Product review: SleepPhones

Welcome to my seventh product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is SleepPhones.

SleepPhones…”pajamas for your ears” the tagline reads. How cute!

SleepPhones are ear bud speakers encased within a soft, fleece headband that you wear around your head (covering your ears) and plug into your iPod, mp3 player, CD player or other audio device (they are compatible with most audio devices). They are designed to be worn comfortably in bed, to help users relax and fall asleep faster and to help drown out unwanted noises.

When testing SleepPhones I focused on six key factors: Comfort, Sound Quality, Relaxation, Sleep Onset, Noise-Blocker and Portability. Here’s my review under each heading:

Comfort – Are they comfortable enough to sleep in, even if you’re a side-sleeper?

Yes! The fleecy headband is very soft, lightweight and extremely comfortable. The ear buds are nearly flat so, even when I lay on my side, they don’t prod me in the ear or feel painful as standard headphones can. And, because the ear buds are enclosed in the headband, they can’t fall out of your ears like conventional headphones can.

Sound Quality – Does the music sound any good?

Yes, SleepPhones sound good; I was impressed.  Audiophiles may disagree, but I would expect most people to be satisfied with the sound quality.

Relaxation – Do they help you to relax?

If you find listening to music relaxing, then yes. Although, for me, it really depends on what I’m listening to. Soft, classical music is my top choice for relaxing at bedtime.

SleepPhones will play whatever you have on your iPod / CD player though, so you can listen to, for example, audiobooks, hypnosis or meditation if you prefer.

Sleep Onset – Do they help you to fall asleep faster?

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know, taking time to relax and prepare for sleep is important for falling asleep and good quality snoozing. Listening to soft, classical music at bedtime definitely helps me to fall asleep faster.

Noise-blocker – Are they effective at drowning out unwanted noises?

Yes, they are wonderful at drowning out Louis’ early morning wake up calls! And if they can do that, I expect they’d be equally good at blocking out snoring or noises from loud neighbours.

Conversely, SleepPhones are ideal if you want to listen to music or an audiobook in bed without disturbing your bed-mate.

Portability – Are they good for travelling?

Yep, they’re small and lightweight so would hardly take up any room in your hand luggage. Plus, they also double up as a comfortable eye mask – so you actually get two products in one! I’ll certainly be packing them for my next flight.

I loved SleepPhones. They’re a great product for anyone who loves listening to music in bed, anyone who struggles to relax or fall asleep at bedtime and anyone who wants to block out unwanted noises at bedtime. Top marks from me!

SleepPhones are available from We Love Sleep. They come in three sizes (Extra Small, One Size Fits Most and Extra Large) and are available in black, grey or lavender.

Product review: JetRest travel pillow

Welcome to my sixth product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the JetRest travel pillow

It’s taken me a while to write this review, the reason being that I’m not a huge fan of this product and it’s much more fun to write a glowing review than a gloomy one. Anyhoo, let’s get on…

JetRest claim that their travel pillow “cushions the head upright and avoids cricked-neck.  It uses the body’s own weight to keep it naturally in position simply by leaning back against the unique L-Shape and there is no need to lean against a window. The side part then cushions your head upright for a perfect flight’s sleep.”

Sounds great, but unfortunately the write up didn’t match my personal experience.

For starters, I found it impossible to position the pillow without leaning against something, and, even then, I wasn’t particularly comfortable.

Thinking it was just me, I roped in my other half to give it a go on his daily morning commute. At 7:47am he emailed me his review:

“45 minutes using the jet rest – no sleep and a sore neck; 15 minutes without: Woke up at liverpool street station dribbling”

Oh dear.

Having said this, I do know people who are huge advocates of the JetRest – so maybe me and my other half have funny necks, or something!

My other complaint is the size of the pillow – it’s hardly compact for travelling, even once it’s rolled up. Honestly, it’s not much smaller than your standard pillow (once folded), which would mostly likely be far more comfortable. (NB: For those of you who can’t bear to part with your pillow when you go on holiday, but want a more compact version for travelling, you could try following in my friend, Rob’s footsteps by purchasing your favourite pillow again and chopping it in half  – read more here).

