How to boost your happiness tonight

Did you know that one extra hour of sleep each night could make you happier than getting a pay rise?

A University of Michigan study found that making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night. Wow!

Looks like I had a great night’s sleep last night – check out my big cheesy grin, above! : )

Happy snoozing x

The Sleep Diet

Did you pick up a copy of June’s Red magazine? If so, you can’t have missed the Body special, “More Toned, Less Tired”, all about losing weight through sleep!

The article was based on a new book “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep” by Dr Michael Breus.

It sounds too good to be true. But, in fact, a number of studies have shown a connection between weight gain and inadequate sleep – see, for example, my blog posts from summer 2010 (Could a lack of sleep be making you fat? and my update a few weeks later). I also know from personal experience that I generally feel more hungry and crave naughty foods after a poor night’s sleep.

If you’ve struggled to lose weight and are regularly sleeping badly, you may find that revising your sleep habits makes all the difference when it comes to losing those extra pounds – as well as boosting your mood and energy levels, improving your health and relieving stress.

As a starting point, check out my top tips and suggestions for sleeping well and make your dream body a reality!

Don’t forget to let me know how you get on x

A Beautiful Mess

Happy Easter Sunday everyone! Here’s something to inspire you as you’re crunching your way through that bag of Mini eggs!

I just love this blog, A Beautiful Mess.

Written by Elsie, a designer and owner of a very cool boutique, Red Velvet, in Springfield, Missouri. A Beautiful Mess is – in her own words – a lifestyle blog focused on fashion, handmade and pretty things! Very pretty things in fact; so pretty you could spend hours poring over them when you should be working (….ahem!). Not only does Elsie run her boutique, design very pretty dresses and post daily updates on her blog, but she also writes e-courses, has a second wedding-themed blog, Le Wedding Party, is planning her own wedding, looks after a gorgeous pug named Suki and still finds the time to put together amazing outfits, take beautiful photographs and generally just be very cool. How does she do it all?

Well, it turns out that sleep plays a big role. In a recent post “on being a workaholic & still having a life…” she says:

“The second important lesson I’ve learned to keep myself cheerful (and sane) when working a LOT is steady sleep. I used to be really proud of my all night work sessions, but I was drained. These days I sleep eight hours every night and I’ve never been happier. I get more done when I’m awake and, most importantly, I feel human! If you’re a young entrepreneur, give yourself some sanity and go to sleep. Just trust me….♥”

So, there you have it! Enjoy great sleep and you too can be cool, creative and cute like Elsie….maybe in my dreams!

Sleep tips for hay fever sufferers

Morning all…any hay fever sufferers out there?

Spring brings warmer temperatures, frolicking lambs and colourful blooms, but for some it means that allergy season is on its way. If you’re one of over 15 million hay fever sufferers in the UK, you’ll be well aware of the misery that this time of year can bring – runny/blocked nose, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and itchy throat, mouth, nose, eyes and ears, just to mention a few of the troublesome symptoms.

Getting enough quality sleep is key for allergy sufferers. The body uses extra energy to cope with the allergic reaction, which can drain the immune system, and sufferers can become run down and feel exhausted without enough quality rest. The snag is that allergies are one of the biggest contributors to lack of sleep. They cause sufferers to wake intermittently throughout the night and leave them feeling tired and lethargic the next day. This tiredness affects mood and concentration and makes it harder for allergy sufferers to deal with the symptoms of their allergy.

But, a few simple steps can help hay fever sufferers improve the quality of their sleep during allergy season. Here are the Sleep Geek’s top tips for getting a more restful night’s sleep if you’re suffering from hay fever:

  • Avoid drying clothes (including nightwear) and bedding outside during high pollen months, as pollen can become attached.
  • Take a shower before bed to wash off any pollen on your skin or caught in your hair.
  • Keep bedroom windows closed, even on hot nights, to prevent pollen from entering. Instead, stay cool by placing a bowl of ice with a fan running next to it to circulate cool air throughout your bedroom.

The FreshNight silently emits negative ions that purify the air, removing pollen, dust, smoke and bacteria over a 200ft square area.  And, as well as providing relief for hay fever and asthma sufferers, the purified air can enhance sleep quality and improve alertness, concentration, reaction times, mood, skin conditions and sense of wellbeing. For a review of the FreshNight, by Made for Mums website, click here.

