Feeling hot, hot, hot…

It’s hot in Dubai, really hot! Today I’ve been sunbathing (well, sitting in the shade wearing factor 50 sun block – does that count?) in 40°C! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hot and sticky; like Britain’s Eurovision chances i’m fading fast…. But before you dismiss me as a typical Brit, always complaining about the weather, and stop reading this post, hear me out….

I’m not here to write about the weather; I’m here to write about sleep, and how to get more top quality sleep. But you can’t deny that the outside temperature and sleep quality are often linked. I only have think back to about a week ago, when temperatures in the UK soared and I spent three sweaty nights struggling to sleep.

Despite the enduring heat and humidity, I have slept wonderfully here, thanks to the very clever man who invented air conditioning – Willis Haviland Carrier just in case you were wondering. Air conditioning is an extravagance though, especially if you live in a country with a varied climate like me, where the hot, humid days are greatly outnumbered by cool rainy ones. But, oh how I wish I could justify the expense on those hot, sweaty, sleepless nights.

The Sleep Geek has promised to share his top tips for sleeping on sticky summer nights very soon. In the meantime, here’s a little tip that usually works for me when I’m feeling too hot and struggling to sleep:

Generously apply a cooling moisturiser, such as an aftersun lotion, to cool and soothe hot skin. For an extra cooling experience, try keeping your favourite moisturiser in the fridge.

5 simple tips for sleeping on the move

Greetings from sunny Dubai! I’m here with my other half to catch up with friends who are lucky enough to live here, in the jewel of the Middle East, and for a few days of R&R.

We arrived on the night flight, leaving London at 10pm and arriving at around 7:30am Dubai-time.  Determined not to spoil plans made with friends for the day of our arrival through tiredness and lethargy, I was eager to get some quality shut-eye on the plane. Often easier said than done, I know. With light, noise and being too hot or cold – not to mention the near-impossible task of finding a comfortable sleeping position in cattle class – dropping off to sleep can be rather tricky. And that’s an understatement. Thankfully I had the foresight to tap up the Sleep Geek for his top travel sleep tips before jetting off.

On the plane, I reluctantly snubbed the wide selection of films on offer (despite counting at least six on my Love Film list) and followed the Sleep Geek’s advice religiously. And, you know what? I slept for most of the journey. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had, but I slept for a good four or five hours out of the six and a half hour journey. Not bad at all.

So, what are the Sleep Geek’s tips? Well, they’re surprising simple, actually. Give them a go on your next journey and let me know how you get on:

  • Travel in comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, ideally made of a natural fabric that can breathe, such as cotton. Take extra clothing and/or a blanket with you to snuggle up in if you feel cold. This is an important one for me as I feel the cold really easily.
  • Take an eye mask with you to make your sleeping environment as dark as possible. Light can prevent you from sleeping and can disturb otherwise restful sleep.
  • If you find it difficult to relax enough to sleep whilst travelling, try the Glo to Sleep eye mask to help clear a racing mind. Read my review, here.
  • Take ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones with you to block out disturbing noises. My ear plugs were invaluable, particularly when the baby two rows behind started bawling.
  • Take a travel pillow with you to help you find a more comfortable sleeping position and avoid waking with a stiff neck.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Using lavender for better quality sleep

It seems that the belief that the scent of lavender enhances sleep is more than just an old wives tale. I’ve been doing my research and just look what I’ve found:

  • A study at the University of Southampton in 2005 found that sleeping in a lavender-scented room improved sleep quality by 20%.
  • A study at Wesleyan University in 2004 found that the scent of lavender essential oil increased slow-wave, or deep sleep, resulting in the participants feeling more energetic and alert the next morning.

For almost two weeks I have been conducting my own mini experiment by sleeping in a lavender-scented room. I began my test using the power of Google – a quick search suggests that it’s best to dilute lavender essential oil, as using it in its pure form can cause skin irritation (it’s probably best to do a spot test before using it in any form though). Then, after emptying my bathroom cabinet of all its lotions and potions, I found a small empty plastic bottle with an atomiser lurking at the back (I knew it would come in handy for something one day!), filled it with water and a few – about 15 – drops of lavender essential oil. Ta da, my very own lavender room spray!

For the last 13 days I have been generously spritzing my bedroom with my homemade air freshener before bedtime. I realised by night two that that, actually, I really don’t like the smell of lavender. My other half, meanwhile, does like the scent and yesterday commented that he had started to associate the smell with going to sleep. Oh dear.

Whilst neither of us noticeably experienced improved sleep quality, our test highlighted that scent can be used as part of a sleep routine as a cue to promote sleep. Next, we will be testing some of the lesser-known essential oils for promoting sleep – such as chamomile or jasmine – until we find a scent that works for us both!

If you like the scent of lavender, here are some alternative ways of using it during your bedtime routine (don’t tell my other half though!):

  • Place lavender-scented sleep stones and/or lavender flower heads in your bedroom for a longer lasting aroma of lavender.
  • Encourage someone lovely to give you a bedtime massage using diluted lavender essential oil.
  • Use a lavender-scented body soak in a warm bath for a relaxing nighttime treat.
  • Inhale the aroma of lavender oil – dab the oil on a cotton wool ball or tissue and breathe in the scent.
  • Use a lavender-scented moisturiser or body lotion.

Is your messy bedroom messing up your sleep?

Credit: evelynishere Flickr/Creative Commons

Whilst I wouldn’t describe my flat as untidy, I have a tendency to create organised-ish piles of “stuff” rather than finding a home for my things. Every once in a while my mini mountains of paperwork, books, magazines, clothes, etc start to topple Jenga-style. Or, more frequently, I accidentally kick or push them over or walk into them or fall over them.

You see, I’m quite a clumsy person. You know the person who always manages to spill their drink in a nice restaurant – that’s me! I’m constantly banging my head, cutting and burning my fingers, tripping over my feet; I’ve trapped my fingers in car doors, safe doors and sun loungers; and not so long ago I slipped over on the wooden floors of my flat and couldn’t walk properly for two days.

My latest act of clumsiness happened last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep. I turned over into my favourite sleeping position – on my right side  – and somehow managed to whack my bedside table with my hand. Of course this caused everything that I’d carefully balanced on top of it to come crashing to the bedroom floor, and in the process created a domino effect, scattering the precariously stacked books and magazines underneath. My side of the bed suddenly resembled my teenage bedroom and I – having been jolted awake by the crash, and the sore hand – now had to decide whether to clear up the mess or leave it until morning. Whilst tempted to roll over and ignore the chaos, I just couldn’t. So, much to my other half’s annoyance, I flicked on the bedroom light and sorted the clutter back into messy mounds. The whole process irritated me, so that when I finally returned to bed I was too wound up to sleep. I finally fell asleep resolute in my decision to give the entire bedroom a proper spring clean and clear-out.

I haven’t quite got round to that yet….but I will. The unlucky incident (that’s what I’m calling it, anyway – it could have happened to anyone!), reminded me of one of the Sleep Geek’s top tips for creating the perfect sleeping environment – keep your bedroom tidy and clutter-free. The reasoning is that piles of paperwork and dirty clothes, for example, can create stress and tension, making it difficult to relax enough to sleep. By contrast, if you associate your bedroom with rest and relaxation, your bedroom (as well as your sleep routine) can itself become a cue to sleep.

Not only this, but clearing up my clutter could save me from one or two bruises!