This dreamy retreat will send you to sleep
WE’RE a nation of insomniacs — and I’m one of them. Now the travel industry has cottoned onto the problem and ‘sleep retreats’ are being set up faster than you can count sheep. So in search of slumber, I head off to Vale de Moses, in a remote Portuguese valley. It’s a long journey and I arrive grumpy, irritated and exhausted. I stumble off to bed, barely noticing my surroundings. Stars blaze across the valley. Outside, it’s almost spookily silent. Inside, my overactive mind is yelling like a teenager. I sigh and open my book — it’s going to be another long sleepless night. At 7.30am, 16 of us blink blearily at one another as exuberant host Ollie leads us on a ‘meditation walk’. The terrain is steep and I have to concentrate on staying upright. At the top of the hill I pause and gaze at the shimmer of olive and fir and, far below, the pewter wink of water. It’s beautiful but frankly I’m too tired to care. Back at the ranch, co-owner Vonetta is waiting to put us through two hours of yoga. We’re a mixed bunch of yoga adepts and absolute beginners and Vonetta leads with saintly compassion. Curling up on your mat and snoozing is more than acceptable. Over three afternoon seminars, sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan gives the theory of sleep. She coaches everyone from Premiership footballers to MPs. There’s some uncomfortable shuffling as we’re told to break our phone habits, drink less coffee and knock the alcohol on the head. It’s all very lovely, but my scepticism is on high alert. So is my mind and I spend the next night trying all Dr Nerina’s sleep aids — from loving each bit of my body, through lying with my legs up the wall of my simple farmhouse bedroom, to breathing like a ninja. However, on the third night the miracle happens. I don’t just sleep, I oversleep. I wake up and realise I’ve not only missed the morning walk, but the yoga session too. I trip-trap down to breakfast with a triumphant smile. Vale de Moses is a simple, friendly setup — if you want high luxe or fancy spa facilities look elsewhere. If you want to be entertained 24/7 it is also not for you. Here there is swathes of time to explore, swim, or (hopefully) snooze. I left feeling as if my whole system had been bathed in one of those wild Portuguese mountain streams. Back home, my sleep still isn’t perfect but it’s about ten times better than it was and it’s improving all the time. Just what the sleep doctor ordered.
Drift off: A remote Portuguese ranch could help cure your insomnia