If you feel you have a sleep disorder, it’s best to see an expert for the correct diagnosis. One of the best clinics to go to is the London Sleep Centre, which also has a centre in Edinburgh. Here they will deal with many different sleep disorders from insomnia to snoring and parasomnia (behaviours that arise out of sleep such as teeth grinding, sleep terrors, sleep walking etc.) as well as chronic fatigue syndrome and stress-related sleep disorders.
Depending on your problem, the highly trained doctors take an integrated approach to treatment using a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, medication where needed, and the latest in sleep and activity-monitoring technology.
If you’re feeling shattered for whatever reason, it’s incredibly important to drink water. The rule of thumb is that if you’re thirsty, then you’re dehydrated which can impair your thinking and any exercise you do. Just for the record Steve Mellor, head of personal training and nutrition at Freedom2Train, says dehydration can also slow down weight loss since the homeostasis in the body is impaired - you literally can't function without water.
According to psychologist Elaine Slater, “Maintaining a regular bedtime helps set your internal sleep-wake clock and reduces the amount of tossing and turning required to fall asleep.” She adds, “Avoid over-sleeping; this will only disrupt your biological clock.”
“Be mindful of sleep hygiene,” says Elaine. “Ensure your bedroom is quiet, comfortable, dark, cool and ventilated. Even a small amount of light in your bedroom can disrupt the production of melatonin and overall sleep.
“Avoid bright light at night and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.”
The lure of our smartphones to check any last minute messages, emails or tweets may be hard to resist last thing at night, but it could be putting our chances of a good night’s sleep in the firing line as a result. “We live in a hyper-connected world; this can be stressful and negatively affect our sleep,” says Elaine. “Electromagnetic radiation from phones, laptops and TVs disrupt and over-stimulate our central nervous system and significantly reduce melatonin. Embrace disconnecting and practice a ‘digital detox’ routine at least one hour before bedtime.”
According to Shabir Daya, health expert at Victoriahealth.com, the most common cause of fatigue is adrenal stress. “At times of stress, whether physical, hormonal or environmental, the adrenals over-produce cortisol.” While some cortisol is essential for daily brain, immune, muscle and blood glucose function as well as general circulation, high levels can increase fatigue and lead to reduced energy. Shabir suggests cortisol-lowering supplements that include the use of magnolia extracts and Siberian Ginseng. Try the Magnolia Rhodiola Complex by NHS Labs, £26.
According to Shabir, lack of vitamin B12 can also lead to fatigue; and the older you get, the more likely you are to be deficient. Vitamin B12 is critical for the production of red blood cells, healthy digestion, good adrenal function and memory as well as the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. His suggestion is to take fast-acting B12 Boost Pure Energy Oral Spray, £11.95.
Tiredness shows most around the eye area. Here at Get The Gloss we’re experts at disguising puffiness, lines and general eye wear and tear. Clinique’s All About Eyes De-Puffing Eye Massage pen, £23 works wonders on under eye bags (and is lovely and cooling), whilst Garnier’s Caffeine Anti-Dark 2-in-1 Tinted Eye Roll-on, £10.49, is an all-time favourite for disguising dark circles. If the inner rims of your eyes are red, Benefit’s Eye Bright Pencil, £15.50 will return that wide-awake look.
For a weekly treat, try the Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels, £25. A pack contains 8 masks and they’re great for refreshing and rehydrating the under eye areas of peepers that are feeling tired, puffy and frankly, computer screened-out.
The mask: Tiredness can show on your skin. One of the best skin peps is Liz Earle’s Brightening Treatment Mask, £14.75, which contains camphor oil (note: avoid if you have sensitive skin). Put on pre-shower and remove when you emerge to a magically brighter more glowing complexion.
The skin drink: Fatigued skin will benefit from a hydration boost. Our favourite is Sarah Chapman’s Intense Hydrating Booster, £57, which contains a huge boost of hyaluronic acid to pack water into the skin. Watch your skin drink it up on application.
The primer: Sunday Riley Effortless Breathable Tinted Primer, £38, is essential for dull looking complexions since it adds a hint of radiance and a light reflecting glow that just makes skin look simply awesome.
The BB cream: Estée Lauder’s Daywear BB Cream, £34, can work wonders on a tired face, evening out skin tone, but still allowing skin to shine through.
The concealer: Amazing Cosmetic’s Amazing Concealer, £19.50 is simply just that – amazing. Only a small amount is needed to make light work of uneven skin tone and dark circles, plus it stays put all day long.
“If you’re really tired,” says Steve Mellor, “then don’t push yourself with a strenuous workout or high-intensity exercise. It is beneficial however to do a combination of stretches, core and mobilising exercises to get the blood pumping round the body which in turn delivers oxygen to our vital organs and our brain. Build up intensity slowly.”