Having been spared from the miseries of hay fever, I’m not able to test these out for you, so please let me know how you get on with the tips. And if you’ve got any of your own to add, please do share!

Wishing you all a happy and restful Easter x

Arianna Huffington I salute you!

Arianna Huffington is one special lady. Not only is the author, commentator and co-founder of The Huffington Post one of the world’s most influential people (she featured in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2006), but she also makes sure that she gets the quality sleep she needs.

So often we hear people pride themselves on getting by with only a few hours sleep. Margaret Thatcher famously boasted that she only needed four hours sleep a night. Similarly, if you believe what you read, Martha Stewart, Madonna and Jay Leno all claim they can function on four hours sleep per night.

So it’s refreshing to hear someone intelligent and successful championing the value of sleep. Last year Arianna launched Sleep Challenge 2010; a one month sleep challenge, urging women to literally sleep their way to the top. Then, in an inspirational talk at a TEDWomen conference in December 2010, Arianna argued that the “way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep”. If you’re not already persuaded of the power of sleep, I recommend watching Arianna’s short talk, below:

Enjoy and be inspired!

I’m back!

Hello lovely readers, I’m back! Back at my desk, can of Diet Coke by my side and hunchback position resumed. But, today, I am slightly less hunched over my laptop than usual. And I’m not quite so reliant on my midday caffeine boost. I have that refreshed feeling that can only be achieved after a thoroughly restful holiday.

It was the perfect mini break. Five days of eating delicious seafood, indulging in Portuguese custard tarts, sipping vinho verde whilst overlooking the ocean and reading purely for pleasure. Most importantly, though, I invested much of my time sleeping and topped up my sleep “account”. An easy task in the lovely bedrooms at Martinhal Beach Resort.

My other half and I stayed in one of the stylish Garden Houses, situated temptingly close to the luxurious Spa. But, thankfully, it wasn’t all style over substance inside. The beautifully designed bedrooms were thoughtfully put together. The muted pastel shades created a soothing atmosphere and features such as black-out blinds, temperature controls and reading lamps demonstrated an attention to practical details.

The bed itself was wonderfully comfortable, with a soft fluffy duvet and pillows. Plus, the mattress aced the “hand test” – a simple test for determining how well a mattress is supporting your body. To try it yourself, simply lie on the mattress in your usual sleeping position and try to insert your flat hand between your body and the mattress. If you usually sleep on your back, try to insert your hand at the bottom of your back. If your usual sleeping position is on your side, try to insert your hand by your hip. If you find it difficult and have to force your hand in, then your mattress is supporting you perfectly. But if your hand slips in the space easily, the mattress is not providing you with enough support.

My only gripe would be the lack of pillow choice. Whilst the squishy pillows suited me, they won’t work for everyone and ideally I would like to see a variety of pillows available.

I would have no hesitation is recommending this fabulous resort to those in search of a luxury, relaxing break and I’ll certainly be back!

For further information about the Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel, click here.

Michelle Obama beats stress with sleep!

Continuing with my stress and sleep theme, I found this tip by First Lady Michelle Obama, as told to Peter Moore in Women’s Health magazine:

“I’m a big believer in sleep. I go to bed early, shortly after I put the girls to bed so I’m rested the next day. For me, getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising reduce my stress levels. And a really good workout is a great stress buster.”

To read the full interview, click here.




Happy New Year! Happy New You?

I’m sorry, it’s been a while!

Firstly, happy New Year to you all! My Christmas was busy and exciting, just how I like it! My other half and I hosted Christmas for the first time this year – what a responsibility! We spent the big day with my other half’s parents and of course our puppy Louis, who enjoyed ripping the gift tags off the presents, making exchanging gifts pretty interesting! We bought his parents an alpaca wool duvet and they’re already raving about how wonderful it is. After Christmas we were joined by practically my entire family for a few more days of feasting and swapping gifts.

After a Christmas full of activity, I’d planned a quiet night in for New Year’s eve, with good food and a bottle of fizz shared with my other half. So, it was a brilliant surprise when he got down on one knee at midnight and popped the question! Yes, that’s right, we’re engaged! The perfect way to start the New Year!

