Alison Angold: “Working out why you are not sleeping is key at treating yourself”

Working out why you are not sleeping is key at treating yourself. Is your mind over-active? Are you in pain? Is your skin itchy or inflamed at night? Are your hormones unbalanced? Any of these, and many more issues, could be the root of the problem, so its important to analyze why you can’t sleep […]

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Working out why you are not sleeping is key at treating yourself. Is your mind over-active? Are you in pain? Is your skin itchy or inflamed at night? Are your hormones unbalanced? Any of these, and many more issues, could be the root of the problem, so its important to analyze why you can’t sleep well. Most conditions or issues can be alleviated and relieved by the use of essential oils, so this a great first step in the fight against insomnia.

Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?

In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories who share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.

As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Alison Angold.

Alison is a fully qualified beauty therapist and aromatherapist, from London, England, with over 25 years’ experience in this industry. Alison has worked with many clients over the years using the techniques of aromatherapy & massage and implementing essential oils to help relieve and prevent certain conditions or issues, and revive the mind, body and soul. Alison now uses her knowledge and experience to help others by writing articles on the safe and therapeutic use of essential oils.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?

I never really knew what I wanted to do when I left school, so played around for a few years, until I came across beauty therapy, which I discovered I loved — especially learning about the skin! This led me to take many further courses and qualifications, including Swedish body massage, Stone therapy massage and Aromatherapy. I have worked in various beauty salons, beauty spa’s in and around London and directly for skincare companies as well as running my own successful beauty and massage business and gaining teaching qualifications to teach others these wonderful therapies. All of these therapies, but especially Aromatherapy, allow me to treat people as a whole — not only looking at the physical well-being but also, I can help the mental and emotional well-being of a person, through the use of essential oils. I love seeing someone come to me stressed out, tense and nervous and leave a much more relaxed, relieved and positive person! But there is so much more to essential oils than just relaxation! I have learnt so much about essential oils over my years of experience, and the conditions they can treat — everything from killing the fungal infection of athletes’ foot, clearing and focusing the mind, encouraging skin cells to regenerate and acting as a natural diuretic. It gives my work, so much more scope and interest, knowing that each client that comes in is going to require something different. I’ve spent so many years on the practical side of things, that now I am devoting my time into teaching others, and sharing my expertise, recipes tips and techniques.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career choice?

I can actually pinpoint the moment I decide on this career! I was working in the French Alps as an Au Pair, having decided to travel for a bit, while I decided what to do with my life! I loved travelling and working abroad, and it is something that I have continued to do during my life. I had bought an English women’s magazine, and there was an article written by a beauty therapist. I found it so interesting and fascinating that there was so much more to beauty and massage therapy than I thought. I wrote home to my mum, telling her about the article and asked her to do some research on courses (this was in the days before Google and E-mail, were widely used!). I was lucky enough to attend a private beauty school in London and was qualified with an International certificate within a year! It was very hard work but worth it. I particularly remember learning body massage, and thinking how much I loved it, as I was doing it! I don’t think people realise the knowledge we have to learn as beauty therapists or the amount of different career choices there are within this industry.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I am very well qualified in the treatments that I do. In the UK, beauty and massage therapy qualifications are of a very high standard and we are rigorously tested and observed to be able to achieve our exams, so I have been taught very well in my massage therapies, right from the beginning. However, in addition to this, my experience — of 25 years — certainly helps to make me an authority in the wellness field. It’s not so much about where I have worked but who I have worked on. I have treated many, many people over the years with Aromatherapy massage and using essential oils, and every single person is different, so each one has differing needs for their personal well-being. This has allowed me to tailor a treatment and an essential oil blend for each individual person, issue or condition. Lack of sleep or insomnia has always been a major concern for a lot of the clients I have worked on, so not only do I look for oils that help with this particular issue, but discover any underlying conditions that may be contributing to this, and use oils accordingly. I am then helping the specific issue of insomnia but also treating the client as a whole, which leads to a renewed sense of well-being.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There wasn’t a particular book, but what made me start writing my articles on the use of essential oils, was that my research on the internet showed me that so many other people are doing the same, but with no prior knowledge of the safety or correct usage of the oils, and I find this so worrying. Essential oils are natural, but are highly complex, volatile chemicals, and while easy and therapeutic to use, should be used with caution. Many other articles and blogs I came across, shared good information but with no safety precautions or they suggested unsafe ways of using the oils. Reading all of this made a significant impact on me, that I wanted to share my knowledge, make the use of the oils, fun and easy BUT with all the correct blending, usage and safety information included. People do want quick answers and solutions these days, but I feel it is still necessary to give all the information so that people can make informed, safe choices.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I love music, so most of my favorite quotes come from lyrics of songs. One of my favorites is “All the possibilities, No limits, just epiphanies” from Best Day of My Life by American Authors. I have always suffered with anxiety, and over the years have worried about missing out on my dreams, due to these anxieties. Will my anxiety hold me back? Will I miss out? Will I regret the things I haven’t been able to do? This quote reminds me that there are so many things in life I want to do, so many possibilities, and how good I should feel when I do achieve them — however hard the initial step might be. In my later career, of starting my own business, and creating my blog and putting myself out there, I have totally had an epiphany at how capable I am and how much I actually enjoy — and am good at — starting new things! In fact, what I have started doing is when something positive happens — however small or seemingly irrelevant — I write it down. The small positives soon build, to show that there are many good things happening to me in life, however hard I might find it all at times. This gives me hope, confidence, positivity and allows me to slowly break through the limits, I unconsciously set for myself.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?

