A new concept has crept into the world of sleep research. Recent surveys show that about half of us fail to get enough sleep. Now, experts say that a significant factor could be blue light – the wavelength emitted from our electronic devices. Blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, so we find it hard to sink into slumber and stay there. Changes in sleep pattern can disrupt our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells us when to sleep, wake and eat. Scientists believe that, over time, this puts our health at serious risk.
In the short term, a poor night’s sleep affects your mood, your brain and body function and also your skin. As you sleep, your skin moves into repair mode, creating new cells and replacing ageing ones. Tossing and turning through the night is a short cut to puffiness, eye bags, a dull complexion and a drawn appearance.
Blue light emanates not just from your mobile phone and computer, but also your television, tablet and even that benign-looking Kindle. Using any or all of these in the one or two hours before you want to go to sleep may result in insomnia.
The problem is that even if we make a rule not to check emails after, say, 8pm (which I aim for), many of us like to unwind with a box set or lose ourselves in a novel on an e-reader. Most readers say they want something natural to help them sleep, and wellness brand This Works has a non-drug solution, which may help to counteract the blue-light problem.
This Works Deep Sleep range is based around the Pillow Spray, which contains an aromatherapeutic blend of lavender to relieve tension, vetiver to soothe the mind and wild camomile to alleviate stress.
Sceptics doubted that essential oils sprayed on to your pillow could rival medication, so over the past five years This Works has carried out independent clinical research. (The lead researcher on one trial told me he was astounded by the results.)
A seven-week study this year involved 200 participants (over the age of 18) with sleep problems. They all used electronic devices with no blue-light filter in the evening, up to and including the hour before sleep. One group trialled Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, the other a synthetic lavender spray. They swapped midway so that everyone tested both.
Ninety two per cent felt Deep Sleep Pillow Spray improved the quality of their sleep, 84 per cent fell asleep faster and 83 per cent had less sleep-related anxiety. (Friends and colleagues are fans, as am I.)
OUR BAD TECH HABITS
• 79 per cent of us check our smartphones in the hour before turning off our bedroom lights.
• 53 per cent reach for devices within 15 minutes of waking.
• 56 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds have a TV in their bedrooms and 33 per cent have a laptop.
A reader with psoriasis says Kerecis Psoria With mOmega3/£17.99 at victoriahealth.com, a steroid-free cream, has calmed her dry, itchy, red skin. She has spent 25 years ‘trying everything including dietary solutions and [prescription] creams when it is unbearable. This is the first cream that has healed the affected area.’ (NB This is not a cure for psoriasis, but regular use may markedly improve it.
Tempting older people’s appetites is difficult. Care UK, which provides specialist care services, has produced a useful booklet for family carers called Eating As We Age, with hints and tips for keeping healthy and hydrated in older age. Download it at careuk.com/eat.