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

Can’t sleep? It’s not just you…

Just a quick note today folks. If you struggled to sleep last night, I’m here to tell you that you’re not the only one. Even when you’re committed to making healthy sleep choices (that’s me) and you have a wealth of sleep-inducing goodies at your fingertips (me again), sometimes sleep does not come easily.

Sometimes, there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for the sleeplessness. Not this time. This time I can pinpoint the problem exactly – fear! Ever since Monday afternoon when I saw a big, fat rat skipping across the patio right outside my back door, I haven’t been able to enjoy a good night’s sleep. I imagine him and his ratty family scurrying around my house at night, I listen for the sounds of ratty footsteps, I think I can smell the rat….Eeek! Or should that be squeeeeaaaak?! (Sorry!)

Maybe if I wish hard enough he will go away and leave me in peace.

Wishing you all a lovely and rat-free weekend, Amy x

Arianna Huffington I salute you!

Arianna Huffington is one special lady. Not only is the author, commentator and co-founder of The Huffington Post one of the world’s most influential people (she featured in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2006), but she also makes sure that she gets the quality sleep she needs.

So often we hear people pride themselves on getting by with only a few hours sleep. Margaret Thatcher famously boasted that she only needed four hours sleep a night. Similarly, if you believe what you read, Martha Stewart, Madonna and Jay Leno all claim they can function on four hours sleep per night.

So it’s refreshing to hear someone intelligent and successful championing the value of sleep. Last year Arianna launched Sleep Challenge 2010; a one month sleep challenge, urging women to literally sleep their way to the top. Then, in an inspirational talk at a TEDWomen conference in December 2010, Arianna argued that the “way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep”. If you’re not already persuaded of the power of sleep, I recommend watching Arianna’s short talk, below:

Enjoy and be inspired!

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 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 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:

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!