Time for a change of alarm clock?

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, and it feels good to finally share this little rant!

It is my other half who has the problem. But, as with most things, I end up sharing it! I’m talking about the alarm on his Nokia mobile phone. Aside from the fact that it forces us to get up when we’d rather stay in bed, it has the particularly unwelcome feature of displaying the time remaining before the alarm sounds.

So, every night, just as we’re ready to slip off into sleep, my other half sleepily sets his morning alarm and – bam! – he’s wide awake again because now he knows that he has only 7 hours 22 minutes (and counting) until it’s time to get up. Which, of course, he then kindly reports to me, along with a raft of expletives.

I agree; it is a bizarre and unpleasant feature that creates stress at bedtime. Knowing the limited time you have to sleep really does not help the mind to relax and switch off. Instead, you’re alerted to the fact that you really must fall asleep right now, which stimulates feelings of anxiety rather than calm.

Why anyone would want this tool is beyond me. So, Nokia, if you’re reading – please explain yourself!


Don’t forget! Clocks go forward on 27 March 2011

This weekend it’s time to “spring forward” into British Summer Time again. Whilst lighter summer evenings are something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, unfortunately it means losing an hour this Saturday night/Sunday morning. For many, this means an hour’s less sleep.

Changing the clocks is always a controversial issue. For a start, we tend to feel sluggish for a day or so after the change and resetting the time on everything from your cooker to your car is an inconvenience. But, according to one BBC news article from March 2006, the consequences of the clocks moving forward are more significant: there is an increase in road traffic accidents for a few days after the time change and the stock market slumps. Website www.goodtoknow.co.uk also cites an increase in the number of heart attacks and a higher chance of picking up bugs as being due to the change in the clocks. To read both thought-provoking articles, click here and here.

The controversy surrounding changing the clocks has sparked endless discussions and debates, and most recently the proposal of a “double summertime” here in the UK. This would mean the clocks moving forward by an hour from GMT in the winter (maintaining British Summer Time) and a further hour in the summer (applying a “double summertime”), to bring the UK’s clocks in line with Europe. The reasoning behind the proposal is that it would improve tourism to the UK. Despite widespread reports that the double summertime change would be included in the government’s tourism strategy this March, it is still being considered. To read about the pros and cons in a BBC news article from last month, click here.

Whatever your thoughts are on the matter, the clocks will go forward this weekend and you’ll be forced to adapt whether you like it or not. But there are things you can do to adjust more quickly – the key is to ensure that the lost hour doesn’t mean an hour’s less sleep. Here are the Sleep Geek’s simple tips:

  1. Reset your clocks on Saturday morning, then adjust your mealtimes and bedtime to the new time.
  2. Get up on Sunday at your normal time, based on the new time.
  3. On Sunday, expose yourself to bright light to help your body adjust its internal clock to the new time.
  4. Dehydration can make you feel worse, so drink plenty of water to keep your fluid levels up.

Let me know how you get on. Happy weekend everyone x

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.

Sleeping in Sagres

Not now. But tomorrow night, and for the next four nights after that, I’m going to be snoozing in the sleepy Portuguese town of Sagres. I’ll be staying at the brand new Martinhal Beach Resort on the unspoiled Western Algarve and enjoying some well-deserved (I think, anyway) rest and relaxation.

And – just for you lovely readers – I’ll be conducting some thorough testing of the mattress, pillow, duvet and general sleeping environment. Pop back next week to read my review and findings.

Now,  I must go and finish my packing….

Love your pillow? Here’s a travel tip just for you…

The precious pillow - soon to be mutilated!

How much do you love your pillow? As much as my friend, Rob, I wonder.

As a self-confessed snow-chaser, Rob spends December to May each year searching for the best powder across Europe and Canada. Despite a full-time job, he still manages to rack up an impressive number of days skiing and travelling each year. Which means countless nights away from his favourite pillow.

The prized pillow is a memory foam contour pillow; he’d love to travel with it but it’s bulky and not easily squeezed into his ski bag. But Rob has a clever solution – purchase a second pillow and halve its size by cutting it in half! Ta-dah, problem solved!

If you’re a ski-junkie you’ll love reading about Rob’s skiing adventures (with his pillow!) on his blog http://fallingwhite.wordpress.com/. And even if you’re not, you can’t fail to be impressed by Rob’s stunning photography – click here to be amazed!

Can chocolate disrupt sleep?

A couple of weeks ago I was treated to a evening of chocolate tasting at Paul A Young’s beautiful chocolaterie in Islington, London. Paul was so passionate about his hand-made – and delicious – chocolates and I learnt a lot – about cocoa beans, and chocolate production and the wonderful flavours and textures of different chocolate varieties – and that chocolate can disturb sleep. Really?!

I’d previously heard a rumour that chocolate contains caffeine; well-known for keeping you up at night. However, I was reliably informed by Paul that, contrary to what we are led to believe, chocolate actually contains only very small quantities of caffeine. But – sadly there’s a but! – according to Paul, chocolate also contains a stimulant called theobromine, which can cause sleeplessness if eaten in large enough quantities. It is also the compound that makes chocolate dangerous to our furry friends, dogs and cats.

