwind: in the golden hour before your head hits the pillow it’s vital to relax, switch off electronic gadgets and get yourself in a sleepy frame of mind.

V is for vacation: if you can’t splurge on a holiday, give yourself a weekend sleep-cation: power off the electronics and have a two-day wind down.

W is for worry: almost half of Britons say worry and stress keep them awake at night. To counteract this, invest in a careful wind-down routine so you can relax and switch off.

X is for Xmas: all that food and drink can lead to a Santa-sized sleep problem so keep up those sensible sleep habits throughout the festive season.

Y is for yoga: gentle stretching, relaxation and breathing can aid a restful night.

Z is for zzzzzzzzz – of course!

bed-sheets-in-washing-machine

How often should you wash your bed sheets?

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Washing our bed sheets can be a chore, but recent reports claim we should be washing our bed sheets once a week to stave off dead skin cells, unwanted bacteria and dust mites.

Paul Morris, who has 20 years of experience specialising in household protection against the spread of microbes, said: “I would recommend washing sheets at least once a week. The key to keeping bacteria away is the quality of the wash.”

“’It is extremely important to wash bed sheets on a regular basis as the build up of dead skin cells can lead to dust mites, unwanted bacteria and unpleasant odours.’

And though once a week may not sound as bad as you were expecting, it’s more than the average person currently cleans their bed sheets.

The research, from Time 4 Sleep, reveals less than a third (28%) of UK households change their sheets once a week, while 40% of Brits change their bed sheets once every two weeks.

24% of us wash them just once every three to four weeks.

Paul recommends washing sheets weekly on a high temperature or, if you want to be more economical using an antibacterial agent.

BBC DIY SOS - Children in Need

Supporting BBC DIY SOS – Children in Need Project

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We are delighted to be supporting the BBC DIY SOS team with their amazing Children in Need project this year, by donating a number of beds to help with the rebuild of a support centre for volunteer-led charity The Roots Foundation Wales.

Based in Swansea, The Roots Foundation Wales was set up by an inspiring individual Emma Lewis, who with the crucial support of an amazing team gives the desperately needed help and support to young people in care, children in need and young adults who have left the care system and are trying to live independently.

Established nearly seven years ago, The Roots Foundation Wales has spent the last two years in a dilapidated wooden hut, with the lack of space and facilities making it truly difficult to provide the workshops, one-on-one support and group therapy sessions to those who really need it.

From Wednesday 6th to Sunday 17th September 2017 – in just eleven days – the DIY SOS team along with generous support of volunteer tradespeople, suppliers and the local community in Swansea successfully built from the ground-up, a new purpose-built support centre covering a huge 320 square metres.

Constructed specifically for the charity’s needs, The Roots Foundation Wales’ new home includes a large youth club space, therapy and workshop rooms and a kitchen for cooking classes. There is also office space for Emma and her team, plus several independent flats for young people transitioning from the care system into adult life.

This incredible rebuild will make a real difference to The Roots Foundation Wales and the young people it supports and enable the charity to go on to help so many more children and young people in care for many years to come.

The episode will air on BBC One on Wednesday 15th November, at 8pm during the BBC Children in Need Appeal week.

The Roots Foundation

Sleeping

The best sleep practice for winter months

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The winter time change is always a little more welcome than the summer as we gained that extra hour in bed, but what impact does this really have on our sleep?

Does the time change affect your sleep?

It can take several days for our internal biological clock to re-synchronise with a new schedule, whether it’s a clock change or a timezone difference. For some people, this can lead to disrupted sleep and feeling tired throughout the day.

However it seems that the seasons can affect our sleep more so than the time change itself. The lack of light exposure throughout Autumn and Winter can affect a proportion of people in terms of mood.

So what is the best sleep practice for the winter months?

