I'd like to consider myself Quite A Busy Person but I am also a big fan of my bed. I love an early night, I love sleeping and I love lying in. It takes two cups of tea before I can get going in the morning and it's not unusual for my husband to make the bed in the morning before he goes to work with me still in it! One of my other 'quirks' is that I can't stand staying anywhere ugly. I know this is not exactly a third world problem, but staying in a run down hotel or a holiday cottage that was last decorated in the 1990's actually makes me feel ill! I know, I know - I need to get over myself! To compensate for this ridiculous phobia I take my own cushions, rugs, bedding and lights on holiday with me. And it's probably the reason I like glamping so much - you can design and create your own space! So when Marks and Spencers invited me for a Sleep Retreat at The Artists Residence, London, I couldn't actually believe my luck! Two of my 'things' - sleep and beautiful interiors all rolled together into one delicious package.
I arrived at The Artists Residence unfashionably early (because I'm such a keeno) and got checked into my room - No 4 The Club Suite.
As someone who's hotel experience is largely made up of Premier Inns and also as someone who is also more affiliated with a greasy camping stove than a hotel mini bar, you can see how much of a dream wrapped in a wish this room was for me!
Marks and Spencers had also very kindly left a treat box of sleep related goodies - beautiful pyjamas, a silk sleep mask, This Works Deep Sleep Bath Soak and Deep Sleep Shower Gel and Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream which promises 'skin that looks like you've had eight hours sleep even when you haven't'. Needless to say, I've been slapping that bad boy onto my face good and thick ever since!
The sleep theme continued downstairs at supper at The Artists Residence. We were all seated at a beautifully decorated table and invited to help ourselves from sharing platters.
The menu for the evening was especially designed by nutritionist Amelia Freer using foods that naturally help to promote sleep. It was all about healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds, along with plenty of protein in the form of fish and vegetables and minimal refined sugar to avoid overnight blood sugar fluctuations. The menu also provided magnesium; an essential mineral to help calm the mind and promote sleep. Even the sour cherries in the dessert were carefully selected to help sleep as they contain melatonin, a key component in sending signals to the brain telling it to go to sleep. The meal was rounded off with a glass of truly delicious warm spiced cashew nut milk.
While we ate, Certified Sleep Coach Max Kirsten talked us through lots of tips on how to get a better nights sleep and how he feels that we are all, these days, affected by sensory overload - something that I can strongly relate to.
The worst culprit for sensory overload is, as I've long suspected, our mobile phones. Mobile phones are the biggest killer of sleep not only because of the light they emit - the short wavelength of the blue light emitted by mobile phone screens encourages our brains to be alert. Activating the ‘night mode’ function goes some way to reducing this but we heard from Max that it's far more effective to limit phone usage in the evening. More alarming than the light though, Max also reported that new research shows that our brains have now started firing up just at the sight of a mobile phone - the mere shape of it is enough to excite our brains at the possibilities it can provide and prevent sleep.
Bright overhead lights also encourage our brains to stay alert, we learned, so it's best turn off the overhead lights and have ambient light such as candles or table lamps on instead, to allow the circadian rhythms of our bodies to wind down naturally in lower-level light conditions.
The final sleep fact that I took away was that our bodies tempertures dip naturally in the evening, signalling to our brains that it's time for sleep. We can help this process with a warm bath or shower; the cooling process afterwards will help lull us to sleep. It's also important to find bedding that suits as being too hot or too cold at night will greatly disturb sleep.
With these soothing facts in mind, and after a lovely evening of delicious, sleep inducing food and drink, we retired to our rooms. I popped on my new pyjamas, oohed and aahed over my room a little more and then and then jumped into my sumptuous bed which was made up with a Marks and Spencers Hungarian Goose Down duvet with Marks and Spencers Pure Linen Bedding Set
I had a super comfortable night and awoke the next morning refreshed and with only a slight headache from all the wine at supper which I'm sure helped with the sleep too!
I then took the absolute liberty of having breakfast in bed followed by a long soak in the free standing clawfoot bath. Something I havent done since before I had children fifteen years ago!
So, thank you so much The Artists Residence and Marks and Spencers for having me at your Sleep Retreat. It really was a dream, wrapped in a wish, and I'm very grateful for the experience.
This blog post is in collaboration with Marks and Spencers but all views are my own, as always.
Photo Credit: Sam Mellish.