I am obsessed with sleep, mostly because I’ve reached an age when my looks suffer if I don’t get enough shut-eye. I remember in my youth burning the candle at both ends and looking sexily dishevelled. Now I look like an extra on the Walking Dead, albeit addicted to caffeine rather than human flesh.
This month, I signed up for organic spa brand Neom’s ingenious Sleeptember campaign and I have to say I am feeling quite hopeful. The idea is that you improve your sleep over the next few weeks and set yourself a sleep target for September 25th (a Sunday night). Mine is a mere eight hours, the insomniac’s Holy Grail. Nicola Elliot, Neom’s founder, has gone for ten.
When you sign up, you get a free Sleep Book hyperlink, packed with tonnes of interesting advice. Reading it made me realise that sleep – like life and love – is an art. It needs to be approached with dedication and respect, to be worked at and adapted to suit you: which is why the more ideas the merrier the cherry picking.
What is your idea of a perfect night’s sleep?
When do you think is your ideal bedtime?
(They say 10pm – but can you do that and remain in a relationship/have a life?)
Here are some of the things I’m taking from Neom as I launch into my own Sleeptember challenge.
Winding down with Netflix, ready-meal and a couple of large glasses of wine is bad
It feels good at the time, of course, especially if you’ve come in from work, chased around after your kids all evening and finally landed on the sofa for some well-earned me-time. However, your episode ends in a cliffhanger, and Netflix is already loading the next … what the hell, I’ll just pour another glass then…
In Neom’s guide, one study suggests eating dinner three hours before bedtime to give the body time to digest, while late night telly messes with your melatonin (the sleep hormone). They don’t go into the effects of alcohol, but Drink Aware say that even two glasses can disrupt your sleep cycle. It’s also a diuretic hence the need to get up in the night and pee.
The good news is that cheese and biscuits are good for a bedtime snack, helping produce the soporific amino acid tryptophan.
Candle-light rather than blue light
Countless studies have shown that blue light emitting from our screens signals to our brains that it’s daylight. Neom’s book says it’s a good idea to switch off at least an hour before bed-time: even having your phone or computer charging in your bedroom can mess with your sleep. Kindles are okay as are real, actual books (remember those), while some devices now have a sleep setting.
Scented candles are not scientifically proven to aid sleep, but Neom have put a lot of effort into creating their blissfully soporific essences in the belief that they do. They have also tested their Tranquillity range on real ladies, 88 percent of whom said they slept better after using it.
I find lighting the Neom Tranquillity candle an hour before sleep signals ‘Bedtime’ to my (clearly highly suggestible) brain, while the scent encourages deep breathing, which slows my pounding heart. Spritzing pillows with their Pillow Mist is great if you’re staying away from home (their Perfect Sleep Starter Kit includes this plus a travel candle – great if like me you have to travel for work and struggle sleeping in strange hotel rooms).
A warm bath rather than wine
The Neom Sleep Book suggests soaking in a tub for half an hour two hours before going to bed. The science is that our body temp rises in the bath then drops dramatically when we get out, mimicking the drop in core body temp as we fall asleep. Obviously they would like you use their lovely bath oils or foams (we also recommend these as they are gorgeous).The perfect bath can be as cosy and warm as a glass of Pinot, especially in candlelight.
Diplomacy and Earplugs
In an ideal world (ie if I were Gwynnie) my evening routine would probably begin with small freshly cooked meal suitable for my Dosha type, a spot of meditation and yoga, then practising Gratitude in candlelight before slipping into my organic pyjamas and sipping a cup of Camomile tea.
In the real world, dear readers, I have a husband. His routine currently involves falling asleep in front of the TV, crashing upstairs, plugging in his phone and snoring loudly (who says romance is dead?) - all of which works perfectly well for him. If my new routine can help me sleep through all of this, all will be well.
There’s lots more in the Neom Sleep Book, including yoga and Pilates positions, Mindfulness techniques, how to create the perfect sleep environment, and how to start each day in the best possible way. Have a look online for more ideas and features, as well as discounts on their Sleep and Tranquillity product bundles. Meanwhile, keep up with my sleep diary on twitter.