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? ©iStockphoto.com/CelesteQuest

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.

Product review: The Glo to Sleep eye mask

Welcome to my first product review! Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the Glo to Sleep eye mask.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has climbed into bed at the end of a hectic day with the expectation of falling asleep immediately, only to find myself kept awake in the wee hours by my busy brain. Perhaps, like me, you’ve wished you could turn off your mind as easily as switching off your bedside lamp. Is it possible that an eye mask could do just that?

The Glo to Sleep eye mask is designed to induce sleep by slowing down brain wave activity; effectively switching off your buzzing mind. It looks similar to a standard eye mask, except that it has four glowing points inside each “eye” of the mask. The idea is that, by focusing on the glowing points, your active brain waves slow down, creating a relaxed, meditative state that leads to sleep.

To activate the points inside the Glo to Sleep eye mask, the user is told to simply hold the inside of the mask towards a light source, such as a light bulb, for 30 – 90 seconds. Then you slip the eye mask on, gaze up at the glowing points and breathe deeply. And – hey presto – you’re asleep!

It all sounds wonderfully simple, right? For the last week, I have been trialling the Glo to Sleep and, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about this product at first. The concept sounded a little too good to be true. But, in this instance, I was very happy to be proved wrong.

The first thing to say is that the Glo to Sleep is very comfortable and easy to wear. The soft foam eye mask fitted securely on my face, blocking out all light (except for the glowing points inside the mask). Each night, focusing on the glowing points was simple and easy for around a minute, and then – to my surprise – my eyelids would begin to feel very heavy. A few more seconds later, I would feel so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open. If I felt my mind wondering, I gazed back up at the glowing points and, after only a few moments, my mind would clear and I would feel relaxed and drowsy again. Very impressive indeed!

The Glo to Sleep could be used as part of a bedtime routine – and it’s a serious contender for mine – but for now I’ll just keep it by my bedside, as an emergency solution for sleep-struggles, until I’ve considered all the options. I’ll certainly be packing it in my hand-luggage for a refreshing snooze on my next flight though.

The Glo to Sleep eye mask is available from We Love Sleep.

Design student recognises importance of sleep routine

Last week I received an email from a product design student at the University of Dundee, Natalie Duckett. Natalie has designed a beautiful alarm clock using natural materials, that would look stunning in any bedroom.

There’s more to the alarm clock than a pretty face though. Natalie’s unique piece is designed to help users get more good quality sleep and doesn’t actually have a clock interface! For those who find themselves kept awake by clock watching, Natalie’s new style of alarm clock is the perfect solution.

Unlike standard alarm clocks, Natalie’s design has two alarms – in addition to the usual morning alarm that wakes you up, Natalie’s piece has an evening alarm to signal when to start preparing for sleep. A clock interface is not necessary as setting the morning alarm automatically sets the corresponding evening alarm for 9 hours earlier, giving the user at least 8 hours of sleeping time plus time to wind down before bed.

Another distinctive feature of Natalie’s design is the alarm signal, which has been created to imitate the sound of a woodpecker drumming his beak against a tree. The user may alter the sound and volume of the alarm by choosing either a brass or elm wood “beak” and placing the beak against different materials and objects, such as a bedside table, door or radiator.

Natalie’s alarm clock is not yet ready for the commercial market, but it’s exciting to see new designers recognising the importance of quality sleep. I hope Natalie’s university project is just the beginning of more beautiful and unique sleep products to come.

For more information about Natalie and her unique alarm clock, click on the following links: www.natalieduckett.co.uk and www.open-output.org/nemduckett/project/10747