The essential point then, is that stuffing your face with chocolate at night could potentially keep you awake or interfere with your sleep. Much better to stick to a few squares – and I cannot recommend Paul’s malty 40% milk chocolate enough. Just remember to keep it well away from your pooch and kitty.

Read about Paul A Young, his chocolate shops and chocolate tasting workshops on his website: http://www.paulayoung.co.uk/

A few thoughts on pets and stress

Whenever I get stressed, I talk about my problem. I talk to my other half, friends, family, strangers even. I talk and I talk and I talk. I don’t necessarily want a solution, just a sympathetic ear.

In contrast, my other half retreats and, now that we’ve got one, strokes the dog. I have to say, our dog is just brilliant for relieving stress at the end of a hectic day. At around 8pm every night Louis (our dog) collapses in a sleepy heap next to us and snores happily until bedtime. And in those final hours of the day, we relax by stroking his furry tummy and silky ears. It’s a wonderfully calming way to prepare for sleep.

Research shows that owning a pet can really help to reduce stress – a major cause of sleepless nights – and I can believe it. As well as performing the role of living teddy bear and hot water bottle, Louis makes me smile many times every day – when he bounds up to greet me, when he chases his ball and even when he scampers off with a misplaced sock! Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work at times, but the joy he brings us certainly outweighs the odd bit of naughtiness.

So, here’s to you Louis – for keeping me smiling and my other half sane and sleeping soundly!

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow”

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow” ~ Charlotte Brontë

I don’t think I was alone in feeling a tad panicky in the run up to Christmas. As I mentioned in my last post, my other half and I hosted Christmas for the first time. Whilst a lot of fun, the preparations – the decorations, the present-buying, the wrapping, the cooking, not to mention the last-minute cleaning – were overwhelming at times. I had lists and lists of lists and my Ocado order (booked months in advance) was updated on an almost daily basis with an extra pint of milk or an extra tin of biscuits, just in case….Of course there was far too much food (we’re still working our way through the chocolate biscuits) and a great time was had by all, but I’m sure I’ll be fretting again when December rolls around!

Weighed down by my festive stresses, I didn’t get around to writing about the link between worry and sleep disruption, as I’d intended. But, as they say, better late than never….

Whether it’s agonising about cooking your Christmas dinner, pondering what to buy your best mate for Christmas, or bigger worries concerning your career or finances, anxiety has a big impact on the quantity and quality of our sleep:

  • The Sun newspaper reported on 16 December 2010 that sleep problems are more common during the festive season because people worry about buying presents, seeing relatives and Christmas finances. Read the full article by clicking here.
  • A 2010 study by Slumberland showed that nearly three-quarters of British workers are struggling to get a full night’s sleep because of work worries. In a survey of 3,000 adults, 69% said that work problems make it difficult to sleep. And even when we do drop off to sleep, the survey revealed that one in three dreams about work at least twice a week. The survey also showed that 39% wake up at least once during the night fretting about their careers. To read more, click here.
  • On 5 October 2010, the Mirror newspaper reported that adults lose on average 68 minutes’ sleep a night worrying about money, according to a study commission by Boots and the Tony Ferguson Weightloss Programme.  You can read the full article by clicking here.

And it’s not only us mere mortals who are kept awake at night fretting; A-listers are suffering too. In October last year it was reported that Rihanna struggles to sleep because she’s constantly thinking about her work.

Despite my pre-Christmas anxieties, I found ways to wind down and sleep in the run up to Christmas. Here’s some ideas that work for me, give them a go when you’re feeling stressed:

  • If you find yourself dwelling on worries when you go to bed, try writing them down before you hit sack. This exercise helps to prevent problems from keeping my mind active at night when I should be sleeping.
  • If you’re prone to waking in the night with worries on your mind, keep a notepad and pen by your bed – then if you do wake in the night with a problem on your mind, you can write it down and go back to sleep.
  • Try to keep your bedroom tidy and clutter-free. Piles of paperwork and unwashed clothes aren’t conducive to a restful night’s sleep and can add to your anxiety.
  • Remove your clock, alarm clock or mobile phone from sight – clock-watching during the night will only remind you that you’re awake and increase your anxiety.
  • Don’t forget to follow your usual, relaxing, bedtime routine – or if you don’t already have one, create one. What you do in the final moments of your day can really help to prepare you for sleep. For me, this means spending the last few minutes of every day – sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes half an hour – in bed with a light novel or magazine (nothing too engaging or stimulating otherwise I’ll never put it down!) whilst listening to the gentle, soothing sounds of Classic FM.
  • Breathing exercises in bed can help to induce sleep when you’re feeling stressed. The NightWave Sleep Assistant guides you in a session of deep breathing whilst you lay comfortably in bed (read my review of this product – COMING SOON).

Until next time, sleep well! x

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.

Sleep Solutions Centre: Exclusive photos

I promised you images – and here they are:

Our Pure Lights light up any room...

Let the Sleep Geek solve your sleep problems over a lovely Yorkshire cuppa!

A selection of our innovative sleep products

I love these snuggly alpaca bed socks!

One of our Lumie daylight alarm clocks - look out for my product review coming soon

Teddy loves sleep

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