Dream­ing of the per­fect night’s sleep

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

Is it ev­ery in­som­niac’s dream? Mov­ing to the coun­try­side to count sheep for real and es­cap­ing the stresses of city life which leave us too wired to sleep? Surely, if we could get away from the po­lice sirens, the neigh­bours row­ing and the foxes knock­ing over dust­bins, we’d be chilled out enough to nod off nat­u­rally – after all, coun­try folk prob­a­bly never know a sin­gle night’s dis­tur­bance. Or do they? A fas­ci­nat­ing survey has re­vealed that Sleep­less in Sh­effield shouldn’t jump to con­clu­sions about Snor­ing in Suf­folk. In­som­nia caused by stress is a na­tional prob­lem, says the re­port com­mis­sioned by the Sleep Coun­cil, a sleep ad­vice body run by our na­tional bed man­u­fac­tur­ers. And, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, lo­ca­tion – while rel­e­vant – isn’t straight­for­ward.

Over­all, the survey found that 72 per cent of Bri­tons suf­fer sleep prob­lems when stressed – with the most sleep­less ar­eas lo­cated in North­ern Ire­land (88 per cent) and the Mid­lands (75 per cent). Densely pop­u­lated ar­eas such as London and the North West were av­er­age or above at 74 and 72 per cent re­spec­tively, but how to ex­plain ru­ral Wales with an ag­i­tated 73 per cent, or the 74 per cent in the som­no­lent South West? What’s keep­ing Devon farm­ers and Som­er­set cider-mak­ers mulling all night?

The num­bers only start to fall on the east coast: 69 per cent for York­shire, and 68 per cent across Northum­ber­land and East Anglia.

In­de­pen­dent sleep con­sul­tant Dr Neil Stan­ley agrees that there might be a met­ro­pol­i­tan bias against sleep for some: “Peo­ple in ci­ties will have more to dis­turb them – in­creased noise and light, or op­por­tu­ni­ties to go out. But where you live in the UK as a whole won’t mat­ter: there are parts of Scot­land where you are not get­ting light in win­ter un­til late in the morn­ing and it’s dark six hours later. But there’s no real sta­tis­ti­cal dif­fer­ence in day­light: per­haps be­tween In­ver­ness and Southamp­ton at ex­tremes.”

So what ex­actly is mak­ing us such a stressed and sleep­less na­tion?

“We are work­ing harder than ever,” Dr Stan­ley says, “us­ing our brains more than we ever did in the past. And yet – given that sleep is about re­pair and re­cu­per­a­tion, we ac­tu­ally need more of it than be­fore. This is the time for lay­ing down new mem­o­ries and pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion.” The prob­lem, he says, is partly hor­monal: “When you are stressed, you re­lease the hor­mone cor­ti­sol – the same one which is im­pli­cated in wak­ing us up in the morn­ing; it causes cog­ni­tive arousal.”

It’s also the time of year: the Sleep Coun­cil’s survey iden­ti­fies Septem­ber as a par­tic­u­larly stress­ful – and sleep­less – month. Neil Shah, di­rec­tor of the Stress Man­age­ment So­ci­ety, ex­plains: “In our ex­pe­ri­ence Septem­ber is the be­gin­ning of the Stress Cal­en­dar: the kids are back at school, the sum­mer hol­i­days are of­fi­cially over, the weather is start­ing to change and we have to wait un­til Christ­mas for the next pub­lic hol­i­day.”

Fur­ther re­search into the com­plex­i­ties of sleep is on­go­ing, but there are a few life changes ex­perts now sug­gest in­som­ni­acs can make, to max­imise their chances of drop­ping off quickly.

Stop count­ing sheep, for one We’re all princesses frightened of sleep­ing on peas th­ese days – how else to ex­plain the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of mat­tress top­pers, that squidgy ex­tra layer of com­fort un­der your sheet, atop the bed. Mem­ory foam is popular, but com­plaints in­clude its some­times strong smell, plus it can re­tain heat so well that the bed boils. As an al­ter­na­tive, nat­u­ral fill­ings are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and avail­abil­ity, so I de­cided to un­der­take a home trial:

Wool Sleep­ing with wool is said to pro­vide up to 25 per cent more deep re­gen­er­a­tive sleep (i.e. stage four REM sleep), over tra­di­tional down or syn­thetic bed­ding. I found it soft un­der­neath and nat­u­rally warm. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing du­vet was su­per snugly, but the pillows too firm for my taste. (Com­plete wool bed­ding set, in­clud­ing an all-sea­son du­vet, mat­tress topper and pillows; £445; the­wool­room.com) Princess rat­ing 3/5

Horse­hair This could be the per­fect topper: thick, firm, and un­be­liev­ably cush­ion­ing. Horse­hair is very durable (hence its use in tra­di­tional up­hol­stery), and as the strands of hair are open-celled (or hol­low), mois­ture passes through eas­ily, wick­ing sweat away. Plus the in­di­vid­ual hairs never squash into a per­ma­nent shape, which I felt gave it the promised added “spring”. (Has­tens BJ top mat­tress, 160cm x 200cm; £1,100; has­tens.com) Princess rat­ing 5/5

Silk Dust mites hate silk, mak­ing it the ideal choice for any­one suf­fer­ing al­ler­gies, and you can get top­pers, du­vets, pil­low cases and bed­ding for the full ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s also light­weight, and stays cool – per­fect for women of a cer­tain age. (Ul­ti­mate mi­crofi­bre topper with silk; £76; soakand­sleep.com. Bou­tique silk du­vet, 4.5 tog; £72.50; oc­c­a­home.co.uk) Princess rat­ing 4/5

Al­paca Fi­bre from al­pacas is soft, lux­u­ri­ous and supremely comfy. Like silk, it mod­er­ates body tem­per­a­ture, and it is nat­u­rally hy­poal­ler­genic so great for al­lergy suf­fer­ers. My daugh­ter found it heavy at first, but is now ad­justed and sleeps like Rip van Win­kle. What more can you want? (Sin­gle set con­tain­ing topper, du­vet and one pil­low; £147.20; pen­rose­prod­ucts.com) Princess rat­ing 3.5/5

Woolly headed: count­ing sheep will not re­move the trou­bles that keep you awake. In­set: a map show­ing the per­cent­age of peo­ple across the UK who say they suf­fer from sleep prob­lems when stressed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.