What you need to know about melatonin

© XtravaganT – Fotolia.com

Health writer Patsy Westcott tries to sort the facts from the fiction of our body’s own sleep hormone.

Melatonin, aka the Dracula hormone (it only comes out at night) is a natural anti-oxidant manufactured by the pineal gland, a tiny pine-cone shaped structure nestled in the centre of the brain.

The philosopher Descartes believed the pineal gland to be ‘the principal seat of the soul’ dubbing it ‘the third eye’. In the 21st century, melatonin is considered to be ‘the key to the gate of sleep’, stimulated by fading light at dusk and quelled by the brightness of dawn.

According to the US National Sleep Foundation the melatonin cycle kicks off around 9 p.m. when the pineal gland is switched on by our body clock, causing a steady climb of melatonin in the bloodstream. Levels stay high for around 12 hours until sunrise when they begin to decline reaching barely detectable levels at around 9 a.m.

Even if your pineal gland is switched on, melatonin is not produced unless you’re in dim light. Both sunlight and artificial light can halt melatonin release.  Note to self: tea lights and table lamps don’t just look better than a glaring central light – they could also help you sleep.

But that’s not all. Melatonin is also thought to have a wider role, which could explain why a good night’s sleep is so important for health. Research suggests that melatonin:

* may help preserve the function of the beta cells of the pancreas and so help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes
* may also help preserve bone mass, so protecting against osteoporosis
* may help protect the nerve cells against degeneration, so protecting against diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease
* and may help protect against the development of breast cancer – one possible reason for the finding that night work can increase the risk of this disease.

Melatonin production tends to wane as we get older, possibly because of calcification of the pineal gland. In older people with insomnia levels of melatonin are lower and the time of peak production is also delayed.

Supplementary benefits?
Because we produce melatonin naturally it is considered a dietary supplement in the US and you can buy it over-the-counter in health shops. According to surveys around 2% of US adults (over 4.5 million people) use it to aid sleep.

In the UK, however, it’s only available on prescription in the form of a controlled release tablet for short-term treatment of ‘primary insomnia’ (i.e. insomnia lasting at least a month not caused by an underlying psychological or physical disorder or drug treatment) in over-55s.  The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency cautions against unlicensed products from the States on the grounds that they may not meet manufacturing standards for medicines.

Supplementary melatonin is apparently most effective when there is little natural circulating melatonin. Dr Helen Burgess writing in the journal, Sleep, says, ‘Melatonin’s soporific effect is greater when it is taken during the biological day, as opposed to the biological night when (the body’s own) melatonin is secreted from the pineal gland.’ This is reflected in the US Sleep Foundation’s advice that, ‘Taking it at the “wrong” time of day may reset your biological clock in an undesirable direction.’

Nutrition expert Dr Marilyn Glenville cautions against buying melatonin supplements over the internet, saying, ‘Melatonin is a hormone and in my opinion, should be on prescription like any hormone medication.  Taking it requires a judgement as to whether you need it, for how long and whether it causes an imbalance with other hormones because of the body’s feedback mechanisms.’

The good news is that controlling levels of stress can help to boost melatonin without the need to take a supplement. Says Dr Glenville, ‘The stress hormone, cortisol opposes the action of melatonin so if stress levels are high then the melatonin level can be inadequate.’

See Patsy’s follow-up post for the best way to boost your melatonin naturally.

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So what do you eat in bed?

Image courtesy of Post Grad Problems: http://bit.ly/1rwslh8

I’ve never been a great one for eating in bed – the odd Rich Tea biscuit dunked into my morning cuppa – but it seems I’m in a minority. According to research commissioned by a bedding and furniture company called Betta Living almost a third of Brits say they regularly snack in bed.

It seems however that it puts off their longsuffering partners, 58% of whom regard it as the worst thing their beloved can do in the bedroom.  (The next worst being leaving dirty crockery and half drunk cups of tea by the bed though that is not nearly as bad in my book as leaving dirty socks or pizza boxes lying around, another reported niggle)

What the survey doesn’t reveal – pizza aside – is what the nations snackers are taking to bed with them. Nothing messy like a Chinese, I’m guessing – or maybe I’m wrong? KFC? Crisps? Cookies? Cupcakes? Chocolate bars? Chardonnay? Anything else beginning with C*? We’d love to know . . .

Actually our youngest did use to take cucumber and Camembert to bed. Don’t ask . . .