I tend to look at sleep from a beauty and well-being point of view — the term ‘beauty sleep’ is actually a thing! Our skin works more efficiently at night, when we are at rest, to renew itself and regenerate the skin cells, so a good nights’ sleep is essential to help us look fresh, bright and keep us looking younger. I would say a good 7 hours is ideal, however each person is different. Some people can survive on less — it was alleged that our first female prime minister of England, Margaret Thatcher, taught herself to survive on 4 hours sleep! If your body gets used to this, then this may be enough to survive — for a while. But, similarly to our skin, our bodies, get the opportunity to rest and recharge while we are asleep, so long term this is not healthy. Young people tend to be able to go with less sleep, as they generally have more energy, while dips and fluctuations in hormones can drastically affect our sleep during mid-life, so sleep may be elusive during this time.

Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10AM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?

I believe it is what sleep pattern you get used to — for example those working night shifts, will find it hard initially but your mind and body will get used to this pattern and on its own, fall into a routine. However, I firmly believe that the particular hours or time of day that we sleep, has a huge effect. Our bodies and minds will respond better if we go to bed as it gets dark and awaken as it gets light, as this is effectively what we are designed to do. However, I also believe it is the quality of sleep we get. A very restless 8 hours is not nearly as effective as a solid, deep sleep of 5 hours.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?

Firstly, the person will look better. Lack of sleep can take its toll on our appearance, especially our skin. Certain hormones are released as we sleep, and some of these are essential for the health of our skin and preventing premature aging. We can also experience dull skin, breakouts or inflammation as lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to increase and cortisol increases inflammations. Too little sleep can also cause excess puffiness under the eyes, which can have a detrimental effect on our appearance. And, what I find with my clients, if they feel good about their appearance — they have clear, fresh skin — they automatically feel better in general.

The person will also feel more energetic during the day, and eventually avoid the slumps in energy, that can often occur in the afternoon, so each activity will be enjoyed and appreciated more. The brain should also feel more alert as a tired brain is foggy and cannot think straight.

I believe that a new more positive, cycle will emerge — feeling less tired means that activities such as exercise, will be in reach. Exercising, even though initially tiring, increases the energy levels in the body as well as releasing endorphins, our happy hormones. A more positive, happy person will feel more energized and able to do more during the day — leading to a natural tiredness at night, making sleep easier. This ensures a better night sleep so the positive cycle can continue the next day. This will make give someone a renewed sense of well-being, achievement and happiness.

Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?

Yes, I believe so. We simply cannot function as well, if we are tired. Some people can survive and function on a few hours sleep, but in general most of us, after a few nights of restless sleep, will find tasks more difficult, lapses in concentration and lack of appetite all of which can impair normal activities, compromise our body systems and weaken our defenses against illness. As an anxiety sufferer, if I am tired, I am so much worse. It certainly makes me more on edge, shaky and with a lower mood. There is a definite improvement in mood and the ability to cope, after a good night’s sleep.

The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?

  • Time is the biggest factor. We all complain that we have no time, and this can be true, although I have always found that the more time I have, the less I get done! For example, if I have had some time off work, the house gets messy, the washing piles up and simple daily tasks build up and don’t get done, whereas, while I am working, I have more of a schedule, am on the go more, and find that these tasks automatically get built into my day. There is a well-known saying that I like –“ If you want something done, ask a busy person”! Its difficult to implement something new into an already busy schedule, so small steps are needed — can we do something alongside something we already do? For example, we shower or bath every day — can we implement something here — like essential oils — to help with sleeping. It takes no more time, just an addition of a product or an oil blend. Another suggestion is to implement the use of oils, into our evening body or face routine — it is something we are doing anyway, we are just shifting the way we do it.
  • Lack of knowledge is another barrier — or more specifically, someone being open to the suggestion that something will help or change the way we feel. If insomnia has been an issue for a prolonged period, and nothing has worked, a person will close their mind to the possibility of anything ever working. And if this is the case the persons attitude may actually prevent anything from working. Knowledge, evidence and teaching is the way to remove this obstacle. If a person can learn about something and see the facts, or see the enjoyment they may have from it, they may become more open to this.
  • The fear of trying something new is often a blockage to change. Many people see therapies such as aromatherapy and using essential oils, as an “airy-fairy, hippy-style” practice! I can assure you that it is not. I do not have joss sticks burning, I do not chant while I work, and I do not use essential oils for absolutely everything! I simply suggest ways that these natural oils can be implemented into the every day to treat, prevent, relax, uplift, revive and relieve. And I make all my reading and recipes easy to do, so It’s not a huge change or implementing loads of new information.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.

