Please don’t wake me…

Today kicks off Sleep Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of good sleep. As a chronic insomniac I am of course acutely aware of how important sleep is. I’m writing this at 4am, so I haven’t found the cure for sleepless nights. I do though have some semi successful strategies.

My relationship with sleep has flipped from one extreme to the other. In my youth I could drop off anytime, anyplace. I loved to snooze and had zero issues dropping off. I was the queen of the long lie. Sleep became a problem when I first experienced mental health problems aged 19. Unfortunately, I have never managed to regain my easy breezy relationship with slumber. Almost twenty years on I have become accustomed to functioning on a few hours a night. Chronic pain has done little to aid a peaceful night, but an inability to calmly shut down is still a major obstacle in my quest for rest.

A decent night’s repose can affect everything from heart health to sex drive. It goes without saying that exhaustion also has a massive impact on mental health. The NHS advises that most of us need around 8hrs sleep to function properly. In fact, lack of sleep can so massively impair cognitive faculties that experts suggest driving after only 5 hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Everyone should be mightily relieved that I cannot drive.

The long-term effect of insufficient sleep is grim. The anxiety of going to bed each night knowing achieving sleep will be a battle is wearing. The more you worry about not sleeping the less likely it becomes. Constant fatigue makes getting through daily tasks difficult, which adds to one’s stress levels. This in turn pushes that magical 8 hours even further out of reach. Long sleepless nights are lonely. There’s rarely anyone else awake leaving a busy mind way too much room to mull over worries. Throw pain into mix and you have a recipe for despair. Moving through the world in a worn-out shuffle will grind you down, which is why I offer my extensively tested tips on getting some god damned sleep.
I’m not going to waste your time with milky drinks and lavender under your pillow. Everyone knows the basics and they aren’t going to cure hardcore insomnia. I don’t have a failsafe solution, if I did, I’d snoring now. However, these are the things that I have had some success with over years.

Bedroom Tips

Keep your bedroom cool. Lowering your body temperature helps the body prepare for sleep.

In theory that’s why a hot bath should aid sleep, but I find any sleepiness gained from the temp drop is lost during the process of getting dry and organised for bed. If you do less faffing post bathing it might work better for you.

No tv in the bedroom. This is a definite for me. I find a television to be the opposite of relaxing. I need my bed and bedroom to be a completely chilled out zone. Which sits nicely with my next point.

Try to make your bedroom as pleasant as possible to be in. Obviously, that means different things for different people. For me it’s nice sheets, subtle scents, comfortable mattress.

Black out blinds are your friend. I could not live without mine.

Invest in one of those huge maternity pillows. They give so much support if you have back or joint pain. Plus they’re just super comfortable.

Sound Effects

Rain on window

I use sounds machine apps. I like heavy rain/ thunderstorm type sounds, but experiment and see what works for you. Something about being safe & protected from the elements I’m hearing sometimes helps me drift off.

Soothing music (whatever that means to you) at a low volume can also help. I like to mouth the lyrics and focus on words I enjoy rather than my own thoughts. Getting the volume just right is key for me, so again, you might need to experiment. Select specific songs and make a playlist beforehand. You don’t want anything that unexpectedly bring unpleasant or stimulating associations to mind.

Preparation

I should probably have started here, but lack of sleep melts your brain. So, you’ll have deal with my disjointed thinking.

These are all evident. I’m going over them because sometimes you miss the obvious when you’re knackered.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime.

Don’t watch, read or listen to anything that will bring up stimulating emotions (nothing scary, disturbing, sad, triggering etc).

Avoid arguing or deep conversations right before you hit the hay.

Smoking, caffeine, some meds (check with gp/pharmacist) are no goes before you attempt sleep.

Against Accepted Wisdoms

Sleeping cat

I’ve consulted many Drs, Psych’s and other practitioners over the years and some of the oft repeated advice they’ve given me has turned out to be just plain wrong for me. If you find something that really does or doesn’t help, even if everyone is telling you the opposite, do you. For me this includes:

Looking at my phone in bed. Putting it on night shift mode to alter the light tone to yellowish rather than blue is a must. Otherwise I find aimlessly scrolling can be very helpful in getting me sleepy.

