Reset Your System For A Good Night’s Sleep




Aaaaaannnnnd Sleep…

I think this is what a lot of people expect to hear when they come in to see a Hypnotherapist, but even though I am a Hypnotherapist, this isn’t about hypnotherapy, this is about sleep.


For some of us sleep can be elusive at times and there are some tried and tested ways of encouraging good sleep, I will share with you.


Why is Sleep So Important?


We spend a third of our lives asleep this is to allow our energy stores to replenish and our brains to organise and store the memories and information from the day just gone.  The hormone melatonin is produced by your body’s pineal gland (pih-nee-uhl).  This gland is inactive during the day and is activated when it starts to get dark.  It is thought that the melatonin it produces can help protect us from heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, migraines and  headaches.


Why is What We Do Before We Go to Bed a Factor?


Your pre-sleep night time routine is so important when it comes to sleep as you need to give your brain the best chance possible to go from active and stimulated to slowing down.


Most of us know that having caffeinated drinks in the evening isn’t the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep, yet some still have a coffee after dinner and then wonder why drifting off is challenging.


Caffeine is a stimulant so, if we have to fight against its effects on our body to sleep, we’re making life a lot harder than it needs to be. I suggest no caffeine after 4pm, but everybody is different. Try experimenting yourself to see what works best for you.


Another strategy that can help is not eating a few hours before bed. If your body is busy digesting your food, it can disturb your sleep. Though it’s also important not to go to bed hungry, as a grumbling belly can also disrupt your sleep. If you must eat, eat sensible things -bananas, whole grains, eggs and berries as these can be broken down fairly quickly and easily by your digestive system and some of them are a good source of sleep promoting minerals, for example magnesium in bananas.


Limit Technology Exposure


A lot of us spend our day to day lives immersed in social media and technology, responding to emails, taking calls, checking out what your neighbour had for their lunch… When it comes to your bed time routine, you may find that your mind finds it easier to switch off and relax if you limit these things in the run up to bed time. Perhaps starting with switching off devices half an hour before bed and seeing if that’s sufficient. Really the key is to limit artificial stimulation before sleep. If you like to be occupied, try reading a book or listening to relaxing music.

Using relaxation and sleep promoting herbs and essences like lavender and chamomile can also help ready your body and mind for sleep. Perhaps try an oil burner to diffuse a relaxing essential oil in the bedroom. Use creams and oils on your body that support your sleep. Try Neals Yard body lotion called ‘Beauty Sleep’ that aims to do just that. Elemental Herbology’s ‘Soothe’ bath and body oil is another beautiful one. Which brings us to having a warm bath…

For some people (me included) there is nothing more soothing and relaxing than having a hot bath. But for some, this just isn’t how their body works. Try it.  For some, the hot water of a shower before bed works wonders, and for others it’s too stimulating.

Personally, I have found I get the best night’s sleep if I haven’t consumed any alcohol, have eaten well, earlier in the evening, have a hot bath, drink a cup of my favourite herbal tea (Sleep Easy by Clipper, if you’re interested) and then read a little in bed before drifting off. I also switch my phone to airplane mode and try to stay off it for as long as I can before bed as this improves the quality of my sleep no end.

All the suggestions I give here are tools to try if you need to hit your “Sleep Reset” button.  We are all unique and you can find your ideal routine to get the best night’s sleep possible, if you take the time work out what it is. Experiment, and experiment some more until you find it.

And if you are really struggling to sleep on an ongoing basis you may want to think about some outside help.  Try Hypnotherapy or Acupuncture.

Sometimes our minds have become so used to the idea of not sleeping well, it becomes almost a habit and we need a little ‘system reset’. There also may be other things in life that are causing you stress or anxiety which can certainly affect sleep. Get in touch if you would like to know more about this.

See what works for you, we would love to hear any other ideas you have for great sleep.

Use this sleep diary to record your progress as you try different techniques or browse the Sleep Councils website for more information.

Suzanne Johnson


MHS Dip.Hyp.Dip.Couns.

How does the changing of the seasons affect our bodies?

Spring will be here soon but for the moment the temperatures have dropped and Winter is still with us.  The changing of the seasons is a natural cycle  and is a great example of the concept of Yin and Yang. It can be said that Yang is light, hot, male, movement and all that is opposite to Yin and relatively Yin is dark, cold, female, stillness and so forth, but there is always Yang within Yin and Yin within Yang ready to emerge. 

