Sleep. I cannot remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep unaided. At the start of the year, I was working an untenable (and illegal) amount of hours and (just) surviving on a few hours’ sleep each night. You can read more about that here. Chronic sleep deprivation has a number of detrimental effects on the body, and is also considered a form of torture, for example in the context of interrogation. When I quit my insane job working as a doctor in hand surgery in June, that’s when I first realised how stuffed up my sleep was. I could get to sleep, but I would keep waking up every few hours because my body kept thinking I was still on call for emergencies. Along with the other sequelae of severe burnout, I was hospitalised for 6 weeks… so you could say that I’m somewhat attune to what it feels like to have poor sleep. I’m extremely passionate about improving sleep quality; I really don’t want anyone to suffer as much as I did.
I’ve always had good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, which you can read more about here. Most sleep problems can be improved by changing your sleep environment and behaviours, and I would wholeheartedly encourage those before you turn to a doctor to seek any medications. However, my body and brain suffered so much from overworking that not even the strictest adherence to sleep hygiene rules could help me.
Temazepam didn’t work (even when I took 40mg over one night because I was so desperate), nor did melatonin / circadin, which are both common medications that help with sleep. I was also put on a baby dose of quetiapine (an anti-psychotic, also known as seroquel), but that didn’t work either… it just made me drowsy the next morning. At my worst I could not maintain sleep without 20mg diazepam (valium), 50mg promethazine (phenergan), plus 1.5mg risperidone. For those who aren’t familiar with these medicines, it is quite a horrific cocktail of drugs to be on, but that’s what I needed.
I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that using these lovely products has not cured my sleep disturbances, but for people with mild sleep problems, it may make a difference. If anything, I researched sleep products as a way of establishing a nice bedtime routine, which is a form of self care and self love. What’s nicer than giving yourself a massage or drinking a cup of tea? None of these products were given to me for free – I researched ethical / vegan / cruelty-free products over 2 months, and have been trying and testing them myself so what you have here is an honest, critical and authentic review of the products I have gathered together! You’ll see from the first product… I want to support Australian, ethical products but if I don’t like it, I don’t like it.
I’ve always liked scented candles for as long as I can remember. Due to the environmental impact of burning paraffin, I have turned to soy candles, although soy also has its problems. I really believe in aromatherapy. There’s a reason why you smile when you smell your mama’s baking. The nerves that carry the sense of smell from your nose to your brain end in the olfactory bulbs, which have connections to the limbic lobe, which is the part of the brain that processes emotion.. so for me it makes total sense that aromatherapy works to change your mood.
When I was hospitalised, the hospital shop had this candle so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s actually rather hard to find a pure lavender candle that is also vegan / ethical / cruelty free (and purple… cos, you know, it has to be). Most “sleep” candles come as a mix of different fragrances. Anyway, cut to the chase: I don’t recommend this one due to its weakness in scent. I also did buy another one of theirs (white tea and ginger) which smells absolutely beautiful, but again, the smell is very soft and I prefer something that fills my room up. For those of you who only like a hint of fragrance, you would really love Belle Lumiere.
Back to the lavender candle… I literally have to get my nose 5cm away from the candle to even smell the lavender. I think I need to stick to triple-scented candles from now on because this one was sadly disappointing… I really wanted to love it. I can barely smell it… I left it burning in my small bedroom and it took about an hour or more for the room to smell like lavender. Even then, it was a very mild scent. Some triple-scented candles (like those from Glasshouse) are WAY too strong and overpowering but the Belle Lumiere one was far too weak for any benefit. All I could think of was, “thank goodness I bought the small one, and not the bigger sized candles”.
I think I will be sticking to my regular candle, which is The Aromatherapy Company’s Lavender and Chamomile candle, which is strongly scented, I love the smell, and it fills my room much quicker. It’s stocked at both Myer and David Jones. For vegans concerned about the use of Manuka honey in this candle, it’s made in New Zealand where all beekeepers comply with the Ethical Honey Harvesting Programme. Meanwhile, I have since ordered another three different lavender based candles, so I’ll report back to you on those!
After I put my candle on in my room about 30-60 minutes before bed, I like to drink something warm. I’ve got two recommendations, and they are possibly the strongest recommendations of all the products I have on this blog post!
The Beauty Chef’s Sleep Inner Beauty Powder (link in photo caption above) is essentially a turmeric latte powder with the benefit of lemon balm and passionflower which make you calm and sleepy. The effects of this drink were strong – I could feel myself getting nice and dozy not long after drinking it. I normally like to have my turmeric with almond milk, but this was PERFECT with coconut milk. I didn’t have to add anything to it – I loved it so much it’s replaced my own turmeric latte recipe. I did also try it with unsweetened almond milk, but I found it to be a little too bitter. You can add stevia or any sweetener of your choice to make it more palatable. I loved this drink and I also found that my digestion improved too, which is the premise of this brand – treating the body from the inside out! Gut health is all the rage these days, and for good reason.
Love Tea’s Sleep Tea is now officially my favourite herbal tea of all time (link in photo caption above). I know, big call. It’s organic, ethically sourced, and Australian. This too uses passionflower, which helps you feel sleepy. It of course has chamomile and lavender in it, which I’ve come to look for and expect in all sleep products now. It has a pleasant slightly sweet taste to it – it really is a lovely experience drinking this tea, and it has a nice minty finish to it from the spearmint. I’ll definitely be re-ordering this one!
