The Health Formula - Osteopathy & Functional Medicine Clinic
What inspired you to become an Osteopath?
My inspiration for entering my profession stems from a deep passion for helping individuals achieve optimal health and wellness. My journey started in the fitness industry, where I worked as a personal trainer. Subsequently, I made the decision to train as an Osteopath at the University College of Osteopathy in London, successfully qualifying with distinction. I then qualified as a Functional Medicine Practitioner through The Kresser Institute for Functional & Evolutionary Medicine, expanding my knowledge of a holistic approach to healthcare.
As a result of this diverse training, I've developed an eclectic style of practice that combines manual therapy, exercise prescription, nutrition, and lifestyle medicine. What truly motivates me is the concept of 'root cause resolution.' I believe in identifying and addressing the underlying causes of health issues rather than merely suppressing symptoms. This approach empowers my patients to achieve lasting and comprehensive wellness.
What is your philosophy when it comes to helping individuals improve their sleep health? Are there any specific principles or strategies you follow in your practice?
As a practitioner with a background in Osteopathy and Functional Medicine, my philosophy for improving sleep health integrates both disciplines to provide comprehensive care. Here are some of the principles and strategies I follow in my practice:
- Identifying Underlying Imbalances: I commence by assessing and addressing any underlying imbalances or dysfunctions that may disrupt sleep. This involves a thorough evaluation of a patient's health history, including factors such as poor diet and lifestyle factors, nutrient imbalances, hormonal issues, inflammation, neurotransmitter function, along with musculoskeletal issues.
- Comprehensive Testing: In many cases, I recommend comprehensive testing to gain insights into a patient's unique biochemical makeup, as well as musculoskeletal assessments. This may involve tests for hormone levels, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and gut-related factors that may impact sleep.
- Nutritional Interventions: Optimal nutrition is crucial for sleep quality. I collaborate with patients to identify and address any nutritional deficiencies, recommending specific foods and supplements that support better sleep. Ensuring adequate protein intake, limiting refined carbohydrate and sugars to help stabilise blood sugar levels and moderating caffeine and alcohol can be very helpful.
- Stress Management: Stress often disrupts sleep, and I employ stress-reduction techniques, including mindfulness, relaxation exercise and calmative herbs, alongside osteopathic techniques to alleviate musculoskeletal tension.
- Breathing Techniques: Proper breathing is essential for restful sleep. I instruct patients in breathing exercises to promote relaxation, enhance oxygen intake, and investigate the potential for sleep-disordered breathing conditions, which can significantly impact sleep quality.
- Gut Health: A healthy gut is vital for overall well-being, including sleep. I address gut health through dietary modifications, probiotic and prebiotic therapy, and other lifestyle strategies while considering any musculo-skeletal issues that might impact gut function.
- Hormonal Balance: Hormonal imbalances, such as cortisol and melatonin disruptions, or low oestrogen and progesterone levels can affect sleep. I work to balance these hormones through stress management, diet and lifestyle interventions, and, if necessary, targeted nutritional supplementation.
- Lifestyle Optimisation: Lifestyle plays a pivotal role in sleep quality. I collaborate with patients to make lifestyle modifications, such as optimising sleep environments, reducing exposure to sleep-disrupting factors and establishing healthy sleep routines.
- Pillow and Mattress Quality: I offer guidance on selecting the correct pillow and mattress to ensure proper spinal alignment and overall comfort, enhancing the quality of sleep.
What are some of the most common sleep-related issues you encounter in your practice?
In my practice, I often come across a range of common sleep-related issues such as insomnia, frequent waking during the night, restless leg syndrome, anxiety and stress-related sleep problems, sleep disruptions due to chronic pain, and diet and environmental factors that disrupt sleep (caffeine, alcohol, light and noise, etc).
How do you go about diagnosing and addressing these issues?
In my practice, I adopt a holistic approach that integrates osteopathy and functional medicine to comprehensively diagnose and address sleep-related issues. This entails a thorough patient assessment, which encompasses medical history, lifestyle factors, and musculoskeletal considerations, all integral to understanding the root causes of sleep problems. Functional medicine assessments, including testing and dietary analysis, assist in identifying underlying imbalances.
We also examine lifestyle and environmental factors, such as the comfort of pillows and mattresses, room lighting, and temperature, to ensure an optimal sleep environment. Breathing issues are evaluated, and interventions range from nutritional adjustments and stress management to relaxation techniques and osteopathic manual therapies, all personalised to the patient's specific needs. Through this collaborative, patient-centred approach, we develop individualised treatment plans that focus on improving sleep health and overall well-being.
