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Goodnight, Sleep Tight ….

Sleep is one of the biggest contributing factors to excellent physical and mental health and wellbeing but its importance is sometimes overshadowed by the media focus on healthy eating and exercise. Insufficient sleep can impact quite detrimentally on your health in a variety of different ways.

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copyright: ThinkStockMedia

The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, but on average the majority of us need about 8 hours a night. Young children and teens may need more as sleep supports their growth and development.  When we sleep our brains have the chance to repair and rebalance the hormones that govern the emotions that help us to stay calm, relaxed and happy.  It corrects any chemical imbalances and leaves us rested therefore we are more alert and energetic when we wake.

Studies show that a consistent lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain. Tiredness can cause your brain to crave high calorie foods for energy but when your body is tired, it isn’t as effective at breaking down fat cells and tissues, so fat is stored more easily.   You are less likely to want to exercise due to low energy and general sluggishness. According to a leading insomnia specialist, Kathryn Pinkham, a good night’s sleep can balance out the hormone fluctuations that provoke appetite.

Our immune system needs sleep to be able to function properly.  If we don’t get enough sleep it can affect how the it responds to infection, making it harder to fight off coughs and colds for example.  However, you can boost your immune system by using a sauna or steam room where the heat dilates blood vessels thereby increasing circulation throughout the body.    The heat can also help to relax you leading to better sleep.

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Kelo Sauna Room – Dröm UK Ltd

Sleep can also help to rejuvenate your skin as it rebalances the hydration levels in the body. While we sleep there is a rise in growth hormones which allows damaged cells to be repaired. Lack of sleep results in under eye puffiness, dryness and the appearance of more wrinkles.   It also leads to increased stress hormones in the body which can lead to the increase in the breakdown of collagen which gives the skin its firmness and translucency.  If the skin cells don’t get a chance to repair themselves, the result is a more noticeable sign of ageing.

The less we sleep, the more it affects our mental wellbeing.   According to Mind, the mental health charity,  it can be a vicious circle:  If you have a mental health problem it can affect how you sleep and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.  Not enough sleep can lead to negative thoughts and can leave you feeling anxious or depressed.    Tiredness can leave you feeling physically and mentally unable to cope with the day ahead, and can be quite isolating as you don’t feel up to socialising with others.

So what is the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep?

There are many suggestions on how to do this and again, it will vary from person to person.   Generally, the time before bed should be calm and relaxed rather than spent in front of a screen with flashing images or loud music!   Take a warm bath, try some breathing exercises, drink warm milk, spray lavender fragrance onto your pillow, or even meditate.  Doing regular physical exercise can also help with sleep.

llavender-collage

 

Avoid caffeine drinks and don’t go to bed either too hungry or too full.   Create a routine of doing the same soothing actions each night so that your body learns it is time to sleep.  Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and that your mattress and pillows are comfortable.

For more information on the above and how best to combat sleeplessness please visit these websites:

http://www.theinsomniaclinic.co.uk/

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.dromuk.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Bather’s Guide to Thermal Rooms – Part 3 (Saunas)

Thermal bathing is becoming more popular than ever. However, with so many different rooms to use, how do you know which ones will offer you the benefits you are looking for?

Follow our series of blogs designed to explain the look, temperature, useage and benefits of each room and discover the range of experiences and rituals available.

Overview:

In general, sauna rooms are traditionally clad in timber with benches, a wood stove or electric heater and stones.   They are commonly built using Aspen, Alder, Cedar, Spruce, Ash or Kelo timber, some of which can be heat treated to intensify their colour and aroma.   Some rooms have feature walls made from slate or stone and glass can also be used for walls and doors to enhance the feeling of space.   Both LED lighting and fibre optics are used for ambience, relaxation and mood enhancement through chromotherapy.

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Some rooms have feature walls made from slate or stone and glass can also be used for walls and doors to enhance the feeling of space.   Both LED lighting and fibre optics are used for ambience, relaxation and mood enhancement through chromotherapy (please see previous blog post Complementary Wellbeing Part 2 – Chromotherapy for more on the benefits of mood lighting).

Traditional (or Finnish) Sauna:

Temp Range:   80 – 100C                             

Percentage Humidity:   10-20%

Traditional (or Finnish) Sauna

Traditional (or Finnish) Sauna

A traditional sauna is a hot, dry room with wooden benches, typically in two tiers.   The lower benches are always cooler than the top benches, often by about 20 degrees.  Ensure you find a temperature to bathe in that is comfortable for you.   Small amounts of water can be ladled onto the stones to increase the humidity for a short period of time.  Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to the water (if you can – not all commercial spas will allow it), infusing the steam created with your chosen fragrance.

Benefits:

The high temperature in the sauna releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, sometimes referred to as ‘happy hormones’.  Endorphins can ease the pain of arthritis and relieve muscle soreness after intense exercise.     Sweating caused by high temperatures opens the skin’s pores and helps reduce levels of toxins and impurities in the body, eliminating waste and reducing the load put on the kidneys.  Sauna bathing also lowers blood pressure temporarily and improves circulation as the blood cells dilate, increasing the oxygen levels around the body.

Banya (or Russian Bathing):

Temperature Range:      70-110⁰C

Percentage Humidity:   40-70%

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Banya (or Russian Bathing)

A Banya traditionally incorporates a wood burning heater.  Water is generously ladled onto hot stones, or even thrown at the walls, to increase the humidity in the room.  To protect the head from overheating in the high temperatures, bathers often wear Sauna hats which can first be dipped in water to aid the cooling process.    Often a massage is carried out using a fragrant bundle of thin leafy twigs bound together called a Venik, or Vihta.  This is said to release toxins through the skin, ease muscle tension and improve blood circulation.