The Yin/Yang cycle of the year peaks at the highest of Yang (heat, lightest) on the longest day in June and falls to the lowest of Yin (cold, darkest) on the shortest day in December.  From this the year can be broken down into five phases.  From Winter, Spring breaks forth with life and forges outwards and upwards; from Spring, Summer warms and nurtures; from Summer, late Summer ripens nature’s bounty: from Late Summer, Autumn lets go and starts to slow down and from Autumn, Winter slows to a near standstill until the shortest day whereby Winter starts to reach out to Spring again.  Winter is a time to slow down, to nourish, to reflect, to take stock of the past year and to prepare for the coming of the next year.


Daoist’s (a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin) related the interconnectedness of the world to everything around them so that the macrocosm often reflected the microcosm and visa versa.  Chinese Medicine (CM) takes many of these tenets and uses them in relation to the body.

The five phases or seasons each correspond to an element and these in turn all have an assigned organ (Yin and Yang), colour, emotion, sinew etc which relates to them.  Winter is the water element that relates to cold and its Yin/Yang organs are Kidney and Bladder.  From a Western perspective the main function of the Kidneys (Yin) is to sift the blood and make urine (water) and the Bladder (Yang) is hollow and holds and eliminates urine. From a CM perspective the Kidneys are viscera (the internal organs in the main cavities of the body) are seen as the deepest organ and the root of the whole body. The Kidneys govern all water, the bones (the deepest structure of the body), produces marrow (the deepest substance in the body which is the basis of blood), fills the spine and brain, manifests in the hair, opens in the ears (resembles the Kidneys or a foetus), controls the lower orifices, looks after our inherent force and overseas our growth, ageing and reproduction.  Kidneys’ colour is blue or black, the emotion is fear and the flavour is salty.  All of the other elements, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal have similar themes but different distinctions.

What can we do in relation to Winter and our body/mind?

Generally, it important to learn how to manage the stress of life and to deal with our inner fears. If we feel threatened all the time and do not rest then our adrenals, which sit on top of our kidneys, will be working constantly keeping us in a state of fight or flight, increasing our Yang and over time will therefore be depleting us (our Yin). 

Winter is the perfect time to nourish our Yin, to take stock and rest our body/mind.  The holiday period over Christmas is a great opportunity to slow down, recover, make new resolutions and plan for the future.  Many cultures even see this as the best time to go into retreat and do extended meditation.

Nurturing Ourselves

Food around this time of year is all about storage for those long nights and hunkering down.  Roasting, slow cooking, stews, broths and fermenting have all got aspects and processes that would be beneficial to the body around Winter. 

Black/dark, blue and salty foods are of greatest benefit although too much of anything, and especially salt which has a strong connection to the Water element absorbing and increasing its volume/viscosity, will be of detriment.  Some examples of these foods are beef, beetroot, black soybean, blueberries, bone marrow, date, fig, grape, kale, kelp, kidney beans, leafy greens, liver, mussel, nettle, octopus, oxtail, oyster, parsley, sardine, seaweed, spinach, stout, squid, sweet rice, tempeh, walnut, watercress

Be Good to Yourself

Having Acupuncture and/or Osteopathy (remember Kidneys govern the bones) at this time is most important. It will not only help us in our efforts to reenergise but will nourish our bodies and rest our minds, rejuvenating us out from our lowest ebb. 

Acupuncture can help to rebalance our Yin and Yang and can aid our Kidney energy to recharge and therefore boost our Yin substances. Osteopathy can support and strengthen the lower back, increase the mobility of the spine to ease any compression around that area to free the Kidneys of any stress and help with its function,  therefore Winter is the ideal time for a maintenance visit of either Acupuncture or Osteopathy.

Why Self Care Really Matters

Caring for yourself can take many forms. For most, it can bring to mind going for a massage or treating yourself to something nice, or simply taking your time over a cup of tea and cake and savouring it.  There is however another element to self-care which is often overlooked, yet which has a powerful effect on our lives and relationships.  This element is the act of caring for our inner world, and is a more soulful aspect of self-care.

Our most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves.   We can have better, more intimate and fulfilling relationships with our loved ones if we have a meaningful relationship with ourselves.

When we are fully present to our own inner world, with awareness of our thoughts and feelings and our own tendencies, this gives us vital information about how the world impacts us, what our needs are, and what is okay and not okay for us.

Building a relationship with ourselves also builds our self-esteem, which is based on the authenticity of one’s own feelings and not on the possession of certain qualities, as we are commonly led to believe.  The self esteem and self knowledge which come from self-care can be invaluable if, for instance, you have a pattern of choosing the wrong partner or your relationships tend to break down.  Care for the self in this way can help to change an unconscious pattern you may have been stuck in, so that you are attracting and attracted to people who are easier to be with and more ‘right’ for you.

