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

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

How to boost your happiness tonight

Did you know that one extra hour of sleep each night could make you happier than getting a pay rise?

A University of Michigan study found that making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night. Wow!

Looks like I had a great night’s sleep last night – check out my big cheesy grin, above! : )

Happy snoozing x

Product review: SleepPhones

Welcome to my seventh product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is SleepPhones.

SleepPhones…”pajamas for your ears” the tagline reads. How cute!

SleepPhones are ear bud speakers encased within a soft, fleece headband that you wear around your head (covering your ears) and plug into your iPod, mp3 player, CD player or other audio device (they are compatible with most audio devices). They are designed to be worn comfortably in bed, to help users relax and fall asleep faster and to help drown out unwanted noises.

When testing SleepPhones I focused on six key factors: Comfort, Sound Quality, Relaxation, Sleep Onset, Noise-Blocker and Portability. Here’s my review under each heading:

Comfort – Are they comfortable enough to sleep in, even if you’re a side-sleeper?

Yes! The fleecy headband is very soft, lightweight and extremely comfortable. The ear buds are nearly flat so, even when I lay on my side, they don’t prod me in the ear or feel painful as standard headphones can. And, because the ear buds are enclosed in the headband, they can’t fall out of your ears like conventional headphones can.

Sound Quality – Does the music sound any good?

Yes, SleepPhones sound good; I was impressed.  Audiophiles may disagree, but I would expect most people to be satisfied with the sound quality.

Relaxation – Do they help you to relax?

If you find listening to music relaxing, then yes. Although, for me, it really depends on what I’m listening to. Soft, classical music is my top choice for relaxing at bedtime.

SleepPhones will play whatever you have on your iPod / CD player though, so you can listen to, for example, audiobooks, hypnosis or meditation if you prefer.

Sleep Onset – Do they help you to fall asleep faster?

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know, taking time to relax and prepare for sleep is important for falling asleep and good quality snoozing. Listening to soft, classical music at bedtime definitely helps me to fall asleep faster.

Noise-blocker – Are they effective at drowning out unwanted noises?

Yes, they are wonderful at drowning out Louis’ early morning wake up calls! And if they can do that, I expect they’d be equally good at blocking out snoring or noises from loud neighbours.

Conversely, SleepPhones are ideal if you want to listen to music or an audiobook in bed without disturbing your bed-mate.

Portability – Are they good for travelling?

Yep, they’re small and lightweight so would hardly take up any room in your hand luggage. Plus, they also double up as a comfortable eye mask – so you actually get two products in one! I’ll certainly be packing them for my next flight.

I loved SleepPhones. They’re a great product for anyone who loves listening to music in bed, anyone who struggles to relax or fall asleep at bedtime and anyone who wants to block out unwanted noises at bedtime. Top marks from me!

SleepPhones are available from We Love Sleep. They come in three sizes (Extra Small, One Size Fits Most and Extra Large) and are available in black, grey or lavender.

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

Product review: JetRest travel pillow

Welcome to my sixth product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is the JetRest travel pillow

It’s taken me a while to write this review, the reason being that I’m not a huge fan of this product and it’s much more fun to write a glowing review than a gloomy one. Anyhoo, let’s get on…

JetRest claim that their travel pillow “cushions the head upright and avoids cricked-neck.  It uses the body’s own weight to keep it naturally in position simply by leaning back against the unique L-Shape and there is no need to lean against a window. The side part then cushions your head upright for a perfect flight’s sleep.”

Sounds great, but unfortunately the write up didn’t match my personal experience.

For starters, I found it impossible to position the pillow without leaning against something, and, even then, I wasn’t particularly comfortable.

Thinking it was just me, I roped in my other half to give it a go on his daily morning commute. At 7:47am he emailed me his review:

“45 minutes using the jet rest – no sleep and a sore neck; 15 minutes without: Woke up at liverpool street station dribbling”

Oh dear.

Having said this, I do know people who are huge advocates of the JetRest – so maybe me and my other half have funny necks, or something!

My other complaint is the size of the pillow – it’s hardly compact for travelling, even once it’s rolled up. Honestly, it’s not much smaller than your standard pillow (once folded), which would mostly likely be far more comfortable. (NB: For those of you who can’t bear to part with your pillow when you go on holiday, but want a more compact version for travelling, you could try following in my friend, Rob’s footsteps by purchasing your favourite pillow again and chopping it in half  – read more here).

I do have one positive comment, however. The pillow is covered in a lovely soft fleece fabric, which is far nicer than the scratchy material that inflatable travel pillows are often made from.

The JetRest is not for me. I’ll be sticking to my budget inflatable travel pillow for now – and asking nicely for an upgrade to business class!

Do you have a JetRest travel pillow? What do you think?

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