As well as avoiding as many harmful chemicals as we can by choosing natural cleaning products, gardening and eating organically, and all the rest of it, we also need to help our body to get rid of the chemicals it does take in. You can't avoid breathing in a few toxins throughout your day. If you live in an urban area, you will have to breathe in traffic fumes. If you live in a rural area, you probably inhale fertilisers (yes, even organic ones like blood and bone, or powdered sheep poop). And it's impossible these days to stay clear of areas where commercial cleaners and disinfectants are used, or to completely avoid plastic and vinyl products that give off fumes. So your body needs help purging out these toxins.
Much has been written about how to have a full detoxification and cleansing session, which often involves fasting, drinking herbal teas, massage, enemas, etc., etc. But the easiest thing that everyone can do to detoxify is to get a good night's sleep. That and drinking plenty of fresh water and eating your vegetables, just like your mother told you.
A good night's sleep is the operative word. OK, if you're the parent of a newborn, you won't be having an unbroken night for some time yet (but you will, you will – don't worry). But there's no real excuse for the rest of us not to have a solid night's sleep nine nights out of ten.
These simple tips should help you improve your quality of sleep:
* Be regular. If you fall into the all-too-common pattern of staying up late and sleeping in on the weekends, there's a very good reason why you feel so awful on Monday morning – you're jetlagged. You should always try to wake up at the same time each morning; this seems to be more important than going to bed at the same time. What about a lazy morning in the weekend? You just have to wake up at the same time... nobody said you had to get out of bed. This is what dressing gowns, paperbacks and big cups of coffee are for.
* Have a daily wind-down ritual before bed. Going through the same pattern every night helps your body know it's time to sleep (this works for children and adults). A typical routine may be to have a warm drink, go to the lavatory, brush teeth, get undressed, do a little journaling, lights out.
* Avoid watching TV before bed, as this can be too stimulating. The same can also apply to intense books and computer games, although not to the same extent. And don't watch TV in bed.
* A warm drink and a light snack (light being the operative word) can help you relax. Warm milk and a banana are good supper choices, as these both contain minerals that stimulate the sleep-inducing hormone serotonin. Cheese and crackers are other popular supper snacks, as these have a high GI and can stop you waking up hungry – it's going to be eight hours until your next meal, after all. While a tiny dash of alcohol (and I mean tiny) can be relaxing and unwinding, don't have a whole gin and tonic before bed. Alcohol is a sedative, but the quality of sleep isn't that good afterwards. A small thimbleful of something added to a large glass of warm milk or cocoa is about right. And for goodness' sake, avoid tea and coffee before bed! Remember to brush your teeth after the drink.
* Keep the bedroom for relaxing in. Try not to use the bedroom for studying, working or watching TV. Some people also suggest that you should not exercise in your bedroom, either. However, the bedroom can be one of the few places you have privacy to work out without your family getting in the way or laughing (and there's a handy mirror in there, too, to check technique). Bedrooms can also be a teenager's haven and one of the few quiet places for studying and homework. Just keep TVs and computers out as much as possible.
* Use good curtains to block out streetlights.
* Make sure the bedroom's warm.