Tips for sleep and relaxation from Kokoon’s experts
“You should sit in nature for half an hour every day to help your mental health - unless you're busy, then you should sit in it for an hour.” - Mary Anne Hobbs, BBC Radio 6
Sleep and mental health often go hand in hand. It’s no coincidence that a bad night’s sleep can lead to feeling both low and to an altered state of well-being. And it’s also not surprising that stress and other external pressures can lead to a significant dip in quality of sleep.
Emil Kraepelin, one of the founders of modern psychiatry, noted in his first textbook in 1883 that abnormal sleep patterns and mental health are linked and not much has changed since. More and more research has shown that getting a decent night’s sleep is vital when it comes to emotional functions such as emotional regulation and expression of emotion.
Fortunately, there are ways we can improve our wellbeing and the quality of sleep we’re getting each night by using natural sleep aids and sleep remedies. One of the more accessible techniques for improving sleep and mental well-being is getting back to nature. Quite literally.
Throughout this article we’ll let you in on a few science-backed, nature-focused tips and tricks to make sure you nod off sooner and for longer. So, grab those metaphorical hiking boots and join us on a natural path to a better night’s sleep.
Nature’s positive impact on sleep
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week focused on nature and Mark Rowland, Chief Exec of Mental Health Foundation explains why:
“...nature’s unique ability to not only bring consolation in times of stress, but also increase our creativity, empathy and a sense of wonder… even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress.”(1)
For some of us, nature isn’t just on the doorstep, but this shouldn’t stop you from seeking out a green space and connecting and opening up to what it has to offer. If you can’t get to nature, then let it come to you via audio.
1. Nature’s sounds for better sleep
Binaural Soundscapes For Sleep
Most of us have heard about the benefits of listening to bird’s song, dolphin chatter and a whale’s boing, but how about tuning into binaural soundscapes using Kokoon headphones?
If you haven’t heard of binaural soundscapes before, then just picture yourself swimming amongst a pod of whales or flying high with a flock of raucous birds and imagining how it would sound. With binaural sounds, they envelop you and give you an acoustic experience similar to if you were actually there.
A 2014 study by Patrick A. McConnell et al., describes binaural beats as “an auditory illusion perceived when two or more pure tones of similar frequencies are presented dichotically (stimulation of both ears at the same time by different sides) through stereo headphones”.
The power of listening to natural sounds and binaural soundscapes via audio can be immense. Its direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system (the bit which controls bodily functions when we’re at rest) can work wonders for sleep.
McConnell’s study found that acute exposure to “binaural beats in a young, healthy sample of college students resulted in increased parasympathetic activation, increased sympathetic withdrawal, and increased self-reported relaxation post-exercise”. Increased parasympathetic activation means that our heart and breathing rates slow and blood pressure lowers, inviting the body to enter a total state of relaxation and recovery. So, by tuning into natural binaural soundscapes, a good night’s sleep and a state of healing relaxation may well be on the cards.
Pink Noise For Sleep
Pink noise also works in similar ways. Pink noise is all around us, especially in nature. Think rustling leaves, waves crashing and the sound of rain falling. It’s a little more soothing and smoother than white noise and a great accompaniment for sleep. It’s also great sleep music for kids and babies too - win-win.
If you want to tap into all that pink noise has to offer, grab a pair of Kokoon Relax headphones or Nightbuds (from July 25th) and listen to Summer Meadow on Kokoon’s Spotify playlist. Your Kokoon’s will give you an immersive sound experience whilst blocking out any noise disturbances like snoring, enabling you to relax completely.
Sounds to start you on your binaural journey:
- Warm summer night binaural soundscape for sleep on YouTube
- Spring rain storm on Kokoon’s Spotify playlist
- Pure pink noise on YouTube
2. Earthing and grounding for better sleep
Take those binaural beats out into the open whilst getting stuck into earthing and grounding by simply walking barefoot on grass, soil or earth.
Barefoot Walking For Sleep
Walking barefoot on natural surfaces allows you to connect with nature on another level. This grounding method is free, easy and rewarding.
A study by Gaétan Chevalier et al., mentions how the earth’s surface should be seen as a “global treatment table… earthing may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease…”(2) In fact, earthing could be just as important as sunshine, water, clean air, healthy food and exercise.
How to start earthing and grounding
- Take your shoes and socks off.
- Head out onto a natural surface.
- Get walking, standing, breathing and connecting.
- Try doing this just before bed.
3. Cherry juice for better sleep
There are many foods and supplements out there that have been proven to help sleep. Some, however, are less well known. And cherry juice is one of those mysterious sleep-inducers.
A study by Pigeon et al., found that tart Jerte Valley cherries “produced beneficial effects on actual sleep time, total nocturnal activity, assumed sleep, and immobility”. With significant increases in melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels in urine after consuming cherry juice. Amazingly they found that “cherries exerted (a) positive effect on sleep...”. (3)
What to do with this new found knowledge?
- Source some tart cherry juice.
- Take a few swigs before bed.
- See how your sleep is affected.
If you haven’t already, remember to tune into Kokoon’s Spotify nature playlist which features all of our favourite music, to help you bag a good night’s sleep.