I do have one positive comment, however. The pillow is covered in a lovely soft fleece fabric, which is far nicer than the scratchy material that inflatable travel pillows are often made from.

The JetRest is not for me. I’ll be sticking to my budget inflatable travel pillow for now – and asking nicely for an upgrade to business class!

Do you have a JetRest travel pillow? What do you think?

Sleeping well with a summer cold

Last week, I was asked by a journalist if We Love Sleep have a product that can help improve sleep if you have a summer cold. After a little thought, I realised that we do have something that might help and I happily emailed back with details of the Pure Light SAD/Winter Blues Light Bulb and Air Purifier in One – catchy name, eh?! For speed, I’ll call it the Pure Light from now on.

As you can see from the name, the Pure Light is actually two products in one. Firstly, a full spectrum light bulb that provides respite from the symptoms of seasonal adjustment disorder (SAD) and the winter blues. Second – and most relevant here – an air purifier, that can help to ease the symptoms of a cold as well as enhance sleep quality.

In brief, the Pure Light emits negative ions that clean the air, removing those things that can aggravate the respiratory system, such as smoke, dust, pollen and bacteria. The result is improved sleep quality, alertness, concentration, mood and sense of wellbeing.

I’ll be testing it the next time I’m suffering from a cold – so watch this space!

The Pure Light is priced from £9 and is available from We Love Sleep.

Amy x

Product review: NightWave Sleep Assistant

Welcome to my fifth product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the NightWave Sleep Assistant.

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks with one thing or another. To give you an idea, here’s a selection of my highlights and lowlights from the last fortnight:

Chocolate tasting at Paul A Young’s chocolaterie on Camden Passage, London – the salted caramel truffles are spectacular! Thank you Anna for an amazing birthday treat.

3 x trips to the vets. Never a fun experience but made worse by the tiny and full-to-bursting car park; it brings me out in a cold sweat every time.

Visiting We Love Sleep Towers in Sheffield to discuss potential advertising opportunities – and to catch up with the lovely Sleep Geek.

Playing nurse to my beaten and bedraggled other half. No more rugby, please!

Partying Warriors-style. Thanks to Lisa for her epic The Warriors-themed 30th birthday party in Stokey. My other half had a lovely black eye to match his Warriors waistcost (see above).

Wedding venue viewing – the search continues…..

With lots on my mind, I’ve had the perfect opportunity to test the NightWave Sleep Assistant; a little gadget designed to help you to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

It doesn’t look like much; a small black box that emits a soft pulsating blue light.

The pulsing light guides you in a session of deep breathing whilst you lie comfortably in bed. The light rises and falls on the ceiling or wall of your darkened bedroom and you simply lie with your eyes open and synchronise your breathing with the moving light. Gradually, the movement of the light, and your breathing, become slower and slower, until the NightWave Sleep Assistant completes its cycle and switches itself off. That’s really all there is to it. Simple.

Breathing exercises are known to aid relaxation and calm a racing mind. The idea is that by coordinating your breathing with the light, your body and mind switch off and you glide into restful sleep.

I liked the NightWave Sleep Assistant. I liked the simple concept. I liked that it requires you to focus on your breathing, which naturally distracts you from your thoughts and worries, making it easier to drop off to sleep when you have lots on your mind. I also liked that it is completely silent, and so my other half has no reason to complain. Because it is such a small device, it’s portable and could be used whilst away from home or to ease jet lag whilst on holiday.

This is a clever device that really does work. My only complaint is that, for some, it may not be necessary. You don’t need this gadget – or anything else, for that matter – to practice deep breathing for relaxation. However, without the blue light guiding me, I find my concentration on my breathing tends to slip and mind starts to wander back to my daily life….

The NightWave Sleep Assistant is available from We Love Sleep.

Product review: Lumie Bodyclock Classic

Welcome to my fourth product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the Lumie Bodyclock Classic daylight alarm clock.

The Bodyclock Classic - not pretty but pretty good at getting me out of bed!

The last couple of months have been full of activity with the opening of We Love Sleep’s new Sleep Solutions Centre in Sheffield, generating lots of interest (check out this brilliant piece in the Yorkshire Post newspaper – “Silent night – the art of a good night’s sleep”), and keeping me busy. But, I’m back with you, and bursting to tell you about a product that could have you bouncing out of bed, even on dark winter mornings.