Aesop used to have shaving brushes with animal hairs about a decade or so ago, but now it is completely vegan. I went into my local Aesop and was served by a lovely man called Yiorgo (if you’re reading this, hi!). I told him I was having sleep problems and asked if he would show me e-ve-ry-thing in the shop which had any chamomile in it, or would be good for sleep.
I am loving the two products in the photo above. The first is the In Two Minds Facial Hydrator. The main ingredients printed on the label are Witch Hazel, Sandalwood and Andiroba seed, but it also has chamomile in it, which is the dominant smell of this product. It really is like drinking chamomile tea through your whole face. Amazing. It’s designed for combination skin, which is what I have. Just one pump is enough for the whole face and my skin is feeling great!
The Calming Shampoo is great for so many reasons. It has chamomile in it, which has the calming effect, but it also does a good job making your scalp feel really clean. I love the smell of sage in it too. This shampoo lathers really well, and when you’re massaging your head with it, you can feel the refreshing tingles from the mint in it. I bought the smaller bottle in case I didn’t like it, but after it’s done, I’m going back to buy the big bottle!
It was happenstance that I walked past a pop-up store of Perfect Potions on my way to my local Aesop. I like the idea of buying essential oils, but one problem: I am lazy. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh… I’ll re-word that to say I like to be economical with my time (how’s that for positive psychology?). I don’t like that you have to mix essential oils with a carrier oil before you can put it on your skin. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I do like the idea of putting a few drops of lavender oil in my bath, but how often do I take a bath? Let’s be real, who actually likes waiting for the bath to fill up? So here enters the Perfect Potions “Relax” Massage oil, which you can get from their stores or online here.
I usually rub magnesium oil onto my neck and shoulders before bed but I have been trying the Relax massage oil, which has been great! Most of us carry a lot of muscle strain / tension in our neck region due to stress or working a desk job, so it’s nice to massage the neck and shoulders before bed. I spent a long time at Perfect Potions reading the ingredients of every product I was interested in. Not all of their products are vegan (such as their balms), but this one definitely is. In addition, the glass bottle is recyclable and it is Australian certified organic. I love the smell of their Relax massage oil; in fact I was next to a family of four who were also smelling the range and we all decided “Relax” was the best one – so there you go. Five ticks of approval.
Then, I went to Aesop and purchased the Ginger Flight Therapy. It’s a lovely combination of ginger, lavender and geranium and designed for “jaded travellers” and “weary workers” … the latter sounds like me. The instructions are to roll it on regularly to your pulse points. As well as the relaxing effect of lavender, ginger is great for nausea if you suffer from a bit of flight or sea sickness. Unfortunately the smell doesn’t last very long, so it wasn’t the best option for sleep, but I’ll definitely carry this with me when I next fly… that’s how I roll.
I’ve recently gotten into facial mists. Every time I go to my local Mecca, they usually have the Mario Badescu green mist on display as a tester and I love it every time I use it, so I decided to have a look at that range online, and got myself the Lavender one (of course). It’s also got chamomile in it (naturally), and some aloe. You can get it from Mecca here. I also got the green one that I loved trying in-store (aloe, cucumber and green tea) which is oh-so refreshing. In the evenings when I’m winding down but it’s too early to start my bedtime routine (I don’t want to get sleepy too early!), I love to spritz a bit of the purple spray on my face.
Eye pillows were a new discovery for me this year.. how did I even do savasana (resting pose in yoga) without one before now? This pretty eye pillow is from wheatbagslove, whose website is here. They are based in Melbourne and their handmade items use natural, organic, and biodegradable materials. Their packaging is also recyclable, and what I really love is that they give their off-cut fabrics to a local refugee centre where the women there make quilts out of them! I thought that that was really sweet.
You can choose either unscented, rose or lavender. No guesses as to which one I bought. These can be both heated or placed in the freezer depending on what you like. You can microwave for 30-60 seconds to put a warm eye pillow over your eyes just before you go to bed.. it’s truly a spa-like experience. Or, if it’s hot during the day and you want to cool off, these pillows can also be placed in the freezer and you can refresh your eyes with it. The only downside is that it’s stitched all the way around so you can’t wash the covering if the eye pillow gets dirty. You can remove the covering for other eye pillows I own, which allows me to put them in the wash every few weeks or months so that the fabric stays nice and clean so I’ll have to use this one judiciously.
Last but not least, the Black Chicken Remedies! I absolutely loved reading the story on their website. The creator had some skin problems and started making her own remedy using a bowl she had which had a black chicken painted on it. You can read her story here. I tried two of the products, which I thought were very unique. The first was the sleep “pyramedial”. It’s a pyramid filled with lavender, and I sandwich it between two pillows during the day. At night I get a small whiff of it when I turn the top pillow over (but the smell is not particularly strong… possibly because my Aromatherapy Lavender & Chamomile candle has already filled my room with a strong scent).
The second product I got was the nasalette inhaler. I loved the idea of it, it made me feel nostalgic of when my mum used to give me a Vicks nasal inhaler whenever I had a blocked nose. Using an inhaler rather than just sniffing your wrists after using a roll-on is great – it encourages me to take a deep inhale through each nostril alternately. This is very reminiscent of the pranayama (breathing) exercises I like to do before a yoga practice. It’s got a strong but calming scent and taking those nice deep breaths through the nose really is a nice thing to do just before going to bed. The great thing about this inhaler is that it’s re-fillable too.
And there you have it. If you have made it to the end of my essay, congratulations for putting up with my verbosity. I hope it’s been entertaining or at least informative.