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Independent health store advice on the keys to a good night's sleep

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Olive Finn at the Olive Branch in Clonakilty, Co Cork

A good night's sleep is a key building block in maintaining and improving our physical, mental and emotional health. As someone who spends a lot of time talking about sleep or the lack of it, I'm beginning to think we lose sleep the more we think about it!

I envy the person that can just lay their head on the pillow and fall asleep, no special oils, lights, reading, meditation. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but from listening to my customers on the shopfloor this is definitely uncommon.

Why are we not getting a full night's sleep?

I believe this issue is relevant for all ages, male and female. Is it modern technology? Are we more sedentary than before? Is life so busy and hectic that we take all our woes to bed with us? Have we more to be anxious about these days?

I learned the hard way a few years ago that using my phone at night definitely contributed to my disturbed nights, I was so distracted by the constant stream of info and images I would miss that precious moment of ‘wind down' when your body relaxes and your mind shuts down, I would remain alert but exhausted. The need to constantly look things up and keep up with our crazy world robbed me of my ability to just ‘fall asleep'.

I quickly realised the importance of a quiet room, no distractions, and definitely no screens, I focused on going to bed at the same time every evening (with the odd exception) some reading from a good old fashioned book, some mindfulness to allow my head to empty of all the noise and my body to simply sleep.

What causes insomnia?

The most common cause of insomnia and sleeplessness is without a doubt anxiety. Something that's not quite right in our lives can seem manageable in the day, but once we want to sleep it becomes enormous in our mind.

Anxiety comes in different forms, both mental and physical, which can be overwhelming and as it affects our sleep it affects our whole being. When discussing these issues with my customers I insist that whatever remedy/supplement/regime we come up with it's vital they give me clear honest feedback a few weeks in.

Top tips for helping you to drift into sleep

When we address stress we address sleep and magnesium is ideal for this. There are many forms of supplemental magnesium. The ones we get the best results from are magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium taurate. These should help relax the nervous system and your muscular system, also very helpful for restless legs.

This mineral is also available for external use on skin in the form of oil, gel, lotion and body butter, all available in your local independent health store.

There are plant-based herbal remedies which have been used for centuries such as the wonderful valerian, taken 30 minutes before bedtime to induce a natural sleep, one of our favourites in The Olive Branch is Californian poppy tincture, especially if one suffers from nightmares. Always check with your healthcare practitioner before taking herbal remedies.

Something that often happens when someone is addressing one symptom is that they will get a positive result for another symptom. For example, we love to talk about the amino acid l-theanine and the herb lemon balm which when taken by day for general anxiety can aid a very restful sleep that night.

Aromatherapy oils
Lavender, camomile and sweet marjoram aromatherapy oils have been known to help with insomnia, especially when blended together. Neroli, sandalwood and clary sage can help on your journey to getting a good night's sleep.

Your diet
I've learned from personal experience that eating no later than 6pm can be hugely beneficial for your mind and body to wind down. Going to bed with a full belly is a recipe for a disturbed night.

Keeping our digestive system regulated and not overwhelmed helps our bodies to function more efficiently, but I wouldn't deny anyone the enjoyment of good healthy food with a nice glass of organic wine, in moderation of course.

Physical exercise along with good clean eating has a very positive effect on our bodies. Finding the time in our day to get some movement in is vital. Yoga, Pilates, dance, gym work and swimming are a life force for us all.

What's What and Who's Who in The Olive Branch, Clonakilty, Co Cork

The Olive Branch Healthfood Emporium & Refill Shop was in established in 2004, owned and managed by Olive Finn and her husband Andy Beattie.

"It's a family run, independent small business right in the heart of Clonakilty town in the beautiful pedestrian Spillers Lane," says Olive. "The shop is a hub of activity and bases itself on good old-fashioned traditional family-run shops. It's a lively friendly atmosphere bursting at the seams with a vast choice of good healthy food.

"Our food selection includes organic unpackaged fruit and vegetables, locally grown organic produce, fresh sourdough bread, organic milk in returnable glass bottles, locally made kefirs, kombuchas, relishes, jams and honey.

"We have an extensive range of dried foods including pulses, grains, nuts, seeds and cereals, all available to buy in bulk in the refill section. We also stock organic European wines, a choice of delicious chocolates and treats including some made locally in Clonakilty.

"We stock a very high quality range of food supplements, immune-boosting tonics and children's health supplements.

"We have two upcoming events. On 16 November we will have a food demonstration from Oliver McCabe who will be promoting his new book Kids Kitchen Takeover, and on 25 November we will have a Folk & Rose Skincare specialist talking all things from local company Daughters of Flowers and Dr Hauschka Skincare.

"The Olive Branch is not just about ‘shopping'. It's about community and connection."

VISIT: The Olive Branch, Spillers Lane, Clonakilty, Co Cork
PHONE: 023 88 35711
ORDER ONLINE: For orders and deliveries please call 023 883 5711 or email New website is
OPEN: Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm

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