As I keep saying, we Brits are such wimps when it comes to our weather. For most of the UK population, last week was pretty dire as parts of our country had over 34C (93.2F) for 6 consecutive days, with the nights not much cooler and, don’t forget, we don’t have air con in our homes. I wonder, though, that if this is the future (which it is, of course) whether us Brits will go for air con. It’ll be a fundamental change in our housing stock if we do, although change is no bad thing and I am old enough to remember when central heating was considered something of a luxury for the few. But let’s pause for a mo’, populations throughout the world taking up air con will be the death of the planet, just think of all that hot air pumping out of our homes and the electricity needed for it. It’s not a good scenario. Let’s think of other remedies. I remember working in Switzerland in the early 70s and they weren’t like the Brits, who say of a house, ‘oh, it has plenty of light coming in, isn’t that nice.’ No, the whole point of a house was to keep the light, as in the sun, out. So all houses had shutters outside, which were slammed shut throughout the day and the house kept dark, and therefore cooler than the fierce heat of a mid-European summer. I don’t remember disliking this.
Anyway this high temperature, plus the humidity around our little island, made the nights pretty unbearable, but I can’t believe what I’m saying as actually I slept well through that heat because of a fan we bought recently. And btw, I never get gifts and no-one is paying me for this recommendation!
Bear with me, but I have a lot of insomnia these days. Mind you, I think that the ruination of my sleep pattern began with my daughter who, as a baby, didn’t sleep through the night until she was 3-years-old! For years after that I’d wake at the slightest thing. Forget traffic noise, the cat could come in at night and walk around the house and I’d be awake and mega alert, it was just something I got used to, but for the past few years I take quite a bit of time to get off to sleep – the over active brain forever on patrol and those thoughts that keep on acoming. And if there is one thing I cannot abide is people/articles/experts saying things like older folks do not need so many hours sleep. They’re usually younger for a start, and I often wonder what they’ll be saying about these ‘facts’ when they’re older, because, actually I need my sleep and can tell the difference when I have slept well and when I haven’t, thank you.
Before this hot weather, I had an awful pattern of going to sleep then waking early on in the night (for the loo) and not going back to sleep until after 5.0am! Yikes and *%@£^, that was awful as this went on for over 2 weeks and nothing I did made any difference. You name an action to make you sleep I did it, but funnily enough I now know from a course I’m doing (see below) that too many different actions or techniques done in one night will make you more alert than ever – yup it certainly did that. I do know the the first night of not-sleeping was caused by anxiety of what, I can’t remember now, but after two weeks it just stopped – thank the gods! Anyway here are some of the things I have picked up over the years to help me sleep. Of course, there’re sure to be more ways to beat insomnia, so do tell me your favourite ways of helping you get to that allusive deep slumber. And always take note that in no way am I an expert, and if you suffer from insomnia you need to take the path that is right for you.
My top tips on preventing insomnia learnt from being an experienced insomniac!
Keep regular hours On the whole I do turn the light off at the same time (approx 11.0pm) and wake at the same time (6.30am – I am a lark!) But of course, do vary this as you need to be sleepy before you turn the light out. This is sometimes not possible if your partner wants to turn the light off before you get that sleepy feeling. Perhaps have a light that directs its beam just to your book and nowhere else. I need to find one of those!
The bedroom This needs to be an environment for sleeping and nothing else – so no TV on the wall, and if you can, put your phone and iPad outside the room and go for no blue light in the bedroom. Through lockdown I was doing most of my reading on my iPad. This I’ve stopped and I’m reading real books again (currently the latest Mantel – yay). The thing is, is it a peaceful place? Ask yourself that. I think mine is.
The bed – is it comfortable? Ah yes, to be honest, I don’t think our bed is the best for us. Before we moved to our new flat (which is so right for us) the bedroom shrank in my mind and I thought our Kingsize bed would never fit the room, so before we moved I scrapped our large comfortable bed because, also, we needed storage in the base, so I got a bed with drawers x4 in a double bed size. This was a mistake and I’m contemplating the idea of getting one of those beds that are in effect two single mattresses joined together. I’m at the beginning of my research on this so will report back when I know what I’m talking about!
Some exercise taken during the day really does help. But not too near bedtime.
