My perfect bedroom

Morning all, I hope you’re looking forward to a fabulous bank holiday weekend. Even if it is raining!

I’m looking forward to spending several happy hours engrossed in the wonderful, perfect world that sits on the pages of interior design magazines. Thinking about my future home has become a small obsession of mine. I currently rent (but hope to have a lovely home to decorate at some stage), and so for now I satisfy myself by collecting pictures of country kitchens, cosy living rooms and simple, stylish bedrooms in my – bulging! – “Homes” folder.

Of course, the master bedroom would have to be the most chic, luxurious and calming room in the house.  I’d decorate it in soothing, neutral colours and play with textures to create a peaceful but interesting look. A big, beautiful bed would key, topped with the best, most comfortable mattress I could find and my soft alpaca wool duvet. There would be two pretty bedside tables, large enough to accommodate stylish reading lamps, a radio, my daylight alarm clock and flickering, aromatic candles. They’d have drawers and cupboard space for my other essentials (book, magazines, bed socks, SleepPhones, Chillow) as well as other bits and pieces that I don’t want cluttering up my dreamy sleep sanctuary. Clever, invisible storage solutions would mean that there would never, ever be stacks of magazines, heaps of unwashed clothes, toppling piles of paperwork, bags, books, shoes….. I’d feel the daily stresses melt away every time I walked into my lovely bedroom.

Ah, well I can dream, can’t I?

Amy x

Ewwww! What’s lurking inside your pillow?

I was truly horrified when I read this article in the Daily Mail last month: How your pillow is the perfect breeding ground for gruesome array of pests and diseases.

According to the piece, up to a third of the weight of your pillow could be made up of bugs, dead skin, dust mites and their faeces. Following further research, I learned that we all secrete around half a pint of sweat each night causing fungi to grow inside our pillows!

Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

Sleep experts advise on changing your pillow every two years, or earlier if it sags at the ends when laid flat on the palm of your hand, or becomes lumpy, flat, hard or loses its shape.

So, think back, when did you buy your pillow? Are you ready for a new one?

Wishing you sweet dreams on lovely pillows,

Amy x

Sleeping separately – the Sleep Geek shares his views

Today, I’m treating you to an article written by James Wilson – the Sleep Geek – and founder of We Love Sleep, which was published earlier this month in Verita Magazine. Here he offers his thoughts on the topic of couples sleeping separately:

“I am often asked for my views on the best option for couples: to sleep side by side or to have separate beds or even separate rooms. My answer is always the same: you should do whatever helps you to sleep better.

In my experience, the main reason couples consider sleeping apart is due to one or both partners doing something that disturbs the other’s sleep. This could be snoring, hogging the duvet, sleep talking, wriggling and fidgeting, rolling towards your bed-mate or taking up too much bed space (some people sleep in a starfish shape, for example, which can leave little space for their partner to sleep comfortably!).

Sleep habits such as these can have a detrimental impact on relationships. The loss of sleep, for both partners, can cause frustration, stress, resentment and loss of intimacy. In such situations, it can sometimes feel that the only solution (to ensure good sleep and improve the relationship) is to sleep apart from your loved one, either in separate beds or bedrooms.

It is this blinkered line of thinking that is often repeated in the mainstream media and reinforced by advice from the Sleep Council (be aware that, despite its name, the Sleep Council’s main aim is to encourage you to buy more mattresses!).

Whilst sleeping separately might work for some couples, I do have some issues with this advice, not least the practical considerations. There is a presumption that our bedrooms are large enough to accommodate two beds and that we all have spare bedrooms to allow each partner to sleep comfortably in separate rooms. For many people, that’s just not the case.

Also, in my experience, couples want to sleep together, where possible, and only consider sleeping apart as a last resort. In fact, some people find it very difficult to sleep without their partner, because they feel less secure. I can identify with this since, when my girlfriend is away, I sleep lighter and my sleep is broken as I wake at any little sound. Feeling secure and relaxed is very important for a good quality night’s sleep. By sleeping separately, you could end up solving one problem but creating another. Sleeping together can also be important for maintaining a connection with your partner, and so sleeping apart can actually further damage your relationship.

My preferred approach is to focus on dealing with the key issue – the sleeping problem or habit that is creating the problem.

Below are some of [my] top tips to help you overcome the common problems that can make sleeping together a chore:

• Snoring – Of all the sleep problems I deal with, snoring has by far the most detrimental impact on relationships but can often be alleviated simply by changing your sleeping position (research indicates that over 60% of snorers will stop snoring or snore less when sleeping on their sides). While sleeping on your side sounds simple enough, the challenge is maintaining that sleeping position on your own once you fall asleep, but there are products available which help with this.

