Well it is finally here, the first episode of The Secrets of Sleep the More 4 documentary series where I feature as one of 4 experts. The idea behind the programme is that 12 of Britain’s worst sleepers are helped by 4 of the nation’s top sleep experts in overcoming their problems. Although we are focusing on some very serious sleep issues, we knew that the advice we offer, particularly around behaviours and the environment, can be applied by most people to help them sleep better.
In the first episode, I worked with Nancy and Nancy was a star! The programme made it clear that Nancy needed to improve her behaviours around her sleep, ensuring she had as a regular bed time as possible and as regular wake up time as possible. It also highlighted how hard on some individuals changing behaviours can be; particularly when compared to a more medical solution, but that for some sleep disorders it is the best form of treatment. It also gives someone like Nancy a real sense of achievement when she gets a better night's sleep and days full of increased energy. Our role as experts is to highlight what changes need to be made, what tools to use and to coach and counsel Nancy through the process.
What was less apparent in the programme was the environmental work we did. Basically, this was looking at the room we sleep in and the products we sleep on and under. In most cases my sleep environment work is centred around addressing physiological issues, such as support or as in Nancy’s case temperature regulation but also about creating a more positive relationship with the bedroom. One of the main side effects of sleep issues and disorders is that we start to hate our bedrooms, to dread bedtime and we associate the room we sleep in with anxiety, stress and a lack of sleep.
On the physiological side with Nancy we wanted to give her products that would allow her core temperature to remain more consistent as fluctuations in temperature can be a trigger for sleep walking (we often see this in younger children). We also wanted to address her cat coming into the room during the night which could have been an issue, and, as you might have seen in the programme she kept her laptop on the table next to her bed, which was reminding her of work and could be impacting on her brain’s ability to go from day time to night time mode.
On an emotional level, we wanted to create an environment that was consistent at both home and at university. We wanted her duvet, pillow and bedding to be the same in both sleep environments and we also used a white noise machine as at university the noise her housemates made could have been triggering her sleep waking episodes. The white noise machine (I often use ones from Sound Oasis) masks noises and gives our hearing a consistent sound to focus on, so when there is a loud noise you do not go into fight or flight mode.
For her duvet and pillows we went for ones made from Alpaca fleece from Penrose Products. I love alpaca as it wicks away moisture incredibly efficiently. I often team them with Bamboo Bedding (in this case from All Bamboo) as it is easier to look after than silk, but it has similar attributes when it comes to temperature control. The reason I use these products is that they are luxurious; they are very tactile and feel lovely to the touch and hey make the person feel that their bedroom is special, which is something I really wanted to encourage in Nancy.
Hopefully the insight has been useful and I hope that you, like me, are looking forward to episode 2!