“Make sure your iron intake is up,” says Mellor, “It’s vital for blood to take oxygen around the body. Eat red meat and as many green leafy vegetables as you can.” Remember that you need to take in vitamin C (through leafy green vegetables or citrus fruits) when eating iron because it allows the iron to be absorbed into your system more effectively.
Once you’re lying comfortably in bed, take five deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. As you breathe in, try to get a sense of the lungs filling with air and the chest expanding. As you breathe out, imagine the thoughts and feelings of the day just disappearing into the distance, and any feelings of tension in the body just melting away. This will help to prepare both the body and the mind for the exercise ahead.
Begin by checking-in - how you’re feeling in both body and mind. Remember that in the same way you can’t rush relaxation, you cannot rush sleep, so take your time with this part of the exercise. Don’t worry if there are lots of thoughts whizzing around (this is absolutely normal). For now, just let them do their own thing. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to resist the thoughts, no matter how unsettling or uncomfortable they may be.
Next, become aware of the physical points of contact in a little bit more detail. Bring your attention back to the sensation of the body touching the bed, the weight of the body sinking down into the mattress. Notice where the points of contact are strongest – is the weight distributed evenly? You can also notice any sounds or other sensations. Sounds can be especially disturbing when you’re trying to go to sleep. At first it’s helpful to recognize whether it’s a sound you can change, or if it’s something outside of your control, something you can do nothing about. Then, rather than resisting the sound, gently rest your attention on it, remaining present with the sound for 30 seconds or so, before bringing your attention back to the body.
Now try to get a sense of how the body actually feels. At first, do this in a general way. For example, does the body feel heavy or light, restless or still? Then try to get a more accurate picture by mentally scanning down through the body, from head to toe, gently observing any tension or tightness. Invariably, the mind will be drawn to areas of tension, but you can relax in the knowledge that you are about to sleep and that the exercise will help to release those areas. You can do this scan several times, taking about 20 to 30 seconds each time. Remember to notice the areas that feel relaxed and comfortable, as well as any areas of discomfort.
By now you will have probably already noticed the rising and falling sensation of the breath, but if you haven’t, just bring your attention to that place in the body where you feel the movement most clearly. As always, don’t try to change the rhythm of the breath in any way, instead allow the body to do its own thing. There is no right or wrong way to breathe within the context of this exercise, so don’t worry if you feel it more in the chest than the stomach. Notice whether the breath is deep or shallow, long or short, smooth or irregular.
As you watch the breath for a minute or two, it’s quite normal for the mind to wander off. When you realize you’ve been distracted, that the mind has wandered off, in that moment you are back in the present, and all you need do is gently return the focus to the rising and falling sensation. You don’t need to time this part of the exercise, you can just naturally move on to the next section when it feels as if a couple of minutes have passed.
This next part of the exercise is about thinking back through the day in a focused and structured way. Begin by thinking back to the very first moment you can remember in the day, right after waking up in the morning. Do you remember how you felt upon waking? Now, as if your brain has been set to a very gentle "fast-forward," simply watch as your mind replays the events, meetings and conversations of the day. This doesn’t need to be in detail, it’s more of an overview, a series of snapshots passing through the mind.
Take about three minutes to go through the entire day, right up to the present moment. It might seem like a lot to fit into just a few minutes, but as I say, this is only an overview of the day, so don’t take any longer than three or four minutes. After a couple of days you’ll no doubt feel comfortable with the speed of it.
As the mind replays the day, there is the inevitable temptation to jump in and get caught up in the thinking. It’s normal for the mind to wander like this at first, but obviously it’s not helpful to get involved in new thinking at this time of night. So, as before, when you realize you’ve been distracted, gently return to the film playing back in your mind and pick up where you left off.
Having brought yourself up to the present moment, you can now return your focus to the body. Place your attention on the small toe of the left foot and imagine that you’re just switching it off for the night. You can even repeat the words "switch off" or "and rest" in your mind as you focus on the toe. It’s as if you’re giving the muscles, joints, bones and everything else permission to switch off for the night, knowing they will not be needed again until the morning.
Do the same with the next toe, and the next, and so on. Continue in this way through the ball of the foot, the arch, the heel, the ankle, the lower half of the leg and so on all the way up to the hip and pelvic area.
Before you repeat this exercise with the right leg, take a moment to notice the difference in the feeling between the leg that has been "switched off" and the one that hasn’t. If there was any doubt in your mind about whether anything was actually happening as you do this exercise, you’ll feel it now. Repeat the same exercise on the right leg, once again starting with the toes and working your way all the way up to the waist.
Continue this exercise up through the torso, down through the arms, hands and fingers, and up through the throat, neck, face and head. Take a moment to enjoy the sensation of being free of tension, of not needing to do anything with the body, of having given up control. You can now allow the mind to wander as much as it wants, freely associating from one thought to the next, no matter where it wants to go, until you drift off to sleep.