Funny little sleep habits

Inspired by Ilene Kleinbaum’s article in The Huffington Post earlier this week “The Great Wake-Up Program: What Helps You Fall Asleep?”, I thought I’d share one of my idiosyncrasies for falling soundly asleep.

Before that, though, I’ll share my other half’s!

My other half will not even consider climbing into bed at night unless it is properly made. Once made (even if he has to make it seconds before climbing in), he will carefully slip himself under the covers, so as not to untuck the sheet from the sides of the bed.

I, meanwhile, hate to sleep enclosed in an envelope of covers. It’s far too constraining for me.

The first thing I do at bedtime is tear the sheets out from under the sides of the mattress, allowing me space to spread out and dangle my feet off the mattress edge, should I wish. I just couldn’t sleep any other way.

So, what about you? What are your sleep preferences?

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

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

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


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

Make a list!

Life is good : ) So far, this summer has been filled with weddings, hen parties, 30th birthday afternoon teas and catching up with lovely friends. And with more fun times ahead – more weddings, more birthday celebrations and (oh yes!) wedding dress shopping – I can see that this summer is going to be a good one.

Whilst having extra fun stuff in the diary is just great, having a crazier schedule than usual does mean that there’s less time for everything else – and that can start to feel overwhelming and stressful at times. And we all know that stress mixed with anxiety and panic is not a good recipe for top quality sleep. Who hasn’t been awake in the early hours worrying about how they’re going to fit it all in – or maybe that’s just me!

I’ve established a really good habit of list-writing that really helps me when my life is especially full. I love list-writing, especially when I get to tick things off – there’s such a sense of achievement in striking off your to-dos because they’ve been done! Making a list is also great for calming the mind. Once I’ve written something on my list, I can stop dwelling on it, forget about it for awhile and move on to something else.

List-writing is ideal for clearing my mind before I hit the sack as it prevents thoughts and problems from keeping my mind active when I should be sleeping.

It’s also a good idea to keep a notepad and pen by your bed at night – then if you do wake in the night with something extra to add to your to-do list, or the solution to something that’s been bothering you, you can jot it down and go back to sleep.

I’m a big fan of keeping my pretty Liberty notebook at my bedside!

What about you? What are your sleep tips when life becomes hectic?

Amy x

South America here I come!

I’m very excited! Tomorrow I’m jetting off to Sao Paulo with my other half for a two week holiday in Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Even more exciting than that: the fun begins with a friend’s fabulous (I’m hoping!) wedding in Sao Paulo!

With the church ceremony taking place at 8:30pm – yes, you read that right! – and the reception at a club, I’m anticipating that it’s going to be a late one! Not that I mind – but of course I want to ensure that I stay awake and lively for the duration. After all, it’s not every day that I get to go to a Brazilian wedding!

The trouble is that 8:30pm in Sao Paulo is actually 12:30am in the UK. And my usual bedtime is normally around 10pm! Yikes! I need to plan my time well to make sure that I’m on top form for the big day! My plan is as follows:

  • Today: I’m planning on eating my evening meal later and going to bed a couple of hours later, to make them closer to eating / sleeping times in Sao Paulo.
  • Tomorrow (Thursday): A lie-in! I’ll be getting up later, so it’ll be easier to go to sleep later tomorrow evening. My flight leaves at 9:50pm, so I’ll watch at least one film on the plane before nodding off. I’ll then try to sleep for the remainder of the flight.
  • Friday: Land at 5:20am Sao Paulo time. We have a pre-wedding dinner that evening so this should keep me awake later and help my body to adjust to the new local time.
  • Saturday: The big day! Enjoy a lie-in and spend the day beautifying myself so I’m feeling great for the big paaaarrty!

Simple, right?

The really tricky bit will be getting a good night’s sleep on the plane since we all know that sitting up, with nowhere to rest your head, and no room to stretch out, is hardly an ideal sleeping position. I’ll certainly be following the Sleep Geek’s top travel tips, which really helped on my last overnight flight to Dubai. I am also lucky enough to be testing this travel pillow, kindly sent to me by the Sleep Geek for my 11 and a half hour flight:

The manufacturer says that this travel pillow encourages sleep in the most natural, comfortable position and that the L-shaped design minimises neck ache. Sounds pretty good!

I’ll be blogging my review on my return, so watch this space.

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

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