“Emotion is the chief source of all becoming conscious.  There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.”  C G Jung

Coming into relationship with our inner lives is a courageous and life-affirming step.  Even though it is often because of difficult or traumatic events that someone steps through the therapist’s door, accessing therapy doesn’t mean that we are ‘broken’ and need ‘fixing’.  Rather, it is a healthy impulse towards the integration of unexplored feelings and aspects of ourselves which also brings about more sublime feelings such as joy and happiness. When we are accessing feelings which may have been repressed or denied, it is important to move at a pace that is right for us.  We may find that we need a guide for this part of our journey. We carry around with us quite harsh inner voices which we have picked up along the way – you’ll recognise them – these are the ones which often begin with ‘should’!  In a therapeutic relationship you’ll learn to notice these voices and to gradually replace them with the kinder, more gentle voice of your true self.  This is not to be confused with ‘positive thinking’, which can sometimes deny how we are really feeling.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” – Oscar Wilde

The role of a counsellor is to help people to re-learn how to love themselves and to be gentle towards themselves.  In therapy we sow the seeds of a life-long nourishing relationship with oneself and this is the key to having more fulfilling, peaceful relationships with those around us.

 Three key things which can help to create a healthy relationship to ourselves are:

  1. Meditation – either guided or silent meditation can be transformative. There are many approaches and styles out there.  One resource is
  2. Journal writing – if it appeals to you, journaling can help bring things to consciousness – expect lots of ‘a-ha’ moments!
  3. Psychotherapy – this gives you a safe space in which to explore un-tapped areas of your life with the aim of feeling more whole, fulfilled and with greater self-esteem.








Exercise and Growing Older – Why is it Important?

The good news it is never too late to start to exercise…..

There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you?

As you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. Getting moving can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. Regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory. No matter your age or your current physical condition, read on for simple, enjoyable ways to become more active and improve your health and outlook.

The Physical Health Benefits

As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories, helping you to maintain or lose weight.

Reduce the Impact of Illness and Chronic Disease

People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

Enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance

Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, co-ordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Mental Health Benefits

Exercise improves sleep and quality sleep is vital for your overall health. Regular activity can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed.

Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident. Boost your mood and self confidence.

It does amazing things for the brain! Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help keep your brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. It can help brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Getting active may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease

What if you Hate to Exercise?

If you dread working out, you’re not alone. But you don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches to make a big difference to your health. Think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them into an exercise routine:

  • Listen to music or an audiobook while lifting weights
  • Window shopping while walking laps of the shopping centre.
  • Get competitive while playing tennis.
  • Take photographs on a nature hike.
  • Meet new people at a yoga class or fitness centre
  • Watch a favourite movie or TV show while on the treadmill or marching on the spot.
  • Instead of chatting with a friend over coffee, chat while walking, stretching, or strength training.
  • Walk the golf course with a friend who golfs.
  • Walk or play fetch with a dog. If you don’t own a dog, offer to take a neighbours dog for a walk or volunteer at a pet shelter or rescue group.
  • Go for a run, walk, or cycle when you’re feeling stressed—see how much better you feel afterwards.
  • Find an exercise buddy, someone whose company you really enjoy, and try activities you’ve never tried before—you may find something you love. At worst you’ve spent time with a good friend.

What Sort of Exercise Should You Do and How Will you Benefit?

1: Balance

What it is: Maintains standing and stability, whether you’re stationary or moving around. Try yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises to gain confidence with balance.

Why it’s good for you: Improves balance, posture, and quality of your walking. Also reduces risk of falling and fear of falls.

2: Cardio

What it is: Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and you may even feel a little short of breath. Includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis, and dancing.

Why it’s good for you: Helps lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. Promotes independence by improving endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, and errands.

3: Strength and Power Training

What it is: Builds up muscle with repetitive motion using weight or external resistance from body weight, machines, free weights, or elastic bands. Power training is often strength training done at a faster speed to increase power and reaction times.

Why it’s good for you: Strength training helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle, and improves balance—both important in staying active and avoiding falls. Power training can improve your speed while crossing the street, for example, or prevent falls by enabling you to react quickly if you start to trip or lose balance. Building strength and power will help you stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car, and lifting objects.

4: Flexibility

What it is: Challenges the ability of your body’s joints to move freely through a full range of motion. This can be done through stationary stretches and stretches that involve movement to keep your muscles and joints supple and less prone to injury. Yoga is an excellent means of improving flexibility.