So, have you made any resolutions for the New Year? Rather than the usual vow to exercise more / eat less (but end up scoffing a pizza in front of the telly half way through January!), how about resolving to spend more time in bed! Now that doesn’t sound so difficult, does it? According to sleep experts, good quality sleep improves our health, happiness, performance and looks. So, why not ditch the cabbage soup diet and expensive gym membership and sleep yourself into a healthier, happier new you instead?

As for my New Year’s resolution, well it’s to post a little more frequently on this blog. You can expect at least two new posts a month, so please pop back regularly to read my sleep-related musings.

Wearing my confused face

Heaven is…..waking up on a Saturday morning and knowing that you don’t have to get out of bed. You can pull the covers right up to your chin, roll over and doze……mmmmm.

You can imagine my pleasure (picture big cheesy grin) this morning, when I read that my weekend lie-ins are in fact good for me. The Telegraph website reliably informed me that “A single lie-in is all that is required to replenish the brain and boost energy, alertness and attention span after a week of restricted sleep, the study showed”. Then, imagine my disappointment (cue sad, puppy-dog eyes and wobbly bottom lip) when I read on the BBC website, just a minute later, that “A lie-in at the weekend does not counter ill-effects of lack of sleep during the week, a study suggests”. What? Two studies, with completely different results? How confusing. No, no…one study, two contrasting interpretations….

Now, lets look at the details in those news reports: The study, “Neurobehavioral Dynamics Following Chronic Sleep Restriction: Dose-Response Effects of One Night for Recovery”, reported in the latest issue of the journal Sleep, was a sleep deprivation experiment on 159 healthy adults, aged 22 – 45 years. All the participants spent 10 hours in bed on the first two nights. 142 participants were then restricted to four hours in bed each night (from 4am to 8am) for five nights in a row. They were then allowed a single night’s “recovery sleep” of varying lengths, up to 10 hours. The other 17 participants made up a control group, who were allowed 10 hours in bed every night.  During the experiment, all participants were asked to complete tests every two hours while they were awake.

As expected, the study found that the participants whose sleep had been restricted performed consistently worse in the tests than the control group. After just one lie-in, test scores improved and the more “recovery sleep” they had the better they did. But, even after 10 hours of “recovery sleep”, the sleep-restricted participants had worse test scores than the control group for reaction times, lapses of attention and levels of fatigue. Dr David Dinges, the study leader, is quoted as saying “The additional hour or two of sleep in the morning after a period of chronic partial sleep loss has genuine benefits for continued recovery of behavioural alertness. The bottom line is that adequate recovery sleep duration is important for coping with the effects of chronic sleep restriction on the brain”.

The conclusion: A weekend lie-in can help you to recover from lost sleep during the busy, working week, but 5 lie-ins in a row is even better!!!! My happy face is back!

Could a lack of sleep be making you fat? UPDATE

Since I wrote about this in May 2010, a new research study has come to light that reinforces my earlier conclusion – that your sleeping habits could be to blame for those extra pounds.

The research study, “Sleep problems and major weight gain: a follow-up study” by P Lyytikäinen, T Lallukka, E Lahelma & O Rahkonen (published online in the International Journal of Obesity on 8 June 2010), shows that middle-aged women who have trouble sleeping are more likely to gain weight than those who sleep well.

The study followed over 7,300 middle-aged (40 to 60 year old) women and men for five to seven years. The researchers found that the women who had reported suffering from “frequent sleep problems” (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep on at least 14 nights in the past month) at the start of the study were more likely to report a “major weight gain” (11 or more pounds) over time than the women who slept without difficulty. Even when other factors, such as physical and mental health and lifestyle, were taken into consideration, the link between sleep problems and major weight gain remained – for the women, anyway.

Strangely, there was no association found between the men with troubled sleep and major weight gain, however. Whilst the reason for this difference is unknown, it’s possible that the fewer male participants (1,300 men compared to more than 5,700 women) could have made the link more difficult to spot.

Lead researcher, Peppi Lyytikäinen, told Reuters Health that while the findings do not prove cause-and-effect, they raise the possibility that improving sleep quality might help stave off excess weight gain.