If you’re anything like me, getting up in the dark – particularly when it’s cold and miserable outside – is a struggle. My new rural location means that all I see is inky black when my alarm jolts me out of sleep (there are no street lamps out here in the sticks!). Then it takes me at least an hour after rolling out of bed to shake off my morning grogginess and grumpiness. So, when I was given an opportunity to test one of Lumie’s daylight alarm clocks, I jumped at the chance.

There are four daylight alarm clocks within the range, varying in price from £58 for the basic model (the Bodyclock Starter), up to £145 for the top-of-the-range model (the Bodyclock Elite). I tested one of the mid-range models, the Bodyclock Classic, priced £78. The other mid-range option is the Bodyclock Advanced, priced at £98.

All four alarm clocks offer the same unique feature – they wake you by emitting a powerful light that gently eases you from sleep. Simply set the alarm for the time you want to wake up and the lamp will gradually illuminate prior to that time. The idea is that as the light gets brighter, your body is fooled into believing that it’s sunrise and accordingly reduces production of sleep hormones like melatonin and kick-starts levels of those that help you get up and go like cortisol. So, in simple terms, you’ll find it easier to get up.

The alarm clocks use a special daylight bulb knows as a pure light full spectrum bulb, which emits a whiter light than conventional light bulbs to mimic natural sunlight. It can also help Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter blues sufferers cope with dark winter mornings.

The light is incredibly bright. But despite this I wasn’t certain that it would wake me from my slumber – I’m a very deep sleeper, you see, and have been known to sleep through the most unbearable alarms, much to my other half’s annoyance. Lumie have thoughtfully provided a back-up beeper on their daylight alarm clocks, though, so if you’re not roused after the “sunrise” has reached its maximum brighness, this isn’t a problem. And, unlike some conventional alarms, the sound isn’t jarring – it’s more of a gentle bleeping sound.

My other half and I have been testing the Bodyclock Classic for the last eight mornings and we’ve had some of the easiest wake-ups in a long time. After only night two, my other half requisitioned it to his side of the bed on the grounds that he gets up five minutes sooner than me, so I have extra time to come round before getting out of bed. Hmmm.

Perhaps because of this, on most mornings the light hasn’t been enough on its own to wake me up. However, when the beeper does sound I wake easily – there’s no nasty shock that conventional alarms give you – and I feel more alert and refreshed on waking than usual. My other half, meanwhile, enjoys the full benefit of waking naturally with the light and says, simply: “it’s so much nicer than waking up feeling like you’ve been slapped around the face!”

All four daylight alarm clocks also feature a sunset function. The light gradually fades to darkness, helping you to wind down and drift off to sleep. There’s also the option to use the alarm clocks as a simple bedside lamp or reading light too.

The Bodyclock Classic also has an AM/ FM radio function – although due to my rural location this couldn’t actually pick up any stations! For what is otherwise an innovative piece of kit, I’m surprised that it’s lacking more advanced technology. There’s no DAB digital radio, for example, and, unlike the two more advanced alarm clocks in the range that have the benefit of a digital display, the Bodyclock Classic has a clunky manual clock and awkward buttons. It seems strange for such an ingenious product to be so old-fashioned technologically. But, perhaps if that’s an issue for you, you pay up for one of the more advanced models, where you can also get an SD card reader to play your MP3, white noise setting, security light and various sounds to help you fall asleep and wake up, amongst other things.

My other complaint is the look of the product. It lacks style and I imagine that some people might be put off by this.

However, ultimately, this is an inspired product that eases the struggle of getting up in the dark, and helps you to wake up feeling more refreshed, alert and ready to get on with your day.

All four Lumie daylight alarm clocks, including the Bodyclock Classic, are available from We Love Sleep.

More pillow talk – tips for choosing the right pillow

After my rave review of my silk pillow yesterday, I thought I should explain how I came to find my wonderful pillow. It wasn’t just luck. I undertook a pillow-testing exercise, which led me to my perfect pillow.