Through my work as a massage therapist and aromatherapist, these are my 5 top tips to get the sleep you need;

  1. Working out why you are not sleeping, is key at treating yourself. Is your mind over-active? Are you in pain? Is your skin itchy or inflamed at night? Are your hormones unbalanced? Any of these, and many more issues, could be the root of the problem, so its important to analyze why you can’t sleep well. Most conditions or issues can be alleviated and relieved by the use of essential oils, so this a great first step in the fight against insomnia.
  2. Get into an evening routine, so your body is aware that you are readying yourself for rest and sleep. Take a warm shower or bath and use essential oils — Chamomile, Sandalwood or Lavender are all ideal to use, as they relax tense muscles and calm the activity in the mind. (Avoid Chamomile during pregnancy). Switch off devices and the television at least half an hour before you go to bed. Practice some meditation or mindfulness instead and burn some essential oils while doing so — Frankincense is brilliant for this, as it calms and steady’s the mind and allows focus. The more you carry out a routine, the more your body will adapt, and realize that it needs to calm down and switch off. The addition of essential oils will help prepare your body and mind even more.
  3. Try regular body massage. Tense muscles and active nerves will prevent you sleeping — and even if you do sleep, it could be restless. With effects such as increasing blood circulation to keep all organs working effectively, removing waste more readily from your systems, thus boosting immunity, soothing active nerve endings and relieving tense muscles, why wouldn’t you want to add a massage into your regular schedule?! A qualified massage therapist will carry out a thorough consultation with you to ensure you are suitable for treatment and find out your exact needs (if they don’t’ do this, leave immediately!). They should then use specific soothing massage movements to gently release tension in the muscles and soothe the active nerves just under the skins surface. The result is a relaxed body and mind that is much more ready to allow you to fall asleep.
  4. Use a diffuser or burner to warm oils, throughout the evening. Not only can our skin absorb essential oils, which travel into the bloodstream, but they can also penetrate the membranes in our nose and reach the olfactory system. This is connected to the brain, so the aromas and the molecules in the oils, can have an effect here. Suitable oils for sleep will help to calm and slow breathing and heart rate, relax tense muscles and soothe frazzled nerve endings. By doing this throughout the evening, by the time we are ready to retire, our body and mind is already in a relaxed state. I always like to get into my pyjamas, wash my face and clean my teeth early, so as soon as I feel tired and ready for bed, I can just go — rather than stimulating the body and mind again with the bedtime routine. Try burning Vetiver or Valerian, both of which act as a sedative for the nervous system — ideal for inducing a state of relaxation prior to sleeping.
  5. Acceptance. It is hard but you may need to accept that for a while sleep is hard. Worrying about it, may only make it worse, and you end up in a viscous circle of sleeplessness. Circling back to my first point — finding out why you are not sleeping is key, to helping this issue.

What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?

Try not to get up. I feel that by getting up, you are awakening your body and mind and getting back to sleep will be even more difficult. Try some mindfulness — this is focusing on what is happening with your body as you lay in bed. Focus on each part of your body, starting with your head and working down. Imagine each area of your body is really heavy and try and imagine it sinking into the bed beneath you — really feel the bed supporting your weight. Try taking deep breaths and concentrate on each breath. This all helps your body stay in a state of rest, which can hopefully help you fall back to sleep more quickly. An essential oil pillow spray can help or inhaling some sedating, relaxing essential oils can help our bodies and minds become more relaxed and calmer, thus helping us fall back to sleep. Cedarwood is a good oil to inhale, as it sedates the nervous system, so will help to calm the mind, as often a racing mind is what keeps us awake.

What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?

I am all for a power-nap! Literally 5–10 minutes sleep in the day, I think can do wonders. Any longer, and it might affect your sleep at night. But that short sleep, can revive and refresh and allow the day to continue in a much more effective and productive way.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I think I’d have to say Bryan Adams. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, love his music, and seen him several times in concert. He works hard and looks great on it! He’s worked in so many facets of ‘celebrity’ that I’d love to hear some of his stories and I’d also love to know the stories around his lyrics — what has inspired him and who (if anyone) is behind particular songs! Finally, with his photographer hat on, I’d beg him to take my photo! I really am not photogenic, so perhaps he could change that!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please check out all my articles at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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