• Duvet hogging – If you’re unlucky enough to sleep with a duvet-stealer, simply invest in separate duvets. If you each have you own duvet, then your partner can’t pinch it from you!

• Restless sleeping (wriggling, fidgeting, tossing and turning) – Often those who suffer from restless sleep do so because they aren’t relaxed when they go to bed. Taking time to relax and unwind before bed is important for good quality sleep – try taking a bath or shower, reading a book or Yogic breathing techniques to help you prepare for sleep.

• Strange sleep positions – If your partner takes up too much space in the bed, buying a bigger bed and mattress can help. Did you know that a standard double bed only gives each partner 68cm width space in bed, whereas a cot bed gives a toddler 70cm? By having a bigger bed and mattress you and your partner are less likely to clash in the night and more likely to enjoy deep uninterrupted sleep. If this is not feasible, changing your sleeping position to side sleeping will help to keep you sleeping on your own side of the bed and will improve your sleeping posture too.

So, for any couples out there who are considering sleeping apart because of unwelcome sleeping habits, my advice is this: Sleeping separately is not the only option and can sometimes do more harm than good! Why not solve the root of the problem instead, and restore harmony to the bedroom and your relationship?”

Thanks James! For two more views on this interesting issue, check out this article in the Guardian newspaper: “Sleep apart, stay together”.

What do you think? Do you prefer to sleep alone or with your other half by your side?

Amy x

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

“For sleep, one needs endless depths of blackness to sink into”

Afternoon all! I’m feeling very cheery today. It could be because I haven’t seen the rat yet today! Or perhaps it’s because my other half and I have finally booked our wedding venue – woop! Or it could be because I’m simply enjoying the longer, sunnier days and the beauty of spring.

I’m loving waking up as the sun is rising and the extra energy the extended days give me. Spring has certainly sprung; I can feel it in my steps. I feel more alive, more energetic than I have in months. And, on the basis of my friends’ status updates on Facebook, I’m not the only one.

But, whilst natural sunlight can boost your happiness, alertness and energy levels, it’s not so great for promoting sleep. American writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh was spot on when she said “For sleep, one needs endless depths of blackness to sink into…”.

Our bodies need darkness for good sleep. Melatonin – the hormone that helps us to sleep – is produced by our bodies in response to darkness. Light causes melatonin levels to fall and can confuse your body into thinking it’s daytime when actually it’s time for sleep. So if your bedroom is not completely dark when you go to bed, this can disturb your sleep.

It’s not just natural light that interferes with sleep, though. Artificial light, such as road and street lighting, disrupt sleep too. In a 2009/2010 survey carried out by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the British Astronomical Association, half of the respondents said that light pollution disturbs their sleep. And even tiny amounts of light, emitted from alarm clocks, mobile phones and standby lights on televisions for example, can interrupt sleep.

So, what can be done to prevent light from robbing us of precious sleep? Well, heavy curtains and shutters in the bedroom can help to block out sunlight and light from streetlamps. Or, if you don’t mind wearing them, eye masks are an affordable alternative. And for those pesky gadget lights, simply cover them with a pillow for example, or remove them from the bedroom.

I also want to share with you another solution to unwanted light – a clever design that can block out light in seconds. Magic Blackout Blinds temporarily darken any room simply by sticking them to the window (the blackout blind sheets are charged with static electricity allowing them to be fitted to windows without tools or glue) and are suitable for all window sizes (simply cut down or overlap depending on the window). I love the concept and think they would be ideal for taking on holiday, for helping little ones to nap when away from home, or new home owners without curtains.  You can see more about Magic Blackout Blinds by clicking here. They are available from We Love Sleep, priced at £35.00 for 10 sheets.

If you’ve used Magic Blackout Blinds, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Amy 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….

Keeping cosy this winter

If you live in the UK, the chances are you’re wishing you were in Australia right now. And not just because of the Ashes, but because it’s sunny and warm and there isn’t a mound of snow in sight.

With the big freeze set to continue, unless you’re lucky enough to be jetting off to sunnier climes (flights permitting) in the near future, keeping warm and cosy is going to be your priority.

When already-freezing temperatures plunge further at night, it becomes all-important to ensure that you’ve got the right gear to keep you snug and sleeping soundly throughout the night. Being too cold in bed isn’t much fun and it can make it difficult to drop off to sleep and disturb your sleep by causing you to wake in the night. As someone who has tried, turning the heating up to full whack and piling on thick nightclothes isn’t the answer, as you’ll only wake in the night feeling overheated and dehydrated. The key to achieving the perfect sleeping temperature is selecting the right bedclothes and nightwear.

