Feeling tired and rung out? Find out how to get a better night’s sleep with expert Rachel’s top tips!

Happy New Year!

The excitement of Christmas and New Year has come and gone but do you feel rested after your break?

Or are you feeling tired and rung out?

We all look forward to the Christmas break and expect to chill out and recharge our batteries. But the truth is that we often go back to work in January, knackered!  And add the dark, gloomy, grey days of January into the mix, and it’s no wonder you feel exhausted.

Apparently, January is THE month people go online scouring the internet for solutions to their sleep problems.

Why is this a tricky time for sleep patterns?

Most of us are manic before Christmas, tying up work projects before the end of the year and getting ready for the festivities.  Plus, we have probably experienced quite a few weeks of partying in the lead up to and during Christmas! This all adds up to disrupted sleep routines – going to bed late and getting up at irregular times.  And we’ve also been eating lots of richer and heavier food, maybe drinking too much alcohol and taking little or no exercise. More changes that impact badly upon our sleep.

Add to the fact that many of us have been on the move during the holidays, visiting relatives and friends.  Sleepless, restless nights on uncomfortable mattresses that leave the body aching and done in add further to the problem.

In short, the festive season is the perfect environment to get into bad sleeping habits and get your slumbers out of sync.

It’s not just us adults that feel out of whack, it’s the kids too.  Their routines have been disrupted, they’ve been on a high sugar diet for a few weeks and are wired – they’re craving sugar like candy!  Consequently, they’re not sleeping, they’re tired and they’re disturbing your sleep too.

So, what can you do to get back on track?

Here are a few of my top tips.

  1. Routine, routine, routine!

Good sleep routine

Did I say routine?  Routine is key, your brain loves routine!  Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t recognise weekends or holidays, so it’s essential that you go to bed at more or less the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning – you’ve probably got a 30 – 60 minute window of lie in time; or you could be suffering from what is known as “social jet lag”, where your body clock has moved into a different time zone over the weekend.

  1. Have a soak before bedtime

A warm bath or shower is great for relaxing you, but don’t make it too hot or it will make you sweat too much and raise your heart rate, which isn’t conducive to helping you fall asleep.  Allow at least 20 minutes to make sure your body cools down before hitting the sack.

  1. Step away from the tech

Using mobile in bed

Have a tech embargo at least an hour before going to bed, to reduce your exposure to blue light from screens, which disrupts your drive for sleep.  It’s not just the screen glare, the content you’re looking at could either stimulate or stress you, waking you up when you should be feeling sleepy.

Keep electronic devices to a minimum in the bedroom, no phones, tablets, laptops or televisions.  Not only do they emit electro-magnetic pollution, which disrupts your sleep,  but it also stops the temptation to either watch or use them in bed. Particularly important where children are concerned.

Are you struggling with your sleep?  If you are, would you like to have a free 15 minute chat to see how I can help you?

You can access my online diary here and pick a date and time that suits you.

Just CLICK HERE to make your booking.

Rachel McGuinness, our guest blogger, is an expert in sleep deprivation and solving sleep problems. She is trained in  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia and is a Neuro Linguistic Programming Master Practitioner. She runs her own business called Wake up with Zest . As well as helping individuals with sleeping problems she also gives talks to businesses about how to get into good sleeping habits.

Pillow talk!

You spend a lot of time with your pillow, but how much thought goes into choosing one?

We all do it – we all need it – but not all of us get it in good enough quality. I’m talking about sleep.

One reason may be your pillow. Most of us have heard the mattress mantra urging us to replace every eight’ years but how often should we change our pillow – and what sort of pillow would give us the best night’s sleep?

Read our blog for some simple, practical tips on choosing the right pillow for you.

Pillow perfection

There are so many different types of pillow – the choice can be a bit bewildering. It’s a very individual purchase; one person’s dream pillow is another’s nightmare.

Comfort is so subjective. One person may find the material filling of a pillow ideal for them – that could be latex, which tends to sort of bounce back immediately, whereas others might like a soft enveloping type of pillow like a feather or a down pillow. So it’s very much personal preference.

What you have to consider is the type of support that you like. So do you like a shallow or a deeper pillow, and do you prefer a softer pillow to a firmer one? These are some of the things to consider.

Most Physiotherapists believe that there is no one perfect pillow for everyone. There’s only the perfect one for you as an individual.

