occasional musings....

which I hope you find interesting

Night-night, sleep tight, hope the bugs don't bite....

March 15, 2016

World Sleep Day is on March 18th. I’d never heard of it – have you? Sleep is something that lots of us take for granted, yet many of us struggle with getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. But I recently found out some really interesting things about what happens when we are asleep, and why, therefore, quality of sleep is so important. We spend about 1/3 of our lives asleep – for lots of very good reasons!


Most humans can live up to 2 months without eating, but only 11 days without sleep and 3 days without water. So sleep is actually more important than food!

On average, an adult needs around 7 ½ hours of sleep in every 24. So, if we habitually only get, say, 6 hours, then it is the equivalent of losing a whole night’s sleep every week! And I don’t know about you, but I find I really can’t get away with pulling an all-nighter any more, not without serious repercussions the day following! Sleeping less than this increases your chances of weight gain and dementia!


Lack of sleep triggers the production of stress hormones like cortisol, which increases blood sugar. Sugar attacks collagen (all our connective tissue contains collagen) so our ability to repair ourselves is immediately compromised, in addition to the damage done to digestion, circulation etc. (that’s a whole new topic!)


Another effect of stress is to cause capillaries to tighten up, which impairs circulation and damages keratin, leaving skin looking tired and dull (and prone to wrinkles!) One of the many roles of keratin is to lock moisture into our skin and hair. So lack of sleep will contribute to dry, lifeless skin and hair, as well as causing inflammation which exacerbates spots and break-outs, and dark circles around the eyes.


During sleep our body produces growth hormones which increase cellular reproduction, in particular collagen and melatonin production. Our body also synthesises proteins more actively, another aid to regrowth and repair. Minerals such as zinc also aid this process, and are more actively metabolised at night.


So, apart from all the obvious health benefits of getting enough quality sleep, it is also one of the best anti-aging tools we have at our disposal!

A little late, as we are well into Lent now, but a good forfeit would be to ‘give up being tired’ – a neat positive that we could all have a bash at. Where to start?


There are a myriad of helpful studies, articles, tip out there, but here are just a few pointers to help you find what works for you.

Avoid alcohol and salty snacks in the evening. Wine dehydrates skin and enlarges pores, while salt triggers fluid retention, causing puffiness. Not a pretty combination!


Wind down from the day’s activities – avoid bright lights, particularly screens (which do not have a place in any bedroom).

  • Have a soak in a not-too-hot bath. This is best done an hour or so before retiring so your body temperature readjusts. Use relaxing bath salts, oils, bubbles, that contain nourishment for the skin (try to go organic!)
  • Washing with circular motions will also boost your circulation and lymph flow, which is great for cellular repair and relaxing your muscles.
  • Have a cup of something soothing like Camomile tea, or a proprietary blend of ‘Night Time’ herbs from suppliers like Pukka, Heath & Heather or Neal’s Yard. Avoid caffeine!
  • Use candles for their restful light. If you are using scented ones, make sure they are good quality natural fragranced, and soy based wax rather than paraffin, as cheap room scenters are really really bad for your respiratory system! Here’s a useful article explaining why.
  • Use a good moisturiser containing things like hyaluronic acid (from plants) that adds moisture, and take your B vitamins and Zinc at night – your body gets more use from them.
  • Consider a vaporiser at night, with calming oils like lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, Melissa (lemon balm). Neal’s Yard do some great ones with inbuilt safety cut-out when the water runs out, and the added benefit of air-ionisation from the water vapour is great for helping with breathing difficulties. You can even get ones with two water chambers and a timer, so you can go to sleep with one lot of restful aromas, and awaken gently and peacefully with a more stimulating choice. Find them here
  • Make your bed and bedding clean, fresh and inviting. Use natural fibres. Ventilate your room at night
  • Take a glass of water with you, and if you do wake, have a few sips. Finish it off in the morning as you rise – an easy start to staying hydrated during the day.

I really hope this helps. Please comment and share any of your own techniques for restful sleep, and I am always happy to answer questions about aromatherapy oils and skin products to help you in your journey.


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Something for the chaps..

February 12th 2020

“she asked me what my skin regime was—well, I said, I have skin, every morning!”said Michael McIntyre…


Comedian Michael McIntyre has a lovely gag about cosmetics departments and men’s skincare: he quipped “she asked me what my skin regime was—well, I said, I have skin, every morning!”


There is a difference between male and female skin: male skin is about 20% thicker, with larger pores and a richer blood supply. Testosterone encourages sebum production which makes it more oily; and shaving can cause ingrown hairs which are easily inflamed or infected, or folliculitis—angry red bumps caused by minute shaving cuts becoming infected. Male skin also has more pigmentation, so is vulnerable to uneven marks in later life, caused sun damage thickening the skin which then takes on a leathery texture.


A skincare routine and good quality, tailored products are important: But it can all be kept very simple: a soap-free cleanser to prevent blocked pores—a water based one is more appealing than a cream; a shaving emulsion used in conjunction with a good aftershave balm if razor burn is an issue; a weekly (or less) exfoliation/scrub which will help combat folliculitis (and make shaving easier and smoother). 


Luckily, the typical stretching and face pulling when shaving is exactly the right sort of isometric exercise for all 22 muscles in the face—another reason why older men often have fewer wrinkles! 


A light moisturiser is a good idea if your skin is a little dry, and sun protection is important when you’re out and about.


It’s also good to have an eye for the ethical aspects of your skincare products. Most high street brands use chemical foaming agents, harsh preservatives, chemically synthesised fragrances and petro-chem ingredients such as liquid paraffin, propylene glycol and silicones. Whilst these may not be actually harmful to our bodies, there are other issues such as sustainability and pollution – both in the production and the disposal processes.


Perhaps the most shocking example is the fact that many exfoliating scrubs, even though they may list lots of lovely natural ingredients like sea salt and ground apricot kernels, also contain plastic microbeads. These may do an excellent job of gently removing your dead skin, but they then go down the plughole, through the water purification plants and out into the sea, where they are having serious effects upon marine life, along with the general mountain of plastics now floating about in our oceans. The microbeads are so fine that they just go straight into the marine food chain. Thankfully the cosmetics industry has banned them from future products, but how much stuff is left in bathrooms around the country?


So, it is a good idea to choose ethical, natural brands, and if possible, go organic. Neal’s Yard Remedies is an organic brand that has been around since the early 1980s. I chose the range for my therapy room not just because it's organic, but because the products are really, and I mean really, good, and everything is produced ethically: fair-traded, with additional social responsibility fund contributions to the producers.


Neal’s Yard’s range for men is pretty comprehensive, with a subtle, masculine scent that’s fine on its own, but not so strong that it interferes with a cologne if you use one. Whether you like a simple water-based wash, or prefer to shave with oil, gel or an old-fashioned soap and brush – there is a choice. The showering/bathing option is also simple: a multi-purpose hair and body wash – one application does the lot, and the Citrus Shower Gel is lovely and zingy. Or you can use the Create range, unscented, or there to add a particular essential oil to if you like a bit of ‘flavour’. 


The aluminium-free deodorants are also unisex – Lemon & Coriander or Lime & Peppermint. The formulation has been clinically proven to act for 24 hours against the bacteria that cause underarm odour.


For more details, please contact me - I'm happy to answer any questions, and all products are available from my shop