My winter bedtime kit includes an alpaca wool duvet, pjs and, most importantly, bed socks.

I have previously extolled the benefits of my alapca wool duvet, which I would recommend to anyone at any time of the year – you can read my review here. As for nightwear, I’m embarrassed to reveal that once the weather turns I retrieve a pair of oversized cotton pjs, that my parents bought me over 10 years ago, from the back of my wardrobe. They’re comfortable, nuff said.

My problem on freezing winter nights – and I’m sure I’m not alone here – has always been my icy-cold feet. Actually, I should say that my problem was my icy-cold feet. Because my problem was solved when my other-half bought me bed socks for Christmas a couple of years ago. Not the most obviously romantic Christmas gift, but incredibly thoughtful since he just knew that I’d love them. And I really do.

I cannot recommend bed socks enough. As well as keeping your toes cosy, they can actually help you to nod off. A study in Switzerland in 1999 found that warm feet most accurate foretold the onset of sleep.

Having had extensive use, my trusty bed socks are now looking a little tired themselves. So this year I’m dropping hints about a gorgeous alpaca wool pair in jade from We Love Sleep. The brilliant thing about alpaca fleece is that it has amazing temperature controlling capabilities, so it’s ideal for keeping your feet cosy – but not too hot or sweaty – on cold winter nights. It’s also super-soft. And, at only £12 a pair, they’re a snip compared to pricey cashmere – but just as luxurious.

So, my hot tip for beating the chill: invest in some bed socks!


Could this be the solution to end the duvet tug-of-war?

On our recent trip to Stockholm, my other half and I enjoyed a night in the über-cool Lydmar Hotel. Described as “quite simply the finest hotel in Stockholm” by renowned travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller, it (mostly) lived up to my expectations:  stylish and relaxing, in a fantastic, central location and with a fabulous bar. As always, though, my attention was focused on my sleeping environment: the bedroom. Relaxing decor? Check. Dark? Check. Quiet? Check. Comfortable sleeping temperature? Check. Big, comfortable bed? Check. One thing was unusual though: two single duvets on a king-sized bed. How strange!

This is not something I’ve come across before, although apparently it’s not unusual in continental Europe for couples to each have their own duvets. In fact, a quick internet search led me to an English-speaking German website, where Brits abroad were pondering where to purchase a double bedding set in Germany. It seems it’s not an easy task.

Further internet browsing turned up an article in the Daily Mail from March this year, entitled “Battle for the bedclothes boosts single duvet sales”. The article reports that: “Bad manners in bed have caused three-quarters of Britons to consider leaving their partner….Hogging the bedclothes and other offences, known as poor bediquette, has also caused the sales of single duvets, which usually sell less than doubles, to soar by 41 per cent.” I’m clearly out of touch.

If you think about it, it’s actually very sensible. Having your own duvet allows you to be in control of your sleeping environment. You get to choose your perfect duvet (which is ideal if you prefer a heavier / lighter duvet than your partner) and when to snuggle the covers up to your chin or throw them off you. It also prevents your bed-mate from hogging all the covers, leaving you cold, grumpy and considering decamping to the spare room.

But….ah, there’s something romantic about sharing a duvet together. It’s difficult to snuggle up to your partner, or warm up your cold toes on his toasty ones, if there’s a duvet barrier between you. For now at least, I’m letting my heart rule my head and sticking to my king-sized covers.

When size matters….

Mmmm, I love my bed. I could happily live in my bed, it’s that lovely! Not only is it soft yet supportive and super comfy, it’s also big! I like having space to move around, and my king-sized beauty gives me room to wiggle and turn, without jabbing my other half in the ribs each time I roll over.

Whenever my other half and I voyage up north to keep the parents happy, we’re forced to downgrade to a double. And, inevitably, our sleep suffers. Too short for my other half’s 6ft 4in frame and too narrow to breathe frankly, a double just doesn’t cut it for us.

It’s not just me being a princess. Studies have shown that couples sleep better in a bigger bed. In a press release for the Sleep Council in 2004, bed expert Jessica Alexander says “Before trials only 15% said they would buy a larger than standard bed while afterwards, 50% said they would”.

And it’s not surprising that a double bed can reduce restful sleep when you learn, as I did recently, that sleeping in a double bed with your partner provides each of you with only slightly more space width-wise than an itty bitty cot mattress! Fat chance of sleeping like a baby, then!

If you’re thinking about buying a new mattress, check out the Sleep Geek’s handy guide, by clicking here. And don’t forget my top tip: size really does matter!