Reading in bed also works for me. I can’t fall asleep without reading. I find that if I just keep going until I literally can’t keep my eyes open, I have a good chance of getting into a proper sleep. I think it’s because my mind is occupied with the content of the book rather than whatever mess is in my head. Clearly, it’s important to choose the reading material with reference to my previous points.

Sharing the bed with pets. So many people have cautioned me against this. I find my petting my cat and hearing his purrs excessively relaxing. Thus, I ignore such warnings.

Hippie Dippie

Constellation lamp

I hate to be that person, but occasionally the esoteric route gets you there.

A constellation lamp in a dark room can offer something uncomplicated to focus your attention on long enough to get to sleep.

Gentle yoga – clears the mind & stretches everything in a pleasing manner.

Desperate Measures

When you’ve been attempting shut eye for hours and are reaching the point of hopelessness; get up. By that point you aren’t going to sleep. Every toss & turn just raises anxiety levels. I find it much more productive to get out of bed and stop forcing it. Do whatever you can manage and if you get drowsy try again.

Medication – You need sleep to operate. There comes a point when discussing medication options with your Gp is the sensible thing to do. I have tried several sleeping pills over the years. Most didn’t work for me. Most are not a suitable for prolonged use due to addictive and/or tolerance building properties. There are some drugs that can be used for longer periods. I have been prescribed one such medication. It doesn’t have a 100% strike rate, but when it does work it knocks me out all night.

Sleep when you can in extreme cases. Often napping is counterproductive when fighting insomnia. However, when you haven’t had more than a couple of consecutive hours sleep in weeks that goes out the window. When my sleeplessness is at its worst, I will get so completely exhausted that my body will crash. That doesn’t always happen at bed time. Take that sleep. You need it. Sleep all day if you must.

Last but Not Least

Oxytocin

Sex and orgasms in general are brilliant for sleep. Sex works on so many fronts. You can tire yourself out, all those feel good hormones chill you out and of course it’s the perfect distraction from any negative bullshit you have going on. Flying solo releases all that lovely oxytocin and melatonin too, so don’t be shy about giving it a try.

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Very big house in the country…

Nothing cheers up a dreary Monday than running off to a peaceful country hotel. A couple of days immersed in gorgeous grounds, yummy food & a relaxing spa definitely puts a positive spin on your week.

Macdonald Houstoun House

Houstoun House is set an historic building with great services. Set in pretty countryside with some lovely formal gardens it is a great spot for a soothing escape. After dealing with another kidney infection & heavy bought of insomnia I was eager for small break. My super mummy sister was equally in need of a rest. Our tiny companion is pretty happy exploring any new place, but he was particularly delighted with Houstoun House.

Gardens, Houstoun House

A delicious three course meal followed by a good old carry on with the baba got us off to a good start. A huge comfy bed & top notch breakfast eased us into the next day. Then it was time for deep tissue massages & lots of splashing around in the pool with the boy.

ly h Kerr, Houstoun House

What else to wear when being a luxury bitch, but velvet? Oh & some leopard print too.

ly h Kerrly h Kerr

Dress – Bonmarche

Tights – Asos Curve

Belt – Asos Curve

Pumps – Primark

Glasses – Where.light

Sweet escape…

I’m a sucker for a mini break. Give me a nice hotel with a good pool and I’m a happy girl. Throw in a massage & I’d be delighted even if the hotel was located in hell. So, the Toyboy’s birthday treat of a few days away was a winner.

He choose Dundee because he knew I really wanted to see the new V&A, but it proved to be a cool wee city. We had some tasty food, took in some sights & indulged in soothing spa treatments.

Frigate unicorn, love locks, the white goose, #projectpostit, Dundee

We stayed at the Apex City Quay which was a delight. We had a gorgeous big room with a view of city quay & it’s cool water sports. The complimentary bubbly was a lovely welcome & the really late check out was a great goodbye. The Apex took care of our every whim inbetween.

ly h Kerr, The apex city quay, Dundee Breakfast in bed, apex Dundee

The Japanese style Yu Spa is apparently award winning; I haven’t checked that, but it was excellent & I believe them. It comprises a lovely little pool, deliciously hot hot tub & the usual array of incredibly hot rooms (steam/sauna et al). I’m a big kid so I was particularly pleased the submerged colour changing lights. There are also more adult plus points in form excellent showers, Elemis toiletries & quality hair dryers in the changing rooms. The actual treatment area is a tranquil heavenly smelling space. My hot stone massage was divine. The Toyboy’s ‘devil’s delight back treatment’ was everything he had hoped for.