  • Avoid bright light exposure at night
    This includes mobile phone and tablet screens as the blue light omitted tends to delay the body clock – so they shouldn’t be in the bedroom.
  • Get up at the same time in the morning each day
    Waking up at the same time everyday will stabilise your circadian rhythm. As a result, you should naturally become tired at the same time every night.
  • Expose yourself to light in the morning
    It’s important to seek out exposure to morning light where you can because light is a strong cue to alert your internal clock that it’s time to wake. If you get up before the sun rises, which is most likely during the winter months then wake-up lights such as those from Lumie can help you maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
  • Exercise
    To keep energy levels high and to ensure you’re tired enough to get to sleep ‘earlier’ on Sunday night, try to exercise outdoors where possible to take in as much natural light as possible – this will help adjust the body’s circadian rhythm.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
    Alcohol and caffeine have been proven to give you a less restful sleep. Instead try sleep-inducing foods and drink such as; almond milk, oat crackers, peanut butter, cottage cheese or a small bowl of yoghurt with granola or chopped nuts on top.
slumberland-fitbit

Sleeping Soundly: Catch up with our #SleepBetter winner

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In May we ran a #SleepBetter campaign with Fitbit UK to highlight the importance of quality sleep and give one lucky person the chance to win a Slumberland kingsize mattress and two Fitbit Alta HR devices which track your sleep data.

We caught up with our winner Becky Powley three months later to find out how her prizes are improving her and her partner’s sleep – plus the cat’s!

Slumberland: Hi Becky, congratulations again on being our #SleepBetter campaign winner. We hope you and your partner have been enjoying your wonderful prizes!

Have you noticed a difference in the quality of your sleep since receiving your new Slumberland mattress and Fitbit devices?

Becky: Definitely, I was usually getting around 6 – 6 ½ hours sleep midweek before getting the new mattress, now it’s usually around 6 ½ – 7 hours midweek if not more. The bed is so much more comfortable I am definitely taking myself up to bed earlier – so even if I’m not sleeping I’m relaxing for at least an additional hour more before going to bed. I am also falling asleep much more quickly than on my old mattress, I used to regularly struggle to get to sleep, so that has also definitely improved!

Slumberland: Are you finding the sleep insights on your new Fitbit Alta HR useful?

Becky: So useful! Particularly when I’m feeling tired, it’s useful to see whether it’s because I’ve had less sleep than usual. I love the ‘bedtime reminder’ as it helps me stop what I’m doing and actually put time aside for sleep.

My other half also appreciates the alarm function – it vibrates on your wrist waking you up which is much less offensive than a traditional alarm noise in the morning!

Slumberland: Have you noticed from your Fitbit data a correlation between exercising more and getting better quality sleep?

Becky: I haven’t seen a huge difference between my sleep when I do or don’t exercise, but that might because I exercise almost every day so am probably always tired/recovering. I have however noticed how little I do move working in an office on those days where I don’t exercise!

Having a Fitbit has made me more aware of the pressures I put my body under when I do exercise and I am definitely more aware of making sure I am eating and sleeping enough when I’m training particularly hard!

Slumberland: Is your new Slumberland Melody mattress helping you achieve a better night’s sleep?

Becky: 100%. Both Rowan and I have said that the mattress is so supportive (neither of us are getting as many back aches and pains) and I also think I’m sleeping much more soundly, as I don’t remember the last time I woke in the night. When it’s a weekend and I know I can have a lie in (or even an afternoon nap!) I have no problems at all enjoying some extra hours of Zzzzz’s. It is so comfortable we have nicknamed the mattress ‘the cloud’!

Slumberland: How does this impact your day to day life?

Becky: It has actually impacted my day to day life much more significantly than I could have imagined! As my whole bedtime routine has changed because I actually look forward to going to bed now, I definitely feel more refreshed waking up, which in turn is making me happier generally.

Slumberland: Would you recommend a Slumberland mattress or Fitbit Alta HR to friends and family or both?

Becky:  With the mattress, I genuinely do not think we’d ever change from a Slumberland mattress now, I’d definitely recommend them to everyone. My sister is just about to move into her first home and I’ve said to her that the investment is definitely worth making! Again with the Fitbit devices I’d really recommend them, lots of my friends have different Fitbits so we really enjoy comparing our step and sleep data. I like my Alta HR particularly because I can get more in depth data because of the heart rate monitor.

A huge thank you!

Even the cat is loving the new mattress! :)

Relaxation techniques to help you sleep better

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The relationship between anxiety and sleep

If, like most people, you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of stress and worry, you’ve experienced firsthand the strong connection between anxiety and sleep. Stress routinely tops the list of sources of sleep problems, according to patients.

