How I sleep: Allan Jenkins

Allan Jenkins bedroomBeing an early riser myself I’m always interested to see who’s up and about at the same time. One is Allan Jenkins, editor of Observer Food Monthly who’s always posting beautiful pictures of flowers in his garden as he wanders around in the early hours.

We thought we’d ask him how he copes with waking so early – and why he doesn’t sleep longer

Q What time do you usually wake up?
A Around 5am-ish in the summer, largely because I have a Danish architect wife who doesn’t believe in curtains (or blinds) and only believes in white-painted walls and floors (see Allan’s bedroom, above). We sleep with open French doors to a roof terrace with a blackbird who often sits on the wall and sings to us from 3.30am

Q That presumably changes in winter?
A  Add an hour in winter. I generally wake around 6am then, to do with light and the waking city around me. (I probably sleep about 6 hours in summer, 7 in winter)

Q Does it depend on where you are? I think you have a house in Denmark – do you sleep longer there?
A I sleep less in places I know less. Denmark mirrors London. We sleep with the bedroom door open to the terrace and no curtains. In summer when the dawn chorus starts before 3am, the sun bounces off our white walls by 5am. In winter, it is considerably colder and darker there, so curtains come in. We have a small window open, not the door and I wake around 6am

Q Can you get back to sleep once you’re awake and if not what do you do?
A It depends on the time. If it is before 5am, then yes, I’m usually able to get back to sleep. This morning I woke at 4pm because my wife Henri was awake but we later returned to bed for our foolproof remedy, curling up together (though that only works if we’re both awake at the start)

If I wake from 5am onwards I get up to let Henri sleep but also because I love being awake before the day and the house wakes. Sometimes just sitting with a pot of tea as the light lifts, makes me oddly happy. At the weekend I’m likely to head to the allotment – I’m usually there before 6am on a Saturday. On Sunday I may write a little before buying the papers at 7am

Q Is the early morning a time of day you enjoy or would you rather be asleep?
A Maybe my favourite time. Time to reflect and potter about.

Q Do you have difficulty getting to sleep and if so what finally sends you off?
A I usually fall asleep very easily, if not I listen to my breathing. (A very occasional anxiety attack may interfere with that.)

Q Best night’s sleep you can remember?
A Most always my nights’ sleep are good! I just don’t need that much.

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