Silentnight explores… a series where we explore sleep with a specialist in their field. The following article was written for Silentnight.
Written by Paula, Founder of Halo Reiki Healing We all struggle with sleep at one time or another. Whether it’s chronic insomnia, the occasional sleepless night or situational stress preventing you from getting much-needed deep rest.
As a holistic therapist trained in yoga, breathwork and alternative methods such as Reiki, I support people with their health and wellbeing in mind, body and soul. I am fascinated by the topic of sleep. It is essential to us as humans and a core component of a balanced lifestyle.
A good night’s sleep is a wonderful thing. Why? It makes us healthier, happier beings! It is the body’s opportunity to rebalance. When wesleep, our body is able to repair and heals itself:
Vital psychological repair occurs
Learning and memory is encoded in the brain
Our immune system and ability to fight off infections is improved
Emotional regulation takes place
Stress level are reduced
It is seemingly simple and often taken for granted, yet struggling to sleep is a common problem. A third of people regularly struggle with their sleep according to the UK Sleep Census (a survey of 2,700 people in 2021). This figure rose to half during the pandemic - the highest ever on record! Arguably we’re in the middle of a national sleep crisis. A frequent lack of sleep (both missed sleep and low quality sleep) has serious consequences on our wellbeing such as:
Contributes to disease and ill-health
Worsens mental health
Leads to “brain fog” and forgetfulness
Between 7-9 hours’ sleep each night is recommended for an adult. In the UK, we linger below the threshold, sleeping an average of 6hr48 per night. Clearly, there’s room for improvement! Although the descent into sleep is a very gradual process, the average good-sleeper falls asleep in a quarter of an hour.
There are many holistic techniques that can help us to drift off and gain good quality sleep. These are the methods I use personally and advise my clients on. They are all natural, safe and, in my experience, immensely supportive.
Start by creating the right conditions for sleep in your bedroom. Declutter your bedroom so that the space feels calm and inviting. Make your bed every morning to start the day afresh and so that it’s ready to envelope you come evening. Ensure your bed is somewhere you can feel comfortable.
I tend to light a candle or burn essential oils or incense to cleanse the space before settling in for the night. I imagine shedding any busyness of the day and welcome in a slower state for rest. The use of essential oils, referred to as Aromatherapy, is an effective way to encourage relaxation as it quietens the mind and cocoons the senses.
Avoid screen time light at night, in particular phone time which is overstimulating for our brains. Set an alarm an hour before bedtime to remind yourself to disconnect from your phone. I have banished the TV from my bedroom to rid the temptation of more screen time.
Soft, warm, low lighting helps us to feel safe and relaxed. I swear by my light alarm clock. At bedtime, it fades like a sunset to create an environment where sleep comes easily. So called “wake-up lights” are a form of light therapy. They also wake us up naturally, gradually brightening like a sunrise to gently rouse you from sleep and they help to combat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). For me, this is critical in darker months.
Listening to music for sleep is something I do most nights as I climb into bed. I have a curated playlist, SLEEP by Halo Reiki for this purpose. On Spotify you can set a ‘sleep timer’ so that the music automatically stops playing after a set length of time. Alternatively, Insight Timer, the #1 free app for meditation and sleep, has an endless array of beautiful sleep meditations and music to choose from.
Almost 20% of adults say they turn to alcohol to help them sleep (UK Sleep Census), but this does in fact make our sleep more disturbed. While it might help you to fall asleep it actually worsens the quality of our sleep, hampering the benefits of sleep. It is one of the many reasons we feel rubbish after consuming an excess of alcohol.
Drink less alcohol or, better still, stop entirely and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in your sleep.
Holistic therapies such as Reflexology, Acupuncture and Reiki look to treat the body as a whole, rather than focusing on a singular symptom or origin of pain. A common benefit people report from such treatment is improved sleep.
Being a Reiki Practitioner, it is my go-to method to aid sleep. Anyone can receive or learn Reiki. You can practise Reiki on yourself and on others.
Reiki is a form of energy healing. It works with energy inherent in the body and all around us, since everything in the universe is made up of energy (a scientific fact!). Reiki supports balance in our chakras; a system of seven primary energy centres. ‘Chakra’ means a centre or wheel of energy, as translated from Sanskrit. The chakras govern all aspects of our physical, mental and emotional health. Imbalances in the chakra can manifest as everything from physical discomfort, pain or illness to mental and emotional struggles to insomnia.
A Reiki practitioner acts as a channel of universal energy, using light touch and intention to restore balance in an individual’s chakras. Thereby helping to restore vitality.
Amazingly, this can take place face-to-face or can be done remotely. Reiki takes us out of the ‘fight or flight’ response into the ‘rest and digest’ state. It is deeply relaxing and can be used to induce a restful night’s sleep.
Many people I work with opt for distance Reiki at bedtime for this purpose. Done remotely, they can relax in the comfort of their own bed and drift off uninterrupted. Bliss.
It’s something I receive from other practitioners as part of my self-care routine - I enjoy a peaceful sleep and am rejuvenated by morning. I awake feeling energised, clear and centred. There’s nothing quite like a “reiki nap”!
Mindful practices like yoga help us to connect with ourselves on a deeper level, bringing our attention inwards and focusing on the present moment. Yoga is much more than movement. It helps to regulate the nervous system, in turn, making rest and sleep more accessible for us.
I advocate doing some restorativeyoga before bedtime. The ideal evening unwind, whether a 5/10 minute stretch or a full hour-long practice. Short on time? Simply lie on the ground with your legs up the wall which is incredibly grounding.
There are a wealth of videos online to guide you through a sequence of yoga, from beginner level to advanced. Search for ‘bedtime yoga’ on YouTube and find something to suit you. ‘Yoga with Adriene’ is a good place to start.
Meditation and breathwork are other mindful practices which, like yoga, promote inward connection. Meditation trains us to achieve a mentally clear, emotionally calm and stable state. Breathwork refers to when we are conscious of our breath and use it to influence our wellbeing. In its simplest form, taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth repeatedly. Both help us to enter a state that is more conducive for sleep. The Insight Timer app and the Calm app are some of the best resources I have found for guided meditations which often incorporate breath and are designed for sleep.
Now to catch some restorative Z’s. Sleep well.