Yu spa, Dundee

Like I said, Dundee was charming. It has some impressive architecture, quirky pubs & really awesome food. The McManus Art Gallery looks like a cathedral from a Disney film. It had the most stunning stone staircase I have ever seen. I bet those steps have seen their share of blushing brides. The D C Thomson building also looked spiffing all lit up. My favourite Dundee aspect ended up being cowering under the Tay road bridge watching the wind make the river run wild.

Food wise, Dundee did really well with my fussy vegan needs. Special mention goes to Tahini. I was initially dubious, but we were running out of time & I bowed to pressure. I am so happy that I did. Tahini offer a three course Lebanese Tapas experience. You just tell them any allergies/restrictions and they bring you amazing food. I was a little scared of not picking exactly what I wanted. Partly because of my very persnickety eating, but also because I am terrible at relinquishing control of even unimportant matters. Anyway, I learned a lesson. I must relax a little because the food was so fucking good and it did not stop coming. Go hungry, these people really feed you!

Dundee fun

Tickety boo, Dundee

Tahini, Lebanese Tapas

Friday favourites…

Wow, it has been a big week. I’ve felt all the feelings & did all the things. I will catch you up on my goings on soonish. In the meantime please content yourself with a variety of my current favourite things. You know the deal, all the wee bits that get me through the good & bad days.

First up is appropriately named First Aid Kit . I am rather in love with their new album Ruins . It has just enough melancholy to nurture my ‘ i just need a small cry’ moments whilst also containing sufficient uplifting ditties. It’s folksy & soothing, but also pleasantly raw in places. It is an added bonus that the band wear the most divine clothes. Their hard hippie aesthetic wets my whistle. In short, three cheers for the Swedish sisters charming my senses.

First aid kit, ruins Album cover

Next is a yummy little treat that pleases my tum. Yes, I take comfort in food, sue me. I have always been a lover of jelly, but obviously not all jelly is vegan friendly & some vegan brands lacked a satisfactory wobble. I am chick who likes some wibble. This winter my cupboards have been packed with Hartley’s 10 cal jelly pots. I first discovered these years ago during an insane starvation diet, but they are utterly delicious. These days I couldn’t care less about the calorie count, but do love their variety of fruity flavours. Everything from classic strawberry & orange to elderflower lemonade and Black Forest gateau. Every single variety is packed full of fruity flavour and not a single non vegan ingredient. They are also exceptionally easy going on the stomach meaning I have something tasty to eat even when mine is at it’s most uncooperative. Yeah!

Vegan jelly

No fav list of mine would be complete without some reading material. My current book just happens to be one of my all time favourite writers, Alan Bennett. I absolutely adore everything he does, but in particular I love his diaries & memoirs. I find his writing as comforting as a cup of mint tea. Even when he tackles heavy subjects he does so with such a light hand that it soothes me to read his words. I love that I can trust his politics, his wit & his decency. He writes about complex, sensitive issues with an honesty & compassion missing from so much of modern life. His most recent collection of prose, Keeping on Keeping on is as enchanting as ever. His daily doings & opinions on the world at large have been getting me through a tricky start to the year. If you need your faith in humanity (& beautiful writing) restored, Bennett is the man for the job.

Cat poking his head over a book

Bronan doesn’t enjoy Alan Bennett as much as I do. He’s a less reading, more ear rubbing kind of cat.

Another small item bringing joy to my life this week is badges. I am a longtime fan of the humble pin badge & am rejoicing in their revival. Not so long ago I had to search for badges that pleased me. Now pins with messages that delight are everywhere I look. There’s nothing better than wearing your heart (& your politics) on your sleeve or in my case chest. I have taken to expressing my mood with a collection of badges each day. They are a darling embellishment to every outfit. Plus, no one can say they haven’t been warned; they tell you what to expect before I even open my mouth.

