A good night’s sleep can be difficult to achieve, whether it be due to life stress, medication side effects, or whirring mind. Part of the anti-nausea medication protocol on chemotherapy includes high-dose steroids, and I’ve found these in particular can interfere with my ability to sleep well at a time when it’s most need.
When you’re up against the effects of medication sometimes you just have to ride it out, but there are also several natural methods you can try to help you relax and drift off.
- Support melatonin – melatonin is one of the hormones that contributes to good sleep, but exposing our eyes to blue spectrum light (found in sunlight but also produced by digital screens and LED lighting) impairs the body’s production. Avoid using devices such as mobile phones, computers and TV after 9pm and ensure your bedroom is properly dark at night. If you have trouble reducing screen time in the evening, you can now buy amber-toned glasses to filter out the blue light. I struggle with this myself, but I’m working on it.
- Wind down with herbal tea – find a relaxing evening blend that you enjoy. My favourites are Higher Living Sweet Dreams tea and chamomile and spearmint (Heath & Heather for organic, or Twinings in supermarkets).
- Relax with a bath – I find Epsom or Dead Sea salts in the bath particularly good. Westlab Epsom salt (£5.99) is an affordable option and widely available in supermarkets, Boots and online. If you can’t manage a bath for whatever reason (I have a PICC line which makes it difficult), a foot bath is a good alternative.
- Transform your bed into a cloud – it’s really important that your bed is comfortable. If your mattress is a little tired but not yet ready to be replaced, consider a mattress topper. I have the the Luxury Soft As Down mattress topper from Soak & Sleep, and it made a big difference even to a new mattress. I also love their French linen bedsheets, which supposedly help your body to better control temperature and also feel really nice against your skin.
- Try aromatherapy – essentials oil sprays and roll-ons are now part of my before bed routine, although scent is highly personal and you may have to try a few blends to find one you love. I found Neom Tranquility Intensive Deep Sleep Treatment particularly good. At £8 for a small rollerball it may seem expensive, but they use the highest quality oils and I found this little vial lasted about six months using it almost every night. I also enjoy This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray (£18), and the Tisserand Sweet Dreams rollerball (£5.95) is another good rollerball if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the Neom one.
- Consider a supplement – magnesium in particular supports the nervous system, but if you’re taking medication do ensure you talk to your doctor first to check it’s safe for you and won’t interact. When choosing a magnesium supplement it’s also a good idea to buy a reputable brand and get some advice from an independent health food shop or supplement company about which type of magnesium to take, as there are quite a few out there. Avoid magnesium oxide as this is poorly absorbed in the intestines, and instead works more as a laxative.
Do you have trouble sleeping? What have you found that helps?
Green tea has many reputed health benefits; components called catechins (such as EGCG) are thought to support heart health and blood sugar control, while the amino acid L-theanine has a calming effect. I’d never gotten into the habit of drinking green tea, not being a great fan of hot drinks generally, but reading this study on the role of green tea in possibly enhancing ovarian cancer survival rates made me more willing to try (in the spirit of ‘every little helps’).
I’ve found green tea to be bitter when trying it in the past, but I’ve discovered the type of green tea you use and how you prepare it can make a big difference.
Japanese sencha green tea seems to have a more delicate flavour than some other varieties and it is also supposed to contain some of the highest levels of EGCG. Clearspring do a good one, although it’s quite expensive if you buy the tea bags. I’d suggest getting a box to start with to see if you like it, then if you do, consider swapping to the loose leaf version, which I think works out to be more economical.
In preparing it, using water just before it gets to boiling point helps to reduce bitterness. Then to maximise the antioxidants in your brew, cover your cup (or use a teapot) and leave the tea to brew for 10 minutes. It’s also best to drink it within one hour of making it, again to maximise antioxidant content.
People seem to vary a lot in how many cups they advise you to have per day (from two to eight) and that the benefits are mostly if you do this consistently over a long period of time. For me this is still a work in progress – I tend to aim for two or three, but may have one or none! While green tea is lower in caffeine than black tea or coffee, it does still contain some and this may be a factor to consider for some people. I say go with what feels right for you. No single dietary factor is a magic solution for any health condition, so I think it’s important not to get upset with yourself if you don’t like something or don’t manage to incorporate it into your daily routine.
Today I’m sharing some of my favourite things I’ve been enjoying this month.
- Face Theory organic bamboo face cloths – a few weeks ago my skin became super sensitive, I think in reaction to a new cleanser I tried. I quickly swapped to some really gentle products, but found my usual flannels and muslin cloths were just a bit too much for my skin. I spent a few days splashing off my cleansers with water until finding these bamboo face cloths from Face Theory on Amazon. They are so soft and gentle, my skin is now a lot happier.
- Pea shoots – I love the delicate flavour of pea shoots, even though I’d never seen them until a few years ago. They are lovely as part of a salad, but I’ve also been enjoying them alongside eggs at breakfast. I sometimes find other greens like spinach are a bit much for my digestion in the morning, but these seem easier on my system and a good way to include some more veg at breakfast.
- Madeleine Shaw on YouTube – I’ve been catching up with health coach Madeleine Shaw’s videos on YouTube this month. I find them so relaxing to watch, and I really appreciate how positive she is in her outlook.
- Yogi Rose Tea – my absolute favourite herbal tea at the moment. It has a lovely delicate floral taste from the rose, with some subtle warm spices.
- Decleor Aromessence Neroli Hydrating Night Balm – this is such a beautiful calming face balm, and a little goes a long way. Neroli is just one of the essential oils included in this delicious blend, alongside chamomile and basil. I find it really good when my skin is out of sorts, whether a bit dehydrated or threatening a breakout.
What products are you loving at the moment?