Former bartender turned journalist, Dan Miles is the best-selling author of Filthy Still – a tale of travel, sex and perfectly made cocktails, and a contributor to the Huffington Post, TNT and the New Zealand Times. Here he experiments on himself in order to try and help you, the reader, get a better nights sleep.
How to turn your room into a temple of sleep
Despite my best efforts, a great nights sleep still evades me, much like the reason anyone would invent blue curacao. At the height of my insomnia when I was working for a London boutique hotel group, whom I suspect routinely received management training from the Nazi party, the combination of long hours, late nights, bad food and way too much industrial-strength caffeine left me frequently frazzled and occasionally asleep in the storeroom when I should have been doing stocktake. Since then I’ve worked hard to tackle the problem, unfortunately with mixed results. However, as environment plays a huge part in the success or failure of sleep, this month I decided to get serious and turn my bedroom into a temple dedicated to it.
As the optimum environment for a good nights rest is quiet, dark and cool, first the world’s smallest cinema aspect of my bedroom had to go – in fact all screens were out, proven as they are to hamper the release of the bodies sleep chemical melatonin. Next up was the bed itself and the addition of a new, memory foam pillow, as poor posture, caused by slowly sinking through a feather pillow during the course of the night can greatly affect your chances of an unbroken slumber. For good measure this was followed by a healthy spritz of lavender spray, said to relax and soothe the mind.
Next up, I focused on temperature. Initiating the sleep process requires your body to decrease its standing temp by several degrees, with sleep experts suggesting an optimum room temp of anywhere from 15 degrees c (60f) to 20 degrees c (67f), depending on your metabolism. Through trial and error and a battle fought between the radiator and the window I eventually reached a steady 18 degrees. This was followed by eliminating background noise with some surprisingly comfortable, mouldable, noise-cancelling earplugs, specifically designed to stay in place during the night. I did briefly consider an eye mask as well, which I’ve heard great things about, but as my curtains are already thicker than the current occupant of the White House, I didn’t consider them wholly necessary in this instance.
On a roll now I decided next to deploy a little modern technology. First up was the addition of a borrowed Lumie – a glowing, orb-like device that slowly builds in brightness as you approach your chosen wake up time, simulating the gentle arrival of dawn. This was followed by a sleep tracker, of which there are endless varieties on offer – either wearable, or placed under, or around the bed. In this case I managed to borrow one of each – a Fitbit Charge and Emfit QS. With that done I meditated for ten minutes to relax, and then read a mediocre John Grisham novel for half an hour before finally turning the straw-coloured bedside lamp I installed as part of my last Healthy Hospo experiment off.
To my delight I actually got a reasonably good nights sleep. The memory foam pillow certainly helped, though initially felt like I was sleeping on a rock, however the extra support led to less rolling around and my shoulders feeling more relaxed the following morning. The temperature drop and noise cancelling also seemed to help, however I was less convinced by the sleep trackers. Despite both providing a fascinating insight into my night – heart rate, restlessness, time spent in REM sleep etc, the lack of practical suggestions as to what to do with that knowledge left me confused as to how exactly to apply it. The stand out success though was the Lumie, which, whilst not a direct sleep aid as such, did leave me feeling more refreshed and serene in the morning than my usual daily struggle with Samsung’s delightful range of alarm sounds.
And for the record I am never giving it back.