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Review: The Hoxton, Shoreditch

bedroom at HoxtonThe daddy of low cost urban hotels – in London, at least – the uber-cool Hoxton is a great place to stay though given the party atmosphere don’t expect to get much sleep . . .

The hotel: The word hip might have been invented for the Hoxton.
The room we stayed in: No. 407 but the rooms are much of a muchness. All decked out in tasteful grey and black with an Andy Warhol-style cushion on the bed
The bed: Definitely on the small side but judging by the outsize mirror alongside I doubt if much sleeping goes on. A Hypnos mattress makes for a comfortable night once you do hit the sack.
Bedding: Obligatory Egyptian white cotton sheets (260 thread count if you like to count threads). Duck down duvet and pillows
Noise: Fine unless the 24/7 party downstairs spills into your corridor. (It hasn’t while I’ve been staying there to be fair.)
Light: dark enough not to disturb
Clean?: Yes, very
Bathroom: Small but nicely got up with a good power shower and free Pear’s soap which you’re encouraged to take away. (Small gesture but everyone loves a freebie)

Breakfast bag
Other reasons to stay
* Uber cool Shoreditch – you’re within easy walking distance of some excellent bars and restaurants including Merchant Tavern, Mark Hix’s Tramshed, Lyle’s, L’anima and er hem, my son’s restaurant Hawksmoor Spitalfields
* Free breakfast aka “Hox nosh from the breakfast pixies” (this is how they talk at the Hoxton). OK, it’s not huge (a banana, a granola-topped yoghurt and a small carton of orange juice (sorry, OJ) but it’s enough to kickstart your day. And there’s decent coffee and tea in the room, milk and water in the fridge and – hallelujah – a dish to put your used teabag on (why don’t more hotels think of this?)
* Large telly and – cooler still – a retro Roberts radio (I wonder how many of those get nicked?)
* A decent desk. Books (or a free copy of the Guardian) to read if you’re switching off your electronic devices. Free wifi if you’re not
* Free bicycle hire

* Hard to find a public space that isn’t overrun with bearded twenty-somethings
* Irritating habit of taking £50 off your credit card ‘in case you order something’. But they’re not the only ones …

Hoxton bed 2Cost: A bit pricey unless you manage to snag one of the deals they occasionally offer to members of the mailing list. In general the best night to stay is a Sunday when rooms can be had for £99 if you book early enough. Midweek reverts to City prices – reckon on £269 a night  – if you can even get a room. The new Holborn Hoxton opening next month seems a bit cheaper though some rooms seem quite a bit smaller than the Shoreditch branch.

Would I go again?
Not only would I but I have. But only if there’s a deal.

The Hoxton is at 81 Great Eastern St, London, EC2A 3HU.

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Do sleep apps help you sleep? Monica Shaw tests out Fitbit and Sleep Cycle

photo 2
I’m a data-driven person – I like numbers, charts, graphs, and I especially like collecting data on my daily activities, particularly exercise and food. Most recently I’ve turned my data appetite towards sleep and have been experimenting with a couple of sleep tracking devices to see how I’m doing. How do they compare?

FitBit One

The FitBit One is a little device that I wear 24-7 which is like an uber pedometer, tracking the number of steps I’ve walked, floors I’ve climbed and general activity levels throughout the day. It can also track sleep.

The sleep function is pretty simple to use. The Fitbit has a small button (visible above on the right). Press and hold the button and it starts tracking your sleep. Press and hold the button again to stop sleep tracking. The Fitbit reports back (via an online dashboard or an app on your phone) on the time it took you to fall asleep, how many times you awoke during the night, and how many total hours you slept.

Fitbit reportLooking at the picture above, you can see a couple of pitfalls here – the Fitbit seems to count the off-and-on dozing of early morning (i.e. hitting the snooze alarm) as times awake, which is fine, but it can make it appear as if you’ve had a miserable night’s sleep. Also, what if you forgot to hit the Fitbit button again when you wake up (as I’ve often done)? This can give you other wonky readings. Granted, you can adjust this manually in the app, but who can be bothered?

My other beef with the Fitbit is having to wear the device on my body while I’m sleeping. You can clip it onto your pyjamas somewhere, or wear a bracelet with a pocket for the Fitbit, but either way it can cause mild discomfort which could otherwise detract from that much sought after good night’s sleep.

Having said all this, I’m a big fan of the Fitbit and have been wearing it almost continuously for about two years. I’ve found it hugely motivating (see this post on how I’ve increased my activity levels since wearing it). However, during all of that time I’ve only used the sleep function for maybe one or two weeks total. That should tell you something.

