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Sleep easy

For many of us getting enough zzz’s is a struggle even when the lights are out, and there are many reasons why we might not be sleeping. Understanding the why can help kick insomnia and achieve our sleep goals.

Words: Carolyn Enting

Kirsten Taylor is an expert on sleep. She’s the naturopath who founded SleepDrops a decade ago, a herbal formula she created for her sleep-deprived clients, though prior to launching SleepDrops she’d never needed to take them herself. That was until the global financial crisis struck and Taylor found herself having a career crisis due to some unforeseen bad luck that resulted in losing everything, and gaining insomnia. 
 
“One night I was out on the balcony drinking red wine and thinking, ‘I’m not going to sleep again tonight’ and suddenly remembered the sleep remedy I used to make for people and how they raved about it. 
So I got up and made it, and boom, I slept all night. I woke the next morning gob-smacked. I remember the whole world being different. The sun was more shiny, the leaves were more green – honestly, the world was better.”

The success of SleepDrops has now enabled her to open New Zealand’s first integrative medical and naturopathic sleep and wellness centre in Wairau Valley, Glenfield, Auckland. 

A place that brings together highly qualified and experienced medical and naturopathic practitioners who specialise in sleep, including a sleep physiologist, naturopathic sleep doctor, acupuncture, kinesiology, massage, yoga, mindfulness and meditation classes, as well as state of the art SleepPods, which you can book for a rejuvenating sleep session.

The pods, which Taylor designed and had custom-made, come with a single-king-size memory foam mattress, supersize super-soft eye masks and headphones for listening to a guided meditation.
Aside from coming to the rescue with diagnostics, treatments and advice, the Sleep and Wellness Centre offers tools like its 10-step body breath scan.

The key to falling asleep, says Taylor, is to calm the nervous system, which is why sleep apps like Calm are so effective. “Having a guided meditation or having a wind-down routine is crucial,” she says. “It’s hard not to look at your phone at night because you want to stay in contact with loved ones and see what they are up to but if you’ve got a sleeping problem it’s toxic. We suggest setting an alarm on your phone one hour before you want to go to sleep and when that goes off, put the technology down. Boil the kettle and while you are waiting for that to boil, have a shower. The increase in temperature followed by decrease, literally induces sleepiness. Go back to get your cup of tea, get into your pyjamas and climb into bed with a book. Don’t read your phone.”

Taylor also highlights the importance of going to bed an hour earlier than you normally do because research is really clear the hours you sleep before midnight are more restorative than the ones you get after midnight. This is because you get more non-REM sleep during the first hours. 

Kirsten Taylor is the founder of SleepDrops and has diplomas in naturopathy, herbalism and nutrition.


FAST FACTS 

  • A simple saliva test can measure whether your body is releasing melatonin or cortisol at night.
     
  • No sleep leads to overeating. “If you change your body clock by one hour a day, that’ll literally make you get the munchies and consume 300 extra calories the next day. They are biochemical cravings that you can’t override and literally makes you reach for the food you know you shouldn’t have,” says Taylor. “This is because the body feels like it needs to try and make more energy. You’ll find if you sleep your eight hours then the cravings go away.”
     
  • Did you know that Panadol and Nurofen interfere with melatonin production? 
     
  • There are many reasons why we can’t sleep, from stress to lack of exercise. It is important to move enough during the day to create a physical and mental fatigue, which will induce sleepiness as the body is programmed to help us recover. 
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