A few weeks ago, the lovely folks at Holland and Barrett got in touch and asked whether I'd like to take part in their #beautysleep campaign - as someone who a) loves all things herbal and natural and b) hadn't been sleeping particlarly well for a while, I obviously jumped at the chance. The lure of eight hours restful kip was too strong to ignore!
As someone with anxiety, I've used a few of the products in the box before; I'm no stranger to chamomile tea, and I've already practically got shares in lavender oil, but there were a few surprises in there. I'd not heard of the powers of Valerian tea before (apparently it causes drowsiness - there's even a 'no heavy machinery' type warning on the box!), and I loved the idea of the Miaroma lavender bath oil - is there really anything better than sinking into a warm, headily fragranced bath with a good book on a cold evening?
I thoroughly tested all the products (all in the name of science, you understand...), and had a few absolute favourites, including the amazing, wonderful, fantastic room spray (I can't tell you how much I love this stuff!).
Treets Velvet Vanilla and Lavender Massage Candle, £11.49
Until I was sent the Treets candle, I had no idea that any such thing as a massage candle even existed - I'd accidentally tipped wax on myself before, but that definitely couldn't have been rubbed in! The description on the box said that as the candle melted, it turned into a smooth massage oil; this immediately made me think I was going to hate it, because I can't stand anything greasy - but I was pleasantly surprised. The consistancy is slightly drier than a traditional oil, but it still goes a long way - and there's also the added bonus that it's obviously already warm! Lucky Ali got to road test this on my feet (I walk a lot and always have painful feet and calves), and I promptly fell asleep on the sofa - I can't say that it was entirely due to the massage candle, but it certainly helped!
Miaroma Relaxing Lavender Temple Balm, £8
Man alive, this stuff was good. Marketed as a relaxation aid, it certainly lived up to the description; the instructions said to rub it on your temples, wrists, behind the ears and on the back of the neck, and as soon as I did, I started to feel instantly less tense. Life has been a bit stressful lately; Ben's currently being assessed for Autism Spectrum Condition, Daisy has tantrums that could raise the dead, they've both been ill with Chickenpox, worms and headlice (bleurrgh!) and Ali's work hasn't been particularly stable - so when bedtime rolls around, I find it HUGELY hard to switch off. While the temple balm didn't put me to sleep, it did definitely make me feel more relaxed - which is definitely the first step towards good quality sleep. Oh, and because it contained lavender, sandalwood, chamomile and patchouli, it smelt amazing too.
Miaroma Relaxing Lavender Sleep Mist
I think this stuff must contain some sort of magic or something - this, for me, was the absolute number one, standout, top product in the box. It contains lavender, chamomile and honeysuckle, and the idea is that you spray it around the room, or on your pillow for a more intense experience - I decided to do both because I'd not slept properly for so long, and that night I slept from 9pm until 6am without waking. At all. Not once. Not even for the loo. I'd taken my book to bed (currently reading Labyrinth by Kate Mosse - anyone else?), and Ali had come upstairs half an hour later to find me asleep with it on my face, so it was quick work as well. I've used it every night since, and have definitely been sleeping much better - I can't tell whether it's solely down to this, because I can't bare the thought of going without it for a night!
Heath and Heather Organic Chamomile Infusions, £2.25 for 20 tea bags
I've tried chamomile tea before, and always found it tastes a bit how I imagine grass to taste; no matter how hard I tried to like it, it always made me wrinkle my nose and gag a bit. I brewed up the Heath and Heather tea bag expecting the same experience, but on the whole, it was more pleasant - there seemed to be less aftertaste and less 'grassiness'. I wouldn't say it made me overly sleepy, but I definitely felt more relaxed while I was drinking it - plus, I always think that the ritual of making tea in itself is pretty therapeutic!
Have a Bath - Dim the lights, get some candles going and ease yourself into a bath full of essential oils. Nowt more relaxing than that!
Read a Book - We all (well, most of us) like to watch a bit of TV in the evening, whether it's that series that's got you hooked on Netflix or the latest ITV crime drama - but television is known to stimulate the senses, so try to turn it off an hour earlier and read a book instead. The latest episode of The Walking Dead is not going to help you sleep.
Meditate - I keep meaning to try out meditation and mindfulness exercises, because they sound amazing, but I've not got round to it yet. It has been proved, though, that it's a great way to wind down for bed - there's a super simple exercise here, if you want to try it out.
Leave the Phone Alone! - I'm utterly guilty of it, but looking at your smartphone in bed has long been declared a no-no - it stimulates the senses and the LED display is lit in such a way that it sends messages to your brain, declaring that it's time to wake up rather than go to sleep. Once you decide to go to bed, go to bed - no more e-mails, no more Facebook posts and no more Buzzfeed quizzes!
Listen to a Podcast - if you're not much of a reader, try an audio book or Podcast. There are literally gazillions on the Apple podcast store - I like Lore, which delves into scary tales and legends, and While She Naps. I'm also a huge fan of anything from Radio 4 - the plays and dramas are brilliant, as are the science and countryside programmes. Oh, and I love a bit of The Archers!
I was sent the products from Holland and Barrett free of charge for review purposes, but as usual, all thoughts and opinions are my own. You need some of that Miaroma room spray!