Sleep Cycle iPhone App

photo 1
Sleep Cycle is a pretty nifty iPhone app that does a lot more than just track hours slept and times awake. It also works as an alarm clock and lets you track sleep in relation to other user-defined metrics (e.g. “drank alcohol”, “stressful day”, “exercised”, “went to bed on a full stomach”, etc.).

The functionality is pretty simple: tell Sleep Cycle when to start tracking, optionally set an ideal waking time, put the phone somewhere next to you on your bed, then away you go. The phone tracks your sleep quality throughout the night (from Awake to Sleep to Deep Sleep) and will trigger its alarm so that it goes off at a time when your body is naturally more prepared to wake up.

There are some obvious pitfalls to this sleep app, the major one being that you have to have your phone in bed with you (plugged into the wall). I can deal with sharing my bed with a small object (I often fall asleep with my book next to me) but the iPhone in particular is distracting in itself. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night I almost instinctively switch on my iPhone and see if I got any email – surely that can’t be good for my sleep?

photo 3
What I do like about Sleep Cycle is its ability to spot trends. That is, does “drinking coffee” or “exercise” affect my sleep? Though the data currently suggests that alcohol doesn’t have a negative impact on my sleep, which I intuitively know isn’t the case.

The big problem with both Sleep Cycle and Fitbit is the physical intrusion which some argue can have an adverse affect on sleep. I definitely find this the case with Sleep Cycle, in fact, I’ll be making a move today to institute “no iPhones in bed” as a general life rule.

Further, I question the accuracy of both of these devices. I already mentioned Fitbit’s rogue early morning readings. Another person reported in a recent MarketWatch article that the Fitbit “would sometimes count time when he was lying still in bed trying to doze off as time spent sleeping”.

As data hungry as I am, I find that the sleep data hasn’t really helped me much on the path to a good night’s sleep. What’s better is simply learning how to relax, be it through meditation or simply reading a book, and keeping my sleeping space as free from distraction as possible.

Monica and RockyMonica Shaw is a food and fitness enthusiast and the author of Smarter, Fitter a blog that’s all about the pursuit of feeling awesome – through real food, an active life and good people to share it with. She’s also written an ebook on dairy, soy and gluten-free smoothies: Smarter Fitter Smoothies.

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How do you get kids back into a school bedtime routine?

Kind versteckt sich unter der Decke

Photo © npdesignde – Fotolia.com

With the new school year starting next week there have been a lot of articles online and in the press about how to get kids back into a regular school night routine and in bed at a reasonable time.

The general advice is to inch bedtime forward by a quarter of an hour each night but given that most children will have been cavorting around all evening during the summer that still runs the risk of leaving them sleep-deprived. Even a nine year old needs 10 hours at night according to the NHS website and 14 year olds 9 hours. According to a 2008 government report compiled by Professor Tanya Byron, Safer Children in a Digital World, 65% of young children don’t get enough sleep

The more important issue, it seems to me is what they do once they’re actually in their rooms and that’s tougher nut to crack. Our kids are all way beyond school age now but I remember our youngest in particular watching TV for far longer than he should have done – maybe an explanation as to why he’s still so nocturnal in his habits. (Bed about 4 or 5am, up about 12-1, when he can get away with it. Fortunately he’s a photographer)

I wonder if the more effective solution wouldn’t introduce a family-wide ban on electronic devices from this weekend – or at least try to limit them. And that means – yes – parents too. So no TVs or tablets in bedrooms for anyone. No computers or phones either, ideally, but that’s tricky in households with text-crazy teens.

Would it be better from a sleep point of view if kids did their homework in a living room rather than a bedroom? Difficult when space is tight and hard-pressed parents are struggling to get other children to bed – or even snatch some time on their own.

It’s certainly a good idea to discuss the issue as a family, explain the reason for your concern (that kids will find it hard to wake up and feel sleepy at school) and make them part of the decision-making process.

The ideal solution of course, is to start good habits young and introduce firm rules about when devices can or can’t be used. And set a good example ourselves. Even a 5 year old is capable of pointing out the inconsistency of what they’re being asked to do and how mum and dad behave . . .

Here are a few other links you might find useful:

7 ways to wake your child for school

Claire Thomson’ of 5 o’clock apron’s post on getting 3 young children to sleep

Your Back to School checklist for better sleep – Huffington Post

Break your holiday sleep cycle: nine top tips to get back into your usual routine – Daily Mirror

Parents reading this – what’s your solution to this problem?