Caffeine I don’t have any caffeine whatsoever now (I shouldn’t – it’s the heart thing) but years before my January experience (!) I stopped all caffeine intake from midday onwards. So it was real tea in bed in the morning in bed and real coffee at 11.0am but thereafter I had decaffeinated tea and coffee. And really the taste of Yorkshire decaffeinated tea is excellent while I’d defy you to notice the difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee if you use a quality ground decaffeinated coffee. It’s really good.
Food There are lots of good foods to eat that help with sleep. As so many experts will tell you the hormone Melatonin is the key to sleep. Apparently a few foods do contain melatonin such as oats. But the vitamin B6 makes melatonin, so if you can increase that vitamin in your evening meals with foods like tuna, wild salmon, avocado, chicken, bananas and prunes. But on the other hand, don’t overload your system by eating too near bedtime. How I used to relish eating mid-evening and had many a dinner party with us all eating quite late into the night, but I am so unsophisticated now and actually have become like my parents who ate sparingly at 6.0pm. I can’t quite yet make my main meal at lunch time, I’m too active during the day to want to cook and eat a big midday meal, but oh yes, I do eat our main meal really early now.
And above all keep cool The heat this year seemed to be more fierce than usual so with the short heatwave that we had a few weeks before this current heatwave we bought a Dimplex column fan, used it once, and then not at all for many days and weeks. But gosh were we glad we’d bought it as through this heatwave we had it on practically 24/7 including during the night as it has a programme to turn it off automatically 1, 2 or even 3 hours on from when you go to sleep. The first night we thought this is a hot night, so let’s give it a go but, on the other hand, the noise of the fan was sure to keep us awake. Not so, before I knew it I dropped into a deep sleep. Wow! And double wow as this pattern of falling asleep quickly continued throughout these hot nights and it was all due to the motor of this fan giving off a sound that was, I suppose, a ‘white noise’.
I also seemed to be in a deeper sleep as I had no problem returning to sleep if I got up in the night for the usual wee. And to prove that it really is the answer to my insomnia two nights ago when we didn’t turn on the fan as it was (marginally) cooler I could not get to sleep. So I shall research ‘white noise’ apps on the phone or the devices that seem to be mainly for babies!
There are many other techniques to help you sleep including deep breathing, visualisations, and simply getting up and doing something else and you can find no end of books, articles, and stuff on the ‘net that will help with these. Do, for example, have a look at Annabel Streets & Susan Saunders blog or buy their book, The Age Well Project as it has a whole chapter on sleeping well. One technique that helped to block my thoughts is the trick of constantly mouthing the word ‘the’ all the time. I got this tip through the Sleepstation course, which my GP gave approval to and I therefore got for free. I haven’t finished the course as yet, but will let you know what I think. So far it’s been all about keeping a sleep diary. Silently saying ‘the’ did help me block thoughts, but did not make me fall asleep. I still think the biggest revelation re: my sleep has been the fan – it’s made by Dimplex and you can get it on Amazon.
What else has kept me cool?
Well I’ve worn these shorts a lot.
The shorts were from M&S and the tee is slightly cropped and cost nothing as it came via post and was the wrapping for a retro coffee pot – I’ve worn this free tee shirt a lot this summer!
Shorts have been quite a favourite. These black ones below came from George at Asda and the tee is old and bought in a charity shop years ago.
Long flappy skirts have been worn. That’s an old photo and I can see my posture has improved with the Pilates I’ve been doing.
And I bought this dress online from M&S and it fits perfectly. It’s sold as a ‘beach’ dress but I think it’ll do for a barbie or even a dinner party or a cruise night. As in, those occasions that are not happening (for us) this year, but hopefully, next year.
But the dress that has been worn again and again is this one below.
I usually wear it in the afternoon after my walk when I come back feeling hot and sweaty. Its tent-like shape flaps around my legs and makes me feel cooler as I cook the evening meal. I got it from George at Asda and it cost very little (?£11 in a sale) but in my eyes, it’s definitely a winner.
That’s all for now, but if you have any tips about keeping cool and sleeping well do pass them on as I’m sure we can all learn from each other 🙂
With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper
P.S. If you’ve read down this far – thank you so much. And if you fancy another slightly different read do pop over to My Other Blog where I have a new piece up. Look for the icon to this other blog on the side of this piece if reading on a PC or Mac and at the end if reading on a phone, but please do not read if you don’t like ‘politics’ and definitely don’t read it if you like the idea of the UK leaving the EU! That gives you a clue to its subject.
Take care all of you, and thank you again for reading this blog, I truly appreciate you all.