Sleep used to be such a simple necessity – for most of us. Now, it is as though we are all sleep-deprived insomniacs desperately seeking the magic somnambulist elixir. This may well have something to do with the pandemic, or it could be a media-generated fear that just happens to afford the wellness industry hundreds of millions of pounds in sleep retreats and gadgets.
Either way, the first thing to do is stop worrying about sleep. There’s a term for being obsessed with getting the perfect night’s sleep – orthosmonia, similar to orthorexia the unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating. If you are functioning, you are getting enough. New-parents exist on virtually no sleep, remember. Yes, you can do things to improve the quantity and quality, but a negative focus on sleep is not going to help you rest.
The second is to start enjoying and celebrating bedtime: perhaps take a leaf out of our ancestors' book and worship the Goddess Sleep. Turn your bedroom into a sleep shrine. Learn to harness your own circadian rhythms. Or simply take inspiration from spas and have fun creating a sleep ritual that works for you.
Create your sleep temple
Close your eyes and imagine the ideal bedroom, the sacred space where you will be curling up for one third of your day and resting, rejuvenating. Take time to prepare and create your sanctuary of sleep. Declutter; create a warm, clean palette of colours to calm the mind; remove all blue-light transmitting screens. Maybe you want to invest in a better mattress, organic bedlinen and a sleep light, or spa products to create the perfect ambience.
Play with light
In 2017 a group of researchers won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering our circadian rhythm (from the Latin ‘circa deum’, around the day): internal body clocks found in our DNA that determine when we sleep and wake, but also regulate our heart rate, blood pressure, immune system, metabolism, digestion, body temperature, energy and mood.
Light-sensitive rods in our retina tell the master clock in our brain whether it is day or night. This in turn syncs our internal circadian clocks. Jet lag, working or staying up late, scrolling through social media or bingeing Netflix, or even city light pollution can knock our circadian sleep-wake cycle out of whack, and can make us physically ill. It is why we are constantly told to clear our bedrooms of blue-light emitting screens and use warmer light, like firelight or candles to signal to our internal clocks that it is bedtime.
Neom Organics Sleep Pod (£110) is a humidifier with low energy LED light and a Perfect Night’s Sleep essential oil blend. We love ESPA’s collection of hand-poured soy candles, especially the Soothing Candle (£35). And, of course, Ishga’s Hebridean Dreams Hand Poured Seaweed Candle (£29) to transport you to the seaside with relaxing lavender and rose scents.
Practice a sleep ritual
Rituals are mindful moments of slowing down and noticing, paying respect to the small things in life. In religion, they serve as a bridge between the sacred and profane, our inner and outer world. They create a passage between this world and the next.
Rituals can include praying or meditation, bathing, preparation, anointing, gratitude, music and storytelling. They are repeated actions that can signal to your body it is time for sleep. Many have a scientific basis even if cloaked in "woo" language. For example, temperature is part of our sleep-wake circadian cycle: having a hot bath 2 hours before sleep can mimic the temperature drop at night - another signal to our internal clocks.
ESPA have created a Modern Alchemy Experience (pictured above) that chimes with the idea of using sacred rituals to create that bridge between our modern reality and the ancient world of dreams. Inspired by Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Shamanic practices, the blend of natural botanic ingredients and ancient wisdom speak to some wilder, witch-y part of us. Go online to select your own Yantra card.
The collection includes aromatic bath salts The Grounding Crystals (£35) with Himalayan Pink Salts and Amber Extract and The Anointing Oil (£65) which you can add to your bath, or dab on your wrists for meditation.
Have a Natura Bissé Oxygen Bubble at Pennyhill Park. They say 20 minutes is the equivalent of eight hours sleep. The Bubble itself is a small round tent filled with 99.995 percent purified air to enhance the results of your Natura Bissé facial.
The Dream Time Journey (120 minutes, £175) at Rudding Park is designed to help those with insomnia and whirring minds. It is also based on the idea that our cell repair is faster when we are asleep, so when you have been put deep under by your blissful massage with rhythmic music, you will have a night time facial.
Book in for ESPA Sleep Ritual (90 minites, £240) at ESPA Life at the Corinthia Hotel London. This tailor-made experience combines therapeutic hot stones and a sleep-inducing massage, beginning with breathwork and visualisation.