Feminist badges

Last but not least is Now Tv. I had a Sky package of one kind or another for years, but constantly had problems with it. My broadband dropped, I lost signal for no reason and it always took 3 weeks to get through to customer services. So, I ditched it and got Now instead. It’s so much simpler and cheaper. Oh & now my internet consistently works. I am useless with services like this & tend to put up with problems forever because I worry changing will be just too much hassle. This switch was so easy that I am now checking out what else I could benefit from changing. Suppliers beware.

Just another manic Monday…

My very clever sister decided that instead of having a baby shower type affair she would just invite some lovely women to join her for a spa day. Thus I spent my Monday being a luxury bitch at beautiful spa. Thank you, little sister.

The setting of our unmanic monday was Gleddoch House Hotel & Spa. It looked extra scenic surrounded by snow, but once wrapped up in the soft, fluffy robes the cold wasn’t touching us. 


After my treatment there was a gorgeously calm & comfortable relaxation room to unwind in. Suitably soothed I returned to pool for some laps & general floating around. I love being in the water because my body hurts so much less when submerged. I love it even more when in the company of smart & funny women. 


Of course it wouldn’t be a spa day without a dip in a hot tub & what’s the point of a hot tub if it isn’t really cold? The Gleddoch had us covered with this amazing roof top hot tub; enjoying the steamy bubbles whilst surrounded by snowy mountains is definitely a good way to spend a Monday. 


After all the relaxing we had a bite with more views and the already mums gave the mum to be a little tongue in cheek advice. We sneaked in a few forbidden presents & headed home to enjoy our spa day afterglow. 


So, thank you little sister not only for making a whole new person for me to love, but for providing me an opportunity to really enjoy a Monday. 

This week I have mostly been…

Feeling grumpy, if I’m honest. My bad mood has of course spilled into my listening choices. I’ve been selecting some angry, some passionate & all loud tunes. Sometimes I sing (scream) along, which I find helps immensely. 

So, this week I have mostly been listening to :

Morrissey. Let’s face it he’s a musical genius & this particular song articulates an element of my life that I have struggled with for many years. It captures my predicament exactly & listening to The more you ignore me – the closer I get gives me an enormous sense of freedom. Free from the  burden of trying to explain because darling Morrssey has done it all for me. 

I should explain that I’m not pissed off with anyone in particular, just, you know the whole world. So my next few choices are just ranty songs that vent my chagrin. Next time you are stewing turn up The Pigeon Detectives’ I’m not sorry & holler the title lyric; trust me, you’ll feel calmer. Likewise Can’t stand me now, The Libertines classic presses all the right buttons. With lyrics like ‘ the boy kicked out at the world – the world kicked back a lot fuckinv harder’ song is feeling my pain. 

  
My final earwig isn’t really an angry tune. Falling by Mcalmont & Butler is the kind of song that completely fills whatever space it occupies. So much so that I feel it pulsating through my body. It’s soaring peaks & crashing drums create actual physical sensations. It has been ringing in my ears all week. 

A little something to make me sweeter….

I had a bit of a rest last week. I had been very busy the preceding weeks & my poor wonky body was feeling the strain. As a result I didn’t get the chance to take any OOTD pictures. I did however procure a number of treats designed to make me feel lovely. 

There is no better treat than a free treat, so I shall start off with my first freebie (courtesy of a dreaded glossy mag). Balance Me Super Moisturising body wash is exactly what I need at the moment. I have been slathering on copious amounts & my skin is feeling better. 



My next pick me up was a fabulous bargain. I am very fond of big, shiny faux engagement rings. I found this sparkling ‘ruby’ on eBay & had to have it. 



I was lucky enough to receive a 2nd freebie last week. This time some smart glasses from SpecSavers. If you get your contacts from them & sign up to a direct debit they offer you a free pair of specs. It’s a great deal. I picked these round tortoiseshell frames. They are actually from the men’s section, but I love them. I wanted something completely different to my usual style & these fit the bill perfectly. 



My final little delight was actually a Christmas gift. My lovely almost brother in law surprised me with his present buying talents when I opened this Molton Brown candle. I had lit it before, but really appreciated it’s calming scent over the last few days. It’s called Imp’s Whisper, which is a name that pleases me. With hints of lavender, tobacco & vetyver grass it is the perfect soothing scent.