Anxiety causes racing thoughts, making it difficult to quiet the mind. When the body is under stress, the body releases more of several hormones—including adrenaline that boosts energy and alertness which contribute to:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep throughout the night
  • Waking very early
  • Waking feeling un-rested and un-refreshed by sleep


Relaxation techniques to help you sleep better

Relaxation exercises have been shown highly effective in reducing stress and improving sleep. Low impact, self-directed, and easily able to be integrated to your daily life, these relaxation techniques can help you get a handle on stress and anxiety during your waking day, and help you de-stress at night before you go to bed.


Deep breathing

Deep, slow, self-aware breathing is an ancient, powerful way to clear the body of stress and tension, and a great way to relax as part of a nightly transition to sleep. Deep breathing kicks off a series of physiological changes that aid relaxation, including reducing muscle tension, slowing breathing rate and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and metabolism.

A breathing exercise can be as simple as taking a series of even, slow inhale and exhale breaths as part of a regular routine before bed, or whenever you feel anxious or stressed to help calm the mind. There are also more structured breathing exercises you can try such as the 4-7-8 breathing exercise which is said to ease the body into a state of relaxation and thus promote better sleep:

4-7-8 breathing
In a comfortable position, with your eyes open or closed:

  • Inhale for 4 seconds
  • Hold breath for 7 seconds
  • Exhale slowly, for 8 seconds
  • Repeat several times


Guided imagery

The idea in this exercise is to focus your attention on an image or story, so that your mind can let go of worries or thoughts that keep you awake.

Get into a comfortable position in bed. Close your eyes and relax. Begin to visualise a scene, memory, or story that you find calming. This is highly individual—find what works best for you by trying a few choices. For example: a favourite vacation or calming outdoor spot, a relaxing activity like curling up with a book in your favourite chair, or something repetitive like remembering the steps of an exercise or dance routine. The key is to find something that allows you to focus your attention and let go of other thoughts. Begin to create this scenario in your mind. Visualise all the details of the image or story, as slowly and carefully as you can. Any time you find your mind drifting to an unrelated thought (a worry about the day or a “must do” for tomorrow), acknowledge it and let it go – each time you practice you will get better at it.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This is a way of achieving total body relaxation by slowly and systematically tensing and then relaxing your muscles. Starting at your toes and working up. It also plays a part in hypnosis. Combined with deep breathing exercises progressive muscle relaxation becomes an even more effective way to reduce stress.

brothers-family-siblings-boys-50692

Getting Your Children to Enjoy Sleeping More

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Children don’t like missing out, particularly true at night when the adults are still awake and children are supposed to be slumbering peacefully in their beds. There’s also the issue of night-time because children often believe scary events happen during the hours of darkness which can make it hard for them to relax when they’re frightened of every shadow they see and every noise they hear. So, it’s no wonder many children don’t enjoy sleeping.

Why Aren’t Children Sleeping Enough?

In addition to the reasons above, many children are getting to bed too late to enjoy a decent sleep. The Sleep Council points out that if children go to bed after 9:00pm, they take more time to get to sleep. They’re also more restless at night and consequently get less overall sleep, which can be worsened by some parents not setting clear rules and routines around bedtime.

How to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial to the emotional well-being, development and growth of your child. Employing the following tips can help improve your child’s sleep.

  • Have a night-time routine.
    By adhering to the same bedtime routine, such as bath and bed, every night, you can ensure your child learns when it’s time for sleep. Being firm and loving when it’s time for sleep comforts your child and the repetition of routine will help them feel secure. Things to include in this night-time routine include, brushing teeth, putting on their PJs, followed by reading a favourite bedtime story. This works wonders when it’s done night after night.
  • Have set bedtimes and waking times.
    Even on the weekend, it’s imperative for your children to stay in a regular routine. Otherwise, if they sleep in on a Saturday and Sunday, it’s even more difficult to wake them up for school on a Monday morning. Getting up early on a weekend also gives you more quality time together.
  • Teach your child to fall asleep alone.
    It’s very tempting to take your child in with you to your own bed if they have difficulty sleeping. However, this isn’t practical to do every night. Therefore, you need to teach them how to fall asleep without you there. Put your child to bed when they’re sleepy and leave the room before they fall asleep. Provide them with a cosy blanket or favourite toy to cuddle for comfort.