Why it’s good for you: Helps your body stay flexible and increases your range of movement for ordinary physical activities such as looking behind while driving, tying your shoes, shampooing your hair, and playing with your grandchildren.

Speak to our Older Adult Fitness Specialist Lisa Wright for advice or book a session to kick start your fitness



As summer ends and we reluctantly prepare ourselves for less daylight hours, big puffy coats and turning on the heating. Autumn signals time for schools to return and the bigger kids to head back to work!

Bags full of books and long hours at a desk aren’t the best recipe for a healthy back, so this article is our Return to School/work ABC

A is for Angles – 90 degree angles at your desk

It is well documented that the most effective posture to be seated at a desk is a collection of 90 degree angles. From the ankles, to the knees, to the hips, to the elbows, all of these joint angles should be roughly 90 degrees. This indicates that feet are flat on the floor, the lower back is upright without being to flexed or extended and that the computer mouse is within comfortable distance and not pulling the arm forward and torso into rotation.

Don’t forget that this is not a universal fix and that even sitting for long hours in a good posture can cause back pain too.


B is for Bags – shoulder straps x2

The average school bag weighs in around 7kgs. This excludes the added weight of a PE/games kit bag. It doesn’t sound like a lot but the recommended weight of such a bag should exceed no more than 10% of one’s body weight, as a rough guide, (according to the American Academy of Paediatrics). Unless you have a 12 year old child who weighs 70kgs, could your child be carrying a bag that is too heavy for them?

Let’s face it, roller bags are not exactly a popular choice for school children, but what are the consequences of wearing a trendy shoulder bag? Quite simply, rather than distributing 7kgs across the shoulders – the 7kgs hangs off one shoulder. Too much pressure or tension  through the upper trapezius muscle across the shoulder can cause headaches.  Starting to sound familiar? So what can you do about it we hear you ask? You don’t want to chuck that shoulder bag away that you just brought. How about alternating sides that it’s worn on? Failing this get a shoulder bag with thicker more padded straps. Or our personal favourite…..chuck it out and get a double strap bag!

Those of you out there with double strap bags don’t think you have halos above your heads! Still got back pain? Try wearing the bag a bit higher, it shouldn’t be swinging around your bum, more like at the bottom of your rib cage. If the straps hurt then maybe it’s time to invest in a more padded comfortable rucksack. If it’s a big bag then be sensible and only put in it what you really need to take with you or the bag will become a dumping ground and before you know it you’ll be carrying everything but the kitchen sink.

Pause and take 5 minutes today to check what weight your child is carrying; how suitable their bag is and if it is positioned correctly.  You may just avert back problems for them in later life.


C is for Commuting – posture in the car

 For some people work involves commuting for long hours or their job is driving based and travelling around. No point getting an ergonomic setup correct at the desk if your office on wheels is poorly setup.  Heavy traffic, poor weather conditions and bad eyesight can all prompt our head to slope forwards and extend, potentially causing shoulders to round and pull us away from the head restraint which is providing good support.

Adjust your mirrors to work well for an upright and correct posture, if you have an adjustable back support adjust it to hug your body and this will prompt the upright position. If you can raise the height of the seat to allow you better view of the road you will not need to extend your head upwards to be able to look down at the bonnet.

Here at Amber we have advice for every letter of the alphabet. If any of this information strikes a chord with you then we might be able to help. Posture and related pains are our speciality.


Why Women Should do Weights

Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones more brittle and prone to fracture. Although osteoporosis can affect men and younger people, post-menopausal women are most at risk. One of the best ways to help maintain healthy bones is to exercise regularly – which encourages the bones to absorb calcium and other mineral salts that keep bones strong.

Weight bearing exercises and weight resisted exercises are best for strengthening bones and muscles and as well as helping to keep bones in good health may also reduce the likelihood of falls as you age. Weight bearing exercises are those where your body is supporting its own weight, such as walking or housework or carrying groceries. Weight resisted exercise involves pushing or pulling against an additional weight, like a dumbbell or barbell or resistance equipment in a gym.


Is your desk job affecting your posture?


It is important to set up your desk at work correctly (ergonomics), so you don’t suffer long term harm through bad posture. The rain may be hanging around at the moment and we might be feeling cheated that summer seems to have disappeared and, disgruntled, it is easy to slump at your workstation and risk bad posture.  Here is why setting up your workstation correctly is so important.


