The Sleep Geek appears on TV!

Why is it that exciting stuff always happens when you’re on holiday? In this instance I very nearly missed a key moment in history – the Sleep Geek’s TV debut on BBC Look North, where he talked about the sleep workshops he’s been offering to students in Sheffield ahead of their exams. If it wasn’t for Sheffield United sacking Micky Adams – thereby bumping the Sleep Geek’s story until later in the week – I wouldn’t have seen it. If you did miss it, this article from the BBC website offers a summary – click here.

I have had lots of excitement of my own over the past two weeks or so; South America was just fabulous and almost immediately after my return, I repacked my bags and jumped on the Eurostar to Paris for a friend’s hen weekend! After spending this morning trying to get back on top of things – and deleting a crazy amount of SPAM – my energy is depleting fast. So, for now, here’s just a very brief insight into my trip:

4 countries – Brazil, Chile, Argentina and France

5 cities – Sao Paulo, Santiago, Mendoza, Buenos Aires and Paris

6 beds – Slaviero Executive Jardins (Sao Paulo), W Hotel (Santiago), Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa (San Pedro de Atacama), Cavas Wine Lodge (Mendoza), Bo-Bo Hotel (Buenos Aires), Hotel Beauchamps (Paris)

7 flights, 2 train journeys

1 wedding – I lasted until 4am, Sao Paulo time!  – and 1 hen weekend

Too much wine!

Not enough sleep!

As you know, I really do love sleep, but sometimes life takes over and you just have to enjoy it! But at some point, it’s time to stop and catch up on the rest you’ve missed. And, now, that time has come. It’s time for a long restful nap with my gorgeous pup, Louis, who I have missed so much.

I’ll post again once I resurface!

Sweet dreams 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

A Beautiful Mess

Happy Easter Sunday everyone! Here’s something to inspire you as you’re crunching your way through that bag of Mini eggs!

I just love this blog, A Beautiful Mess.

Written by Elsie, a designer and owner of a very cool boutique, Red Velvet, in Springfield, Missouri. A Beautiful Mess is – in her own words – a lifestyle blog focused on fashion, handmade and pretty things! Very pretty things in fact; so pretty you could spend hours poring over them when you should be working (….ahem!). Not only does Elsie run her boutique, design very pretty dresses and post daily updates on her blog, but she also writes e-courses, has a second wedding-themed blog, Le Wedding Party, is planning her own wedding, looks after a gorgeous pug named Suki and still finds the time to put together amazing outfits, take beautiful photographs and generally just be very cool. How does she do it all?

Well, it turns out that sleep plays a big role. In a recent post “on being a workaholic & still having a life…” she says:

“The second important lesson I’ve learned to keep myself cheerful (and sane) when working a LOT is steady sleep. I used to be really proud of my all night work sessions, but I was drained. These days I sleep eight hours every night and I’ve never been happier. I get more done when I’m awake and, most importantly, I feel human! If you’re a young entrepreneur, give yourself some sanity and go to sleep. Just trust me….♥”

So, there you have it! Enjoy great sleep and you too can be cool, creative and cute like Elsie….maybe in my dreams!

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

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.