If you’re thinking about investing in a new pillow – perhaps because your existing pillow sounds a little too similar to the hard, flat and lumpy pillow I described yesterday – there’s two things you need to bear in mind:

Firstly – it’s so obvious it almost goes without saying, but it’s so important that I will anyway – ensure that your new pillow is comfortable to sleep on. Unless you think it’s the best, most comfortable place to rest your weary head, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get the best night’s sleep on it.

Secondly, your chosen pillow should help you to maintain the “midline position” whilst sleeping, i.e. keep your head, neck and spine aligned as straight as possible, otherwise you could find yourself in a lot of pain. Two factors will help you to decide which pillow to purchase to achieve the all-important “midline position”. These are: (a) the width of your shoulders in relation to your neck; and (b) your preferred sleeping position.

So, if the ratio between your shoulders and neck is small, a shallower pillow is usually recommended. Someone with a larger shoulder / neck ratio may need a thicker pillow, or may wish to add extra pillows to increase pillow height, in order to achieve alignment.  Pillows that tilt the head and neck forwards or backwards, and therefore out of the midline position, are to be avoided – unless you’re seeking a sore, achy neck or back pain, that is.

Your sleeping position must also be taken into consideration. So, for example, if you prefer to sleep on your side (as I do), it’s important to choose a pillow that will fill the gap between your head and shoulders and therefore support your neck (which, by the way, my soft, squishy silk pillow does perfectly). If you sleep predominantly on your back, a flatter pillow is usually recommended to keep the head and neck aligned with your back. Those who prefer to sleep on their front may not need a pillow under their head at all. Whatever your preferred sleeping position, it may be necessary to strategically place additional pillows to keep the head, neck and spine aligned and minimise strain – such as under or between the knees.  (For more detailed guidance about sleep positions and pillows, check out this guide: “Sleep Positions Part 2 Pillows”)

Taking all of this into consideration, I embarked on a process of pillow testing and elimination. I tried memory foam pillows (too high for me and not squishy enough for my liking), an organic millet pillow (the millet husks provide an unusual, but comfortable, texture but this pillow was a little too shallow for me and it didn’t fill the gap between my head and shoulders), and an alpaca wool pillow (very comfortable and the ideal height and texture, but just not quite as perfect as my silk baby).

If you’d like to carry out your own pillow testing exercise, of all the pillows mentioned above (and more), I’m thrilled to tell you that you can! Well, in a few weeks time, anyway. Here at We Love Sleep, we are busily preparing for the opening of our first Sleep Solutions Centre in the heart of Sheffield City Centre.  Our Sleep Solutions Centre will be open for FREE private appointments 7 days a weeks, to offer tailored sleep advice and tips and provide an opportunity to test our full range of high quality, innovative sleep products in complete privacy. Look out for more details to follow soon!

UPDATE November 2010: The Sleep Geek has written a new blog post on the art of buying the perfect pillow, as a follow-up to his recent discussion about the topic on BBC Radio Sheffield. You can read it by clicking here.

Also, I think I’ve found a pillow that’s even more perfect than my silk beauty. I didn’t think it was possible until I tried We Love Sleep’s brand new latex pillows. Soft yet supportive and wonderfully malleable, I actually can’t wait for mine to need replacing!

Fighting with my pillow

Oh, what a lovely pillow!

Hello sleep-lovers, I’m back!

Apologies for my mysterious absence. My little disappearance can’t be excused, but I should at least tell you what’s been keeping me from writing over the last few weeks…..For starters, we’ve got lots of exciting projects on the go here at We Love Sleep Towers, that I’ve been diligently beavering away on (details of which to be revealed very soon). I’ve also been busy preparing for the arrival of my adorable Frenchie puppy – only 9 days to go until he’s nibbling on my toes! On top of this, my other half and I are saying cheerio to the bright city lights and moving to a house (yes, a house!) in the sticks, and so giving our puppy extra furniture to chew on! And, oh – I’d almost forgotten it already! – I’ve also just returned from a brilliant holiday to Stockholm and the Swedish archipelago.