Advice for Better Sleep
Many people struggle with sleep problems. What general advice or tips would you offer for improving sleep quality and overall well-being?
Make Sleep a Priority: Making a commitment to getting quality sleep can be tough to juggle along with family life, work commitments and an infinite number of Netflix episodes! However, making sleep a priority is paramount if you are serious about levelling-up your health. There’s simply no way around it… in order to feel and function your best, it’s vital to allow yourself enough time to get proper sleep.
Create a Routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends, days off and whilst travelling) is key to establishing a healthy sleep/wake cycle. Creating a consistent bedtime routine will help entrain your body’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock) so that you feel sleepy and drift off to sleep at the appropriate time and stay asleep.
Restrict Artificial Light: The blue light emitted from computer screens, smartphones and television sets disrupts the production of melatonin, the primary hormone involved in sleep regulation. Therefore, limiting your exposure to artificial light at night is a powerful way to regulate your sleep. Reduce your exposure to light at night by:
- Avoiding or minimising screen time one-to-two hours before bedtime.
- Using dim incandescent lighting or candle light in the evenings after sunset.
- Wearing orange-tinted (blue blocking) glasses in the evening.
- Dimming, covering or removing anything that emits light in your bedroom, like alarm clocks.
- Using blackout shades and/or eye masks to ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible.
Get Daytime Sunlight Exposure: Once you’ve reduced your exposure to light at night, you’ll also want to focus on getting exposure to sunlight during the day, which is an important environmental factor regulating your circadian rhythm. Light stimulates the release of a hormone called cortisol, which helps to activate and awaken your body for the day. Try this:
- Take a short walk outdoors when you wake up in the morning.
- Eat breakfast outside in the sun.
- Avoid wearing sunglasses in the first half of the day.
- Use a light box/sun lamp that emits 10,000 lux for 20-30 minutes in the morning.
Cut Back on Caffeine: No doubt you love your morning coffee to get the day started, however caffeine has a profound effect on sleep, so it’s best avoided (or at least minimised) if you’re having sleep problems. Caffeine has a half-life of around 6-hours, which means 6-hours after consuming it there’s still half the amount of this stimulant circulating throughout your body. For this reason you should avoid caffeine consumption after midday. If you’re currently drinking a lot of coffee, it’s best to wean yourself off gradually, rather than going cold turkey – #headaches.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption: While an occasional drink is acceptable for many, excessive alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns. Opt for moderation, and be mindful of alcohol's potential impact on sleep quality.
Create a Relaxing and Comfortable Sleep Environment
Creating a bedroom that makes you feel relaxed, comfortable and ready for bedtime is very helpful when it comes to getting quality sleep.
You can do this by:
- Only using your bedroom for sleep and intimicy – avoid television and using electronics in the bedroom
- Controlling the temperature of the room – most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 18 °C)
- Getting a comfortable bed – your sleep isn’t going to be great if you find your bed uncomfortable!
- Reducing the noise level – if there’s a lot of noise outside your bedroom, use earplugs or a noise machine to block it out.
- Investing in a comfortable mattress, supportive pillow, and quality bedding is crucial. They ensure proper spinal alignment, reduce musculoskeletal discomfort, and contribute to a restful night's sleep.
Manage your stress
It’s incredibly important to manage your stress effectively when trying to optimise your sleep. Many of us tend to run around all day like headless chickens and then wonder why we have trouble sleeping. Make sure to calm your nervous system by implementing stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or gratitude journalling.
Optimise Your Sleep Nutrition
Some people find they sleep far better when eating a smaller/lighter meal earlier in the evening (especially those prone to digestive issues like gas and bloating). Others find they sleep better with a snack close to bedtime, such as those who tend toward low blood sugar. In general, however, it’s better to go to bed neither overly full, nor hungry. You should also avoid diets that are too low in carbohydrates and low in fats, as these types of diets can lead to sleeping difficulties.
Natural Sleep Remedies
There are several natural remedies that can be helpful sleep aids due to their effects on calming the nervous system and influencing neurotransmitters in the brain. Some examples include:
- Sleep-promoting teas, such as Valerian Root, Lemon Balm, Magnolia Bark, Passionflower and Chamomile.
- Essential oils, such as Lavender, Bergamot and Ylang Ylang.
- Adaptogenic herbs, such as Ashwaganda, Rhodioloa, Rhemainia, Holy Basil and Schisandra
- Magnesium (glycinate, threonate and citrate are good forms to support sleep)
- B-vitamins, especially B6 and B12
- Amino acids, such as Glycine, Taurine, L-Theanine and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
- Melatonin – this sleep-inducing hormone is released from the pineal gland in the brain to initiate sleep.