Pillow position

The conventional wisdom says a good pillow should keep your head in ‘neutral alignment’ – meaning it’s sitting squarely on your shoulders, not bending too far back or forward. We’re told we should use our pillow to produce the same position for our shoulders and spine as if we were standing upright with the correct posture.

Neck pain or stiffness and even persistent headaches could be the result of poor pillow support while sleeping.

So, the right pillow can be important. Much depends on the position you sleep in. There are three main types of sleeping position:

  • On your back – you will need thinner pillows so your head is not thrown too far forward. Also, look to cradle your neck with an extra bit of height in the bottom third of your pillow, nearest your neck.
  • On your front – tummy sleepers need a very thin, almost flat, soft pillow. We don’t on the whole recommend sleeping on your tummy as it requires you to sleep for long periods with your head turned in an extreme position. Tummy sleepers often have a favourite side to turn their head and so often become stiff to the opposite direction.
  • On your side – you will need a fluffier, thicker pillow to fill in the space between your head and shoulders. This gap varies according to your build so try to match the thickness to the space between your ear and top of your shoulder.
  • If you toss and turn and sleep in all three of these positions then choose a medium-thickness pillow which can be either a high-fill down pillow or a medium synthetic one.


Types of pillow

Down or feather pillows are usually recommended by sleep experts as one of the best type for a good night’s rest, although pillows can be filled with almost anything. The most commonly used ones are down-feather combinations, foam, or a polyester fibre fill. All have their pros and cons.

  • Feather pillows. Soft and flexible but it’s worth checking on the contents. Chicken feathers, can straighten with time and quills could then poke through to the outside of the pillow and disturb your sleep. These pillows may sink during the night reducing the support they give.
  • Down pillows. Extra soft but firm enough to give support where needed. Down pillows don’t have any sharp quills because they are made from the delicate fluffy feathers found beneath the tougher exterior ones. The softness and cost, and down pillows are often pricey, will go up in proportion to the amount of down inside. One of the positive things about down pillows is that you can move the stuffing around so that you have the most support where you need it.

Many down pillows are washable.

  • Foam or latex. These pillows tend to be firm with a definite bounce to them. They hold their shape well and are considered hypo-allergenic – although people with breathing problems like asthma may still want to use a special barrier cover. Specially moulded ‘orthopaedic’ pillows to support the neck are often made of this material and you can use them with a softer pillow on top if needed.
  • Memory foam is polyurethane with added chemicals. It moulds its shape to you but bounces back once you remove your head. However, it can be quite smelly. These pillows can also leave you with a hot head, so if you like the feeling of cool bedding it may not be for you. Plus, if you sleep in a very cool room, some will get hard and feel uncomfortable.
  • Polyester filled. These are the most popular pillows and vary from soft to very firm. They’re usually quite cheap and are often machine washable. However, they can offer poor neck support and may be vulnerable to dust mites.


 Looking after your pillow

dust mite

According to experts around 10% of the weight of an old, unwashed pillow could be made up of skin scales, mould, fungi and dead and living dust mites!

To keep a pillow in its prime condition it should be replaced every 2 to 3 years and washed every 3 months.

Pillows that have lost their height, are lumpy, misshapen or discoloured are definitely past their ‘best before’ date!

Pillow price

Don’t let price be your guide. You may be able to pick up two pillows for under a tenner or you could spend hundreds. Just because a pillow costs more does not automatically make it a better pillow or the right pillow for you.

As pillows are such a personal thing it could be a cheap one will suit you best, although it may not stay like new or retain its level of support for as long as a more expensive one and may need to be replaced sooner.

And do try before you buy – especially if the store has a demonstration pillow already out of its packaging. You can’t really get a great idea of the pillow when it’s still in its plastic bag.

So if you’re going to a bed store, if they have pillows on display in their packaging ask the assistants whether they have one of those pillows out of its packaging so you can give it a try or lie on a bed with it.

And if that all seems a bit too much of a fuss for you, remember how long you spend in bed with your head on your pillow and how important it is to get a good night’s sleep!

If you are suffering with neck pain or headaches and would like to make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists please call 020 8876 5690, click here to email us or pop in. Our Physios are always happy to chat things over before booking.


  • Physio on the River
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    SW13 0NP
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