Which brings me onto the topic for today’s post: my super-comfy, snooze-inducing, silk pillow (pictured, so you too can see it and worship it’s loveliness!).   My love for my pillow isn’t new, but after a few days away from it’s plump, soft, squishy support, I have a new appreciation for it.  After 5 nights of fighting with a hard, flat, lumpy pillow, I’ve come home with more than a packet of  salted liquorice – a stiff, sore neck.

The problem pillow, that I begrudgingly shared my holiday with, showed all the signs of a long and exhausting life – flatness, hardness and lumps. For those of you who are lucky enough not to have experience of this, tired and worn-out pillows don’t provide the necessary support for the neck and spine and can aggravate back and neck problems (no kidding!).

It’s funny how such small things can affect your happiness. Having to cope with an uncomfortable pillow for just 5 nights turned the pleasurable experience of sleeping into a painful one, and turned me into a whinging old bag. Now that I’m reunited with my precious pillow, I am, of course, back to my usual lovely self – god help my little pup if he tries to sink his claws into it though!

Product review: Alpaca wool duvet

Welcome to my third product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the alpaca wool duvet.

Alpaca - don't you just want to cuddle him? ©

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an excellent blog post by the Sleep Geek on keeping cool on hot summer nights (you can read it by clicking here). The Sleep Geek highlighted two products to help prevent overheating in bed: the Chillow and the alpaca wool duvet.

Having tested and reviewed the Chillow, I can happily confirm its effectiveness as a soothing, cooling sleep aid on those hot, sticky, summer nights – read my full review here.

Now, I want to share my thoughts on the alpaca wool duvet. Let me tell you a few facts about alpacas and their wool first, though: Alpacas are native to South America (although they have been exported to other countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and are bred predominantly for their soft, glossy wool. Alpaca wool is light and hollow (unlike sheep wool which is solid) and is very effective at regulating body temperature in changing climates and terrains – helping to keep alpacas warm when it’s cold and cool in higher temperatures. Alpaca wool is also naturally clean and dry. These special characteristics of alpaca wool make it very valuable and ideal for clothing and bedding.

I bought my very first alpaca wool duvet in November last year, so I’ve had an opportunity to test its natural temperature regulating qualities during the cold winter months and in the recent warmer weather.

When my duvet arrived – on a particularly chilly day in November – I was surprised by how thin and very light it felt.  Honestly, I was worried it wasn’t going to keep me warm enough. I feel the cold really easily and have previously piled on thick pajamas, bed socks and blankets to stay warm in bed in the winter – only to wake up in the night to throw it all off because I’m too hot! Anyway, back to the duvet…..well, it did the job! It kept me cosy – but not hot or sweaty – all through the winter. And I didn’t even need my extra nightwear (except my lovely bed socks – I get very cold toes in the winter!) or blankets. It even kept me warm in bed when the central heating broke in December and we had no heat or hot water for three days. It isn’t as heavy or as fluffy as standard “winter” duvets can be – but it’s comfortable and will certainly keep you warm on cold nights, I can vouch for that!

Winter seems a long time ago now, but up until a couple of weeks ago, my alpaca wool duvet remained in place on my bed. Being thinner and lighter than standard duvets, my alpaca wool duvet has been great on warmer nights – it’s comfortable to use all through the night and I haven’t had to do any bedtime sit-ups (throwing my duvet off because I’m too hot, then sitting up to retrieve it a couple of minutes later because I’m too cold) this year. But, as temperatures have risen further in the past couple of weeks, my flat has got hotter and hotter and hotter, and I have temporarily relocated my duvet. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to work miracles – in the heights of summer, in an airless flat in the heart of the city, I don’t want anything covering me at all.  It’s as simple as that.

My verdict? Lovely, comfy duvet that will keep you sleeping soundly at the optimum temperature in the depths of winter and (the majority of) the warmer months. Love it!

The alpaca wool duvet is available from We Love Sleep.

Product review: The Chillow

Welcome to my second product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the Chillow – a cooling device.

Phew, it’s so hot, isn’t it? My timing couldn’t be better for testing the Chillow, even if I do say so myself.

I was excited about trying out the Chillow, and not just because of the hot spell we’re currently experiencing in the UK. I’d heard lots of great reviews about the Chillow, and wanted to see for myself if it lived up to the hype.

