A couple of weeks ago, I did a week-long bootcamp in Morocco. I’ve done bootcamps before so knew exactly what to expect – mainly extreme hanger and muscle ache. What I didn’t bank on was not being able to sleep, courtesy of the donkeys in the next door field.
It’s not that I wasn’t in bed long enough – our final meal was around 6.30pm, and my general routine was to get into bed pretty soon after that. It was more that the quality of my sleep just wasn’t that great. According to sleep expert Dr Nicola Barclay, the ideal amount of sleep is between six and eight hours – during which we get four to five REM (rapid eye movement) episodes. I was waking up so sporadically that I was struggling to reach REM sleep, hovering somewhere in light sleep.
There are many reasons why we need a good night’s sleep, and many of them are overlooked. Obviously we all know that sleep conserves energy and gives both body and mind a chance to recover from the day. But it also provides opportunity for learning and memory consolidation, plus it’s the period during which the brain detoxifies. Allowing my body time to repair muscles tears from the day’s five hours of exercise (I mean!!) was crucial, so clock-watching throughout the night was so annoying.
Every sleep expert I’ve ever spoken to has told me to stop using my phone and laptop in bed. Every sleep expert I’ve ever spoke to has therefore promptly been ignored by me. But light seriously affects your sleep, since it inhibits melatonin which is the hormone of darkness, which chemically makes us feel sleepy. On an iPhone there is a Night Shift option which softens the light for people like me who just HAVE to check Instagram one more time… Other tricks are to eat foods rich in amino acids that get converted to melatonin close to bed-time. Things like walnuts, milk and cherries are good.
When I’m having trouble sleeping, I use a lavender pillow spray (helps me slow down my breathing), open my window, and use a black-out eye mask. The window thing is because I have to fall asleep in a cold room. Turns out, I’m not the only one – the ideal temperature is 20-22 degrees C. Tempur mattresses contain temperature-sensitive material to help you get it right, and cotton sheets are essential. I used to have real problems sleeping when I was younger, and my doctor told me to count backwards from 100, 200 or 300 (depending how awake I felt) in threes. Or I sometimes repeat the mantra ‘I am not allowed to sleep’ to myself. I must have a rebellious spirit because it always works..
The other big piece of advice I’ve been given is to find a routine that works for you. Which means going to bed and getting up at the same time, regardless of your schedule. Bye bye, lie-ins! How do you overcome sporadic insomnia? I’d love to know!
This post is in conjunction with Tempur but all thoughts are my own