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

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!

 

Michelle Obama beats stress with sleep!

Continuing with my stress and sleep theme, I found this tip by First Lady Michelle Obama, as told to Peter Moore in Women’s Health magazine:

“I’m a big believer in sleep. I go to bed early, shortly after I put the girls to bed so I’m rested the next day. For me, getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising reduce my stress levels. And a really good workout is a great stress buster.”

To read the full interview, click here.

 

 

 

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow”

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow” ~ Charlotte Brontë

I don’t think I was alone in feeling a tad panicky in the run up to Christmas. As I mentioned in my last post, my other half and I hosted Christmas for the first time. Whilst a lot of fun, the preparations – the decorations, the present-buying, the wrapping, the cooking, not to mention the last-minute cleaning – were overwhelming at times. I had lists and lists of lists and my Ocado order (booked months in advance) was updated on an almost daily basis with an extra pint of milk or an extra tin of biscuits, just in case….Of course there was far too much food (we’re still working our way through the chocolate biscuits) and a great time was had by all, but I’m sure I’ll be fretting again when December rolls around!

Weighed down by my festive stresses, I didn’t get around to writing about the link between worry and sleep disruption, as I’d intended. But, as they say, better late than never….

Whether it’s agonising about cooking your Christmas dinner, pondering what to buy your best mate for Christmas, or bigger worries concerning your career or finances, anxiety has a big impact on the quantity and quality of our sleep:

  • The Sun newspaper reported on 16 December 2010 that sleep problems are more common during the festive season because people worry about buying presents, seeing relatives and Christmas finances. Read the full article by clicking here.
  • A 2010 study by Slumberland showed that nearly three-quarters of British workers are struggling to get a full night’s sleep because of work worries. In a survey of 3,000 adults, 69% said that work problems make it difficult to sleep. And even when we do drop off to sleep, the survey revealed that one in three dreams about work at least twice a week. The survey also showed that 39% wake up at least once during the night fretting about their careers. To read more, click here.
  • On 5 October 2010, the Mirror newspaper reported that adults lose on average 68 minutes’ sleep a night worrying about money, according to a study commission by Boots and the Tony Ferguson Weightloss Programme.  You can read the full article by clicking here.

And it’s not only us mere mortals who are kept awake at night fretting; A-listers are suffering too. In October last year it was reported that Rihanna struggles to sleep because she’s constantly thinking about her work.

Despite my pre-Christmas anxieties, I found ways to wind down and sleep in the run up to Christmas. Here’s some ideas that work for me, give them a go when you’re feeling stressed:

  • If you find yourself dwelling on worries when you go to bed, try writing them down before you hit sack. This exercise helps to prevent problems from keeping my mind active at night when I should be sleeping.
  • If you’re prone to waking in the night with worries on your mind, keep a notepad and pen by your bed – then if you do wake in the night with a problem on your mind, you can write it down and go back to sleep.
  • Try to keep your bedroom tidy and clutter-free. Piles of paperwork and unwashed clothes aren’t conducive to a restful night’s sleep and can add to your anxiety.
  • Remove your clock, alarm clock or mobile phone from sight – clock-watching during the night will only remind you that you’re awake and increase your anxiety.
  • Don’t forget to follow your usual, relaxing, bedtime routine – or if you don’t already have one, create one. What you do in the final moments of your day can really help to prepare you for sleep. For me, this means spending the last few minutes of every day – sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes half an hour – in bed with a light novel or magazine (nothing too engaging or stimulating otherwise I’ll never put it down!) whilst listening to the gentle, soothing sounds of Classic FM.
  • Breathing exercises in bed can help to induce sleep when you’re feeling stressed. The NightWave Sleep Assistant guides you in a session of deep breathing whilst you lay comfortably in bed (read my review of this product – COMING SOON).

Until next time, sleep well! x

Reading Grazia: good; reading sleep studies: bad

Credit: Foxtongue Flickr/Creative Commons

What am I talking about? My latest bedtime routine discovery.

I love reading, always have. Particularly in the evening though, curled up and comfy in my pjs in bed, and – in an ideal world – with the soothing pitter patter of rain drops against the glass of my bedroom window. Reading is very relaxing for me and, now that I come to think about it, reading a chapter or two (or, sometimes, just a page or two) at bedtime often sends my eyelids into free fall.

What I’ve come to understand over the past few weeks, though, is that not all reading material is good for bedtime perusal. Perfect bedtime reading for me is a light novel or magazine (Grazia being a particular favourite on a Tuesday night) – essentially, something that helps me to unwind and my mind to switch off. The magazine supplements from the weekend newspapers are great, as they’re easy to dip in and out of – when I go to bed feeling alert, the longer features are just the right length before I start nodding off, whilst the tit-bits of information and gossip scattered throughout are ideal when I need just a few minutes of quiet time before sleep.

At bedtime, I can’t read anything that engages my mind too much.  Cookery magazines and books are chief sleep-stealers. I find them too stimulating. Instead of sleeping, I find myself planning menus. Books about sleep and sleep problems are just as bad, as I become too engaged in the information they impart. I’m still thinking about the various methods of solving sleep issues when I should be sleeping!

So, for other bedtime readers out there, the next time you’re having trouble dropping off to sleep, consider if your reading matter may be to blame.

5 simple tips for sleeping on the move

Greetings from sunny Dubai! I’m here with my other half to catch up with friends who are lucky enough to live here, in the jewel of the Middle East, and for a few days of R&R.