Striking the right balance in terms of bedtimes for your children can be difficult. Remember though, that it’s not impossible. If your children are restless at night, scared of the dark, or believe monsters are lurking under the bed, help them out by providing a night light for their peace of mind. Children can enjoy sleeping, and by following the advice above, you can get a good night’s rest too!

Fitbit Sleep Stages

Fitbit launches Sleep Stages & Insights

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There’s no doubt that exercise is good for sleep – many studies have documented the benefits of exercise to improving general sleep patterns. However new advances in sleep tracking from Fitbit can now go that step further to give you personalised guidance and actionable insights to help you improve your sleep from your Fitbit data.

By tapping into your night-time heart rate and movement patterns, Fitbit devices* will now be able to estimate how much time you spend in light, deep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

By logging each of the stages of your sleep, along with the whole of your Fitbit data (everything from your diet to your exercise patterns), Fitbit can now discover trends about what may be affecting your sleep and offer you tailored guidance on how to improve it.

For example, if you use a Fitbit device that automatically tracks sleep, one insight via the Fitbit app may read: “There seems to be a strong correlation between your sleep and your runs. The last 10 weeknight logs show that you had 20 mins more restful sleep on days you ran vs. days you didn’t.”

Fitbit app sleep data

This kind of information previously only accessible through a sleep lab can help you better understand how exercise and diet directly affects your sleep patterns. Furthermore, it will help you to make lifestyle changes that will improve the quality of your sleep overtime and, in turn your overall health – something we certainly approve of.

Each stage of sleep serves a different purpose, so understanding how much of each stage you log can help you identify and address sleep-related issues. Below is a breakdown of what you need to know about each sleep stage:

  • Light Sleep (including sleep stages 1 and 2) occurs throughout the night and is important for memory, learning, and letting your body recover from the day; for most people it is 50-60 percent of your night.
  • Deep Sleep (sleep stage 3) promotes a healthy immune system and muscle growth and repair; for most people it is 10-25 percent of your night (depending on age).
  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep is when most dreaming occurs and is important for mental recovery and memory formation; for most people it is 20-25 percent of your night. Most REM sleep comes at the end of the night, and is often the stage that’s cut short when your sleep duration decreases.
  • Awake minutes (between 10-30 times per night) are a normal part of your sleep cycle each night, and is typically when your heart rate is more elevated during sleep.

*Sleep stages and sleep insights now available on the Fitbit Alta HR and Fitbit Blaze devices and coming soon to Fitbit Charge2 available at https://www.fitbit.com/uk/home.

 

bed-allergies

How To Reduce Indoor Allergies In Your Bedroom

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Allergy is widespread in the UK. According to Allergy UK up to 50% of children are diagnosed with an allergic condition and there an estimated 21 million adult asthma and allergy sufferers in the UK.

One of the most common triggers of year-round allergies and asthma is the dreaded house dust mite. Symptoms of dust mite allergy can include sneezing, watery eyes, a runny or itchy nose, a cough, an itchy throat and itchy skin. Symptoms often confused with a common cold or flu, and therefore don’t treat the root cause of the problem.

And where you can you find these dust mites? Well their ideal environment is your bed.

According to Allergy UK the average bed is estimated to have over 10,000 house dust mites living in it which results in there being over two millions droppings. These droppings are released into the atmosphere in dust and when inhaled will provoke asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis.

Household dust mites thrive in warm and humid conditions where there is skin and dander to feed on. Given that the average person sheds a pound of skin (454 grams) a year – much of it into our beds – and that the average adult loses around half a pint (285 ml) of moisture while sleeping each night, it’s easy to understand why mattresses are so popular with the microscopic creatures.

In support of Allergy UK’s Allergy Awareness Week, 24th to 30thApril 2017, we wanted to offer advice on the most effective ways to reduce the number of dust mites in your bed to help control dust mite allergy and alleviate symptoms.