For those of you who haven’t seen or heard about the Chillow, it’s a rectangular blue pad, the same size as a standard pillow but only a couple of centimetres deep. It’s made from non-toxic, hypoallergenic material, which absorbs heat from your body and releases it back into the surrounding air. I was told that this produces a constant cooling effect and I couldn’t wait to give it a go.

First though, I had to activate my Chillow. This is a simple four-step process:

  1. Fill the Chillow with 1.9 litres (or 3 ¼ pints) of warm tap water – this only needs to be done once to activate the foam core, although additional water may need to be added if evaporation occurs over time;
  2. Leave the Chillow on a flat surface to rest for four hours;
  3. Create a vacuum seal by: carefully rolling the Chillow to create an airpocket bubble, uncapping the valve and releasing the air trapped inside. Note that some water will escape during this step, so my advice would be to do this in a sink or bath.
  4. Leave the Chillow on a flat surface to cool before use.

Your Chillow, which should look a bit wrinkly, is now ready to use time and time again. Easy peasy! I’m amazed that there’s no need for power or refrigeration, although the Chillow can be refrigerated for 15 – 30 minutes if you want a super cool Chillow (but I’ve been warned not to freeze it as this can ruin your Chillow).

The Chillow can be used on any part of the body, but it’s commonly used by placing it on top of your existing pillow – either inside or outside of the pillowcase. Throughout the last week, I’ve tested my Chillow as follows:

  • On top of my pillow, both inside and outside my pillowcase – Anyone who flips their pillow for the cooler side will love sleeping on the Chillow. A few seconds after placing my head on my Chillow-topped pillow, I felt a pleasantly cooling sensation around my head and neck. As for the inside / outside pillowcase option, whilst laying my head directly on the Chillow provided greater coolness, I preferred the softness of my pillowcase over the plasticy material of the Chillow against my face;
  • Under my feet – As someone who suffers from temperature-sensitive feet (freezing cold in the winter and tingly hot in the summer), the Chillow provided instant relief to my toasty tootsies;
  • On my hands, back and midriff – For soothing coolness on the hottest of nights.

I was very impressed with the Chillow’s cooling effect: in fact, I found the Chillow to be so effective, that I only needed to use it for a few minutes when I first went to bed before I felt comfortable enough to sleep. Then I would keep it at hand – underneath my pillow is a good spot  – in case I needed to cool down in the night; I could easily flip away my pillow or simply reach my hands under my pillow whenever I needed a cool fix. (I did notice that the foam core twisted a little after a night under my pillow, but it was easily smoothed out the next day).

My Chillow also gave me huge relief when I unlucky enough to fall ill this week. It soothed my hot flushes, easing me to sleep.

My verdict? The Chillow is a simple, effective cooling aid, perfect for quickly cooling you down on those hot, sticky, summer nights – without the irritating hum of a fan! So, don’t sweat it people, chill out with a Chillow!

The Chillow is available from We Love Sleep.

How to keep cool at night this summer

After a bitterly cold winter, it seems that summer is finally with us. How I love the long hot summer days; sitting in the park surrounded by friends, all smelling of suntan lotion. How wonderful….

But the summer heat also brings hot, sweaty, sleepless nights. Particularly when you live in a flat in central London, like me. Even in the depths of winter my flat is balmy, so during the warmer months it can be unbearable. And have you tried sleeping in Shoreditch with the windows open? The continuous stream of traffic, copious sirens and late-night drinkers hardly make for a restful night.

Thankfully the Sleep Geek has some wise words to help me – and you – survive those sticky summer nights: just click here for his practical hints and tips.

The excellent advice includes two product recommendations, one of them for the Chillow; a product the Sleep Geek describes as “a brilliant budget product” for combating overheating in bed. For those of you who haven’t seen or heard of the Chillow, I’ve included a couple of images. Essentially, it’s a blue pad, the same size as an average pillow, that sits on top of your existing pillow and is designed to keep you as cool as a cucumber all through the night. It is also praised highly by my mum and my other half’s mum – two ladies with high standards and impeccable taste. With all these commendations, I’ve just got to try it.

So, on this sticky evening, and for the next few nights, I will be testing the Chillow. Look out for my review next week, sleep-lovers.