For a start, we are not designed to sit or stand in one position for a prolonged amount of time. Our bodies need movement; movement encourages blood flow and blood flow is required to provide the muscles and organs with oxygen and nutrients and to remove the waste products so keep moving…

Problems you may experience, if you spend long periods of time at a desk:-

1) Neck Pain

2) Pins and needles in arms and hands

4) Headaches

5) Low back pain

6) Mid or upper back pain

7) Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)



Postural issues are not exclusive to desk bound employees. Any static position can lead to similar issues – teachers that spend all day bent over low desks helping children with their school work, decorators that spend all day painting ceilings, mums that spend their lives carrying babies around…the list is never ending. But basically – being in the same position day in day out is going to lead to problems regardless of what position it is. We, for instance, see lots of people who have jet washed the patio for 3 hours in the same position!

What should you do to improve your office set up so you are working ergonomically?

Your Chair

Chair – Sit all the way back in your chair.

Some chairs have a built in lumbar support, if that is the case make sure it is in line with the natural curve of your lumbar spine. If your chair doesn’t have a lumbar support you could try using a small pillow or cushion to provide extra support.  (in the small of your back)

Make sure the back of your chair is upright.  Adjust the height of your seat so that your hips are higher than your knees and your feet are flat on the floor.


Sometimes you can also tilt the seat to help bring your pelvis above your knees, if not try sitting on a cushion. This prevents lumbar flexion.


Adjust the arm rests on your chair so that you are able to slide your chair under your desk, this will bring you closer to your desk and prevent you having to lean forwards.



Your screen and keyboard should be directly in front of you If you are using the telephone regularly, make sure its within reach so you don’t have to twist round every time to use it. If you are using it a lot, a headset may be a good investment. NEVER USE YOUR SHOULDER TO HOLD THE PHONE TO YOUR EAR!  We have treated patients who are stuck in this position!


When you are typing your wrists should rest flat on the table, you can buy keyboard wrist supports online. These can help prevent RSI if you are doing a lot of typing.


Broad shoulders? Try getting a split keyboard, this might make it a bit more comfortable for you as you can bring your hands further apart. Laptops aren’t ideal if you’re spending all day on your computer. This is because the keyboard and screen are attached you have less room for adjustment. You tend to either end up causing RSI in your wrists or neck pain/headaches from looking down at the screen all the time. Try placing your laptop on a block so you can look straight ahead at it and get a separate keyboard so you can rest your wrists flat on the table.

Try and introduce as much movement as you can throughout the day. If you have to print a document, send it to the printer furthest away so you have to walk to get it and get outside for a quick walk at lunchtime or take the stairs instead of the lift.


Consider an app for star watching at night to make you look up and counteract “technology stoop”!


It is incredibly important to retain good posture to stave off long term issues as your body grows old so that you can continue to do all the things that you enjoy doing for as long as you can.




22nd June marks World Osteopathy Day

On 22nd June, osteopaths from around the country will be raising awareness of how they can support the health of people in their local communities.

Around 30,000 people currently consult osteopaths every working day. Patients include children, older people, manual workers, office professionals, pregnant women, children and sports people.

Patients seek treatment for a wide variety of conditions, including back pain, changes to posture in pregnancy, postural problems caused by driving or work strain, the pain of arthritis and minor sports injuries.

Osteopaths are highly trained primary healthcare practitioners adapting their therapeutic approach to the needs of the individual. They use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery. They may also provide advice on posture and exercise to support healing, promote health and prevent symptoms from recurring.

Osteopaths also work closely with other health care professionals, providing onward referral if required.

Tim Moynihan of osteopathic practice Amber Health in Baldock has been a practising osteopath for 25 years. Tim said ‘I chose osteopathy as a career to care for and help people with musco-skeletal injuries as opposed to medical illness.  The relationship between this and sports injury medicine is something that I am a big fan of”.

Sciatic Pain

The Mystery of Sciatica & Back Pain

What is Sciatica?

 You must have heard of the dreadful sciatica pain, anything from a little twinge to an excruciating sharp pain.

What do you think it is? Pain at the front of the leg? In the groin ? Pins and needles in the arms ?

Sciatica is a term used to describe (and often diagnose) pain at/in the leg from the buttock down (sometimes all the way down to your foot) but it is not a diagnosis.

That means that if you’ve been told you have got sciatica (and let’s imagine it’s actually sciatica, and not something else as many different nerves can be impinged) you now need to find out what is causing it.

Have You Got Hay Fever?

Spring has arrived and the flora is coming alive once more.  The energy in the earth and around us is becoming more abundant with the increase of sunlight.  This of course is the same within us, we feel more alive, and awake earlier as the days get longer.  Unfortunately, for some people, we are also entering the period of the year when “hay-fever” symptoms start to appear:-

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