 

  1. Use anti-allergy bedding.
    Encase your mattress in an anti-allergy mattress cover and use anti-allergy duvet and pillow covering. These should be breathable and should completely enclose the item to prevent dust mite development and to stop contact with allergens.
  2. Wash bedding weekly.
    Wash all sheets, pillowcases and bedcovers every week at 60 degrees to kill dust mites and remove allergens. If hot washing is not possible then you can place bedding in the freezer for a few hours to kill mites and then wash at a lower temperature.
  3. Replace your mattress.
    Regular mattress replacement is vital to reduce the prevalence of the house dust mites. The Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress every seven years because although the mattress may still look acceptable, it may no longer be offering you sufficient levels of comfort, support and hygiene.
  4. Keep humidity low.
    In a warm, humid bedroom, dust mites can survive all year, therefore the NHS recommends keeping your indoor humidity between 30 and 50% to inhibit dust mite growth. You can reduce humidity in your bedroom by opening windows to increase ventilation, fitting an extractor fan in you have an ensuite to reduce condensation and using a dehumidifier or air conditioner.
  5. Leave your bed unmade.
    Dust mites need the warmth and moisture from bedding to survive so it is a good idea to throw back your bedding when you get up in the morning to help everything air out. Dr. Stephen Pretlove of Kingston University told BBC News: “something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die”.
  6. Remove carpets.
    Carpets hold moisture and provides a comfortable humid location for dust mites. If possible, replace all carpeting in the bedroom with wood, tile or vinyl flooring to minimise dust mite development. If removing carpets is not possible, vacuum regularly with a high-filtration vacuum hoover and use a high-temperature steam cleaner to kill dust mites.
  7. Cut the clutter.
    Remove books, magazines, ornaments that collect dust in bedroom. If your child suffers from allergies try to cut back on the number of stuffed toys in their bedroom and try to avoid keeping them on their bed. Freeze favourite soft toys once a week to kill dust mites and then hot wash to remove allergens.

 

Have any of these methods worked for you, or do you have any further tips to share? We’d love to hear from you! Get in contact with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Best essential oils for sleep

Best Essential Oils For Sleep

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If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, then certain essential oils which can help induce sleep may be just what you need. Essential oils have grown in popularity as a natural treatment for many ailments, including pain relief, reducing stress and anxiety, and aiding sleep. Read on to discover the 9 best essential oils for sleep.

Sleep problems are on the rise, with the Sleep Council’s latest Great British Bedtime report stating that at least a third of us are getting a poor night’s sleep every night.

How to use essential oils for sleep

There are different ways you can use and benefit from essential oils. Try applying diluted essential oils to the soles of your feet, palms, and wrists prior to bed. It’s important that, for most essential oils, you dilute them with a carrier oil like coconut, castor, or olive oil, because applying the essential oil directly onto the skin can lead to irritation. To make the right combination, you should use one teaspoon of carrier oil for one drop of essential oil.

Another way to use essential oils is through a diffuser, which will disperse the scent throughout your home.

Lastly, you can also spray the essential oil onto your pillowcase or bedding prior to bed.

9 best essential oils for sleep

  • Lavender: Lavender oil is the most commonly used oil to promote sleep, and is the most widely studied.
  • Clary sage: Clary sage has been found to work similarly to lavender, and research has found it to be the most effective anti-stressor.
  • Chamomile: Roman chamomile has been found to be the most effective type of chamomile, offering relaxation properties and reducing stress. Chamomile becomes even more effective when combined with lavender.
  • Cedarwood: Cedarwood offers an earthy fragrance and can help induce a sense of calmness.
  • Sandalwood: Sandalwood has sedative and antidepressant effects, along with promoting circulation and supporting the nervous system.
  • Marjoram: Sweet marjoram can aid with sleep disorders thanks to its calming and sedative effects. It has also been found to help reduce blood pressure.
  • Valerian: Valerian has long been known for its calming and sedative effects, and it is effective when used topically or diffused.
  • Ylang ylang: It’s fruity and florally scent can help promote relaxation, thus improving sleep. It is often added to other oils to improve their effectiveness.
  • Vetiver: Vetiver is known to have sedative properties, along with being muscle warming and tension easing. This oil helps aid with hormonal stress, muscle ache, and restless leg syndrome, which can all keep you awake at night. You can add vetiver to a warm bath prior to bed to ease tension.