Venik Massage:

Venik

Venik bundle

There are several techniques involved in a Venik massage – waggling, compressing, stroking and lashing.  It is best to use these techniques one after the other.

Waggle – flutter the Venik just above the body to create an air flow that warms the body up for more intense procedures.

Stroking – gently press the Venik against the body and draw it from head to toe and back again.

Compress – raise the Venik up to the warmer air, shake it to gather the heat, then press firmly against the body for 2-3 seconds

Lashing:  Light sliding hits with the Venik.

Alternate the stroking and lashing, then combine compressing and lashing – lash the body two or three times and then press against the body for 2-3 seconds.  Generally, this is carried out by an experienced masseuse.

Benefits:             The same as for a Traditional Sauna.

Herbal Sauna:

Temperature Range:      50-70⁰C

Percentage Humidity:   25-40%

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Herbal Sauna

An herbal sauna is very similar to a traditional sauna, although is often slightly cooler.  Fresh or dried herbs of your choice are put into a small amount of water in a bowl or dish suspended over the heater stones.    In commercial saunas, a tray of herbs is placed above the heater and water is dripped over the herbs from a tap.    As the herbs heat up in the water, their aroma is released gently into the room.

As in the traditional sauna, the lower benches are always cooler than the top benches so bathe where you feel the most comfortable.   Ladle water over the stones to increase humidity for short periods.

 

Sauna Master (or Aufgiesser)

Several spa’s employ a Sauna Master to enhance the bathing experience of their guests.   It is impossible to give an exact description of what they do as each Sauna Master will have their own techniques and rituals.  However the experience will always involve aromatherapy and heat manipulation.

Generally, the Sauna Master will pour water enriched with essential oils onto the hot stones, creating a burst of scented steam, releasing the health properties of each essence.  This makes the air more humid and the heat feels more intense.

They will start waving a towel, using different movements, to agitate the hot air and circulate it around the sauna, intensifying the sensation of heat.  Then they fan the bathers by wafting the towel in front of them creating a wave of heat that rushes over their body.  The bathers breathe deeply, inhaling the healing vapours of the essences.

The Sauna Master will encourage bathers to leave and cool down before repeating the process several times.

 

 

 

For more information on bathing rituals click here:  http://www.dromuk.com/online/dromology

 

 

Complementary Wellbeing – Part 2: Chromotherapy

In the second blog in this Wellbeing mini-series, we take a closer look at Chromotherapy.

Wellbeing extends beyond the physical.   Psychological and spiritual wellness is also important to assist in coping with the stresses of everyday life.

Aromatherapy, Chromotherapy and Crystals are just a few of the ‘alternative’ therapies that can be combined with the more traditional wellbeing experiences to achieve a fuller sense of relaxation or stimulation.

Colour and light have been proven to have a positive effect upon your mood and health. The light from the sun can be broken down into seven colours each relating to a certain energetic vibration within our bodies. When these energies (or chakras) are out of alignment it can lead to physical ailments. Chromotherapy is the use of colour and light as a non-invasive restorative therapy – helping to realign this vibrational energy, dispel negative energy and promoting mental and physical wellness. We can absorb colour through our eyes, skin and also through the energetic field surrounding the body (aura).

Coloured light relates to vibrational energy within our bodies

Coloured light relates to vibrational energy within our bodies

 

Red – root chakra

Red is the colour of vitality and energy.  Physically it represents healthy organs, body tissue and blood.   It is a stimulating colour and on a mental level helps with concentration and clear thinking.  It guides us towards change, helping with movement and progress.

Orange – Sacral chakra

Orange is a powerful, physical energy, converting ‘chi energy’ into energy that the body can use.  It is fresh and invigorating and awakens the soul.  It encourages you to listen to your gut instincts and inner wisdom.

Yellow – solar plexus chakra

Yellow is a strong energy promoting physical and mental strength and a healthy digestive system.  On an emotional level it helps with self confidence and balance.  The solar plexus chakra encourages personal and spiritual growth and self esteem.

Green – heart chakra

Green is the colour of love, harmony, balance and compassion.  Physically it represents a strong heart and healthy immune system.  Emotionally it represents healthy relationships.  Spiritually it stands for unconditional love.

Blue – throat chakra

Blue is a calming, healing, stress reducing colour.  Physically it relates to the throat ensuring a healthy thyroid, good upper body strength and the ability for clear communication.  It also promotes mental clarity.   It is the colour of conscious creativity and helps with creative expression.

Indigo – brow chakra (third eye)

Indigo is the colour of the third eye chakra, which relates to intuition, perception, instinct and the sixth sense.  Indigo encourages you to connect and listen to your inner wisdom.  Physically it promotes good memory, visualisation and good mental strength.  Indigo is the colour of night where all your senses are heightened.

Violet – crown chakra

Violet is the highest vibration in the spectrum of light.   A balanced violet energy means that all the chakras are working in harmony and energy is flowing freely throughout the body.  It represents excellent overall health.  The energies are balanced, peaceful and calm.   It indicates a deep spiritual awareness.

White

White is the colour of balance and harmony.  It is a pure energy, clarifying the senses and mind.

white light

Relaxing and focusing on a specific colour can help the relevant chakra open up and let go of negative emotions or heighten the positive aspects of each chakra.

Saunas and steam rooms incorporate Chromotherapy lighting to enhance the wellbeing of the bather. This can also be combined with Aromatherapy (see previous blog post) for a more powerful experience.

There are many excellent websites that can provide more information on the use of colour and its effect on the chakras.