We arrived on the night flight, leaving London at 10pm and arriving at around 7:30am Dubai-time.  Determined not to spoil plans made with friends for the day of our arrival through tiredness and lethargy, I was eager to get some quality shut-eye on the plane. Often easier said than done, I know. With light, noise and being too hot or cold – not to mention the near-impossible task of finding a comfortable sleeping position in cattle class – dropping off to sleep can be rather tricky. And that’s an understatement. Thankfully I had the foresight to tap up the Sleep Geek for his top travel sleep tips before jetting off.

On the plane, I reluctantly snubbed the wide selection of films on offer (despite counting at least six on my Love Film list) and followed the Sleep Geek’s advice religiously. And, you know what? I slept for most of the journey. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had, but I slept for a good four or five hours out of the six and a half hour journey. Not bad at all.

So, what are the Sleep Geek’s tips? Well, they’re surprising simple, actually. Give them a go on your next journey and let me know how you get on:

  • Travel in comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, ideally made of a natural fabric that can breathe, such as cotton. Take extra clothing and/or a blanket with you to snuggle up in if you feel cold. This is an important one for me as I feel the cold really easily.
  • Take an eye mask with you to make your sleeping environment as dark as possible. Light can prevent you from sleeping and can disturb otherwise restful sleep.
  • If you find it difficult to relax enough to sleep whilst travelling, try the Glo to Sleep eye mask to help clear a racing mind. Read my review, here.
  • Take ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones with you to block out disturbing noises. My ear plugs were invaluable, particularly when the baby two rows behind started bawling.
  • Take a travel pillow with you to help you find a more comfortable sleeping position and avoid waking with a stiff neck.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Using lavender for better quality sleep

It seems that the belief that the scent of lavender enhances sleep is more than just an old wives tale. I’ve been doing my research and just look what I’ve found:

  • A study at the University of Southampton in 2005 found that sleeping in a lavender-scented room improved sleep quality by 20%.
  • A study at Wesleyan University in 2004 found that the scent of lavender essential oil increased slow-wave, or deep sleep, resulting in the participants feeling more energetic and alert the next morning.

For almost two weeks I have been conducting my own mini experiment by sleeping in a lavender-scented room. I began my test using the power of Google – a quick search suggests that it’s best to dilute lavender essential oil, as using it in its pure form can cause skin irritation (it’s probably best to do a spot test before using it in any form though). Then, after emptying my bathroom cabinet of all its lotions and potions, I found a small empty plastic bottle with an atomiser lurking at the back (I knew it would come in handy for something one day!), filled it with water and a few – about 15 – drops of lavender essential oil. Ta da, my very own lavender room spray!

For the last 13 days I have been generously spritzing my bedroom with my homemade air freshener before bedtime. I realised by night two that that, actually, I really don’t like the smell of lavender. My other half, meanwhile, does like the scent and yesterday commented that he had started to associate the smell with going to sleep. Oh dear.

Whilst neither of us noticeably experienced improved sleep quality, our test highlighted that scent can be used as part of a sleep routine as a cue to promote sleep. Next, we will be testing some of the lesser-known essential oils for promoting sleep – such as chamomile or jasmine – until we find a scent that works for us both!

If you like the scent of lavender, here are some alternative ways of using it during your bedtime routine (don’t tell my other half though!):

  • Place lavender-scented sleep stones and/or lavender flower heads in your bedroom for a longer lasting aroma of lavender.
  • Encourage someone lovely to give you a bedtime massage using diluted lavender essential oil.
  • Use a lavender-scented body soak in a warm bath for a relaxing nighttime treat.
  • Inhale the aroma of lavender oil – dab the oil on a cotton wool ball or tissue and breathe in the scent.
  • Use a lavender-scented moisturiser or body lotion.

Is your messy bedroom messing up your sleep?

Credit: evelynishere Flickr/Creative Commons

Whilst I wouldn’t describe my flat as untidy, I have a tendency to create organised-ish piles of “stuff” rather than finding a home for my things. Every once in a while my mini mountains of paperwork, books, magazines, clothes, etc start to topple Jenga-style. Or, more frequently, I accidentally kick or push them over or walk into them or fall over them.

You see, I’m quite a clumsy person. You know the person who always manages to spill their drink in a nice restaurant – that’s me! I’m constantly banging my head, cutting and burning my fingers, tripping over my feet; I’ve trapped my fingers in car doors, safe doors and sun loungers; and not so long ago I slipped over on the wooden floors of my flat and couldn’t walk properly for two days.

My latest act of clumsiness happened last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep. I turned over into my favourite sleeping position – on my right side  – and somehow managed to whack my bedside table with my hand. Of course this caused everything that I’d carefully balanced on top of it to come crashing to the bedroom floor, and in the process created a domino effect, scattering the precariously stacked books and magazines underneath. My side of the bed suddenly resembled my teenage bedroom and I – having been jolted awake by the crash, and the sore hand – now had to decide whether to clear up the mess or leave it until morning. Whilst tempted to roll over and ignore the chaos, I just couldn’t. So, much to my other half’s annoyance, I flicked on the bedroom light and sorted the clutter back into messy mounds. The whole process irritated me, so that when I finally returned to bed I was too wound up to sleep. I finally fell asleep resolute in my decision to give the entire bedroom a proper spring clean and clear-out.

I haven’t quite got round to that yet….but I will. The unlucky incident (that’s what I’m calling it, anyway – it could have happened to anyone!), reminded me of one of the Sleep Geek’s top tips for creating the perfect sleeping environment – keep your bedroom tidy and clutter-free. The reasoning is that piles of paperwork and dirty clothes, for example, can create stress and tension, making it difficult to relax enough to sleep. By contrast, if you associate your bedroom with rest and relaxation, your bedroom (as well as your sleep routine) can itself become a cue to sleep.

Not only this, but clearing up my clutter could save me from one or two bruises!