Cranial Osteopathy is very helpful for relaxation and sleep.  I always have a good nights sleep after a treatment and many of my patients say the same.  Cranial Osteopathy helps take you out of the fight/flight part of your nervous system.  Our busy lives mean that we can end up living, on a daily basis, in a state of stress: it becomes the norm.  When this happens winding down and relaxing takes effort.  Cranial Osteopathy can help with this.  Helping you to relax.  It is a gentle treatment allowing you to let go and rest in your own body.

If you are struggling to relax and sleep here are some tips for you to try:

Breathing: Many of us breath too quickly.  So try slow calm breathing; aim at about 6 in, hold for 2 and then 6 out.  Breath deep into your belly and lower back.  

To encourage your nervous system to relax try parasympathetic breathing when the out breath is longer than the in breath i.e. in for 6 out for 8.  

Do not force any timing, find what is right for you, it will vary day by day.  The key is to become aware of how you breath and deepen it and slow it down.

Meditation: This can be done with the breathing, or with gentle music.  There are many apps now which have meditations recorded to help you.  Many offer free trails so you can find one to suit. YouTube is also a good source for music, Relax and Rejuvenate or Awake Nation have tracks with music at a hertz designed to calm the nervous system.   These create a still point in the day when you can let go.

Journalling:  This is really helpful to process your thoughts at the end of the day, what went well, what didn’t, what could you do different.  Place things in perspective.  It gets the thoughts out of your head and lets you leave them behind for the night.    There is a big body of research now showing the health benefits of journalling.

Sleep aids: If you need distraction to sleep, such as audio books, these apps often have timers on so you can set them to turn themselves off after a set amount of time.  Sleep headphones can help because they are more comfortable than normal headphones/ear buds.  

The biggest help is do not to stress, the more desperate to sleep you are the harder it will be.  Surrender to the situation and sleep will come.  This website has some good advice about sleep; especially for those with a history of trauma for whom disrupted sleep is common and who need some different advice from the majority. It also has a good app for assisting with sleep.  The same author also does apps for chronic pain and anxiety.

Sleep Routine:  The whole evening should be geared toward reaching the state ready for sleep.  You can’t switch off in the space of 15 minutes and expect to sleep.  Avoid stressful or stimulating activities such as phone calls/watching the news.  Enjoy a warm bath.  Read a book.  Avoid screens and bright lights for the hour before bed.  Keep your bedroom quiet and dark and the right temperature for you to relax.  Bodies like routine and understand its signals.  Having a bedtime routine tells your body sleep is coming, this also means that going to bed at a similar time each day helps.  Avoid caffeine after 6pm, even earlier for the over 60s.  Alcohol also doesn’t help, it will aid getting to sleep but can wake you up later in the night.  Find some caffeine free herbal teas you like instead (green tea contains caffeine)

Comfort:  I often get asked about pillows and mattresses.  You want your neck to be inline with your spine; so if you sleep on your side you need higher pillows than if you are a back sleeper.  

Mattresses again it varies on your sleep position, if you sleep on your side it needs to be soft enough to let your shoulder and hip sink and allow your spine to stay more in line.  If you sleep on your back you may prefer something firmer.  Be confident and go in the shop and lie on the mattress for more than a few minutes.  It is not true that back pain sufferers always need a firm mattress.  The starting point is usually with an orthopaedic mattress which is well sprung to spread your body weight.  

Waking up with a headache?  This can be a sign of high blood pressure; so get yours checked (I can do that for you).  It can also be a sign of teeth grinding or clenching or a restriction in your neck. Tight jaw muscles, stiff neck and joints I can help with. 

So any trouble sleeping, whether it’s the inability to relax/wind down or aches and pains waking you up Osteopath and Cranial Osteopathy can help.  

Additional resources: The NHS also has some sleep resources, there is an insomnia quiz on the main website and also advice/resources on their every mind matters website