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Review: The Edinburgh Residence

Edinburgh ResidenceThe Edinburgh Residence sounds like a home for retired headmistresses but it’s a quiet little gem of a hotel in the West End of the city.

The hotel: Baronial rather than boutique but none the worse for it. This is Edinburgh we’re talking about
The room we stayed in: No. 1, a large basement suite but the way the hotel is arranged it felt like a first floor looking out over the rooftops
The bed: Two twins put together. Firm-ish mattresses – I’d say a few years old but perfectly comfortable
Bedding: Good quality sheets. 10.5 tog super king duvet but pillows smelt oddly oily. Hair oil from the previous occupant? Not on all four pillows, surely. Maybe oily feathers (they were goosedown) – perhaps the wrong sort of goose? Not pronounced enough to be unpleasant but mildly distracting
Noise: Blissfully quiet as it’s the only room in that part of the hotel. And carpeted.
Light: A glimmer but not bad at all. The curtains were fully lined
Clean?: Yes.
Bathroom: Luxurious – with a jacuzzi bath and a very efficient shower once one had regulated the terrifyingly hot water.

Other reasons to stay
* Within easy walking distance of practically everything in central Edinburgh and Haymarket station
* Exceptionally nice helpful staff
* Good wifi
* Super-comfy sofa
* Walk-in wardrobe
* Large free bottle of mineral water. Nespresso machine. Fresh milk in fridge

toaster noticeDownsides?
* Honestly hard to think of one apart, perhaps, from the pillows. And we could always have asked for them to be changed
* You can’t take your own toaster, should you bizarrely want to. (There was a notice to that effect)

Cost: A bit extravagant, I must admit. £230 a night without breakfast. BUT it was a suite, and it was my birthday and it was during the Edinburgh festival where rooms were going for over £400 so we convinced ourselves we’d got a bargain. Because of the way the place is run like a kind of timeshare rooms appear to be booked up months in advance but they do get regular cancellations. Expect to pay around £150 at any other time of year, less if you’re lucky. (Last April we paid £120 a night I seem to remember.)

Would I go again?:
Definitely. It’s a really quiet spot in an attractive part of the city and very well run.

The Edinburgh Residence is at 7 Rothesay Terrace, Edinburgh EH3 7RY
0131 274 7405

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Does lack of sleep really make you fat? Patsy Westcott investigates . . .

figur mit übergewicht vor spiegelMagazines, newspapers and the internet are awash with claims that lack of shut-eye piles on the pounds. And at first sight it seems pretty cut and dried. As we’ve become collectively more sleep-deprived our weight has soared in parallel. Numerous studies following people over several years have linked short sleep (usually less than seven hours) to increased weight – at least in children, teenagers and younger adults (the link is weaker in over 55s).

In principle there are good reasons why lack of sleep could push up the number on your scales. If you’re sleep-deprived it’s easier to slump on the sofa than to get out to the gym or take a healthy walk, decreasing the ‘calories out’ side of the weight balance equation.  There’s also evidence that even a couple of days of lost sleep (four hours in most studies) upsets the balance of appetite-regulating hormones such as leptin, which quells appetite, and ghrelin, which stimulates it, making us hungrier – especially for comforting high-carb foods. It’s even speculated that overeating when you’re short of zzzz is your body’s way of trying to restore sleep, given that higher food intake promotes sleep. An intriguing suggestion. Recent studies meanwhile suggest that sleep loss may disrupt how our bodies deal with glucose and insulin, leading us to pile on weight, especially around the waist, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Case proven then? Erm, not quite. Unfortunately much existing research is flawed. For a start sleep is just one of a raft of behaviours examined in many studies, making it virtually impossible to tease out whether it’s lack of sleep or something else that is the culprit in weight gain. What’s more, most studies use tick-box questionnaires to assess participants’ sleeping habits – a notoriously unreliable way to measure anything, let alone sleep.

Also many studies ask only about night time sleep – not very helpful in people who nap or work shifts.  In fact one study found that obese participants were more likely to take day time naps meaning that while short night time sleep was linked with obesity there was no link with overall length of sleep.

Just to confuse matters further most studies have been performed on young, normal-weight, healthy men. We don’t really know what the effects of lack of sleep are on women, older people or those who are already overweight.

Even studies of appetite-regulating hormones don’t all point in the same direction – with some showing an increase in hunger hormones and others not. And is short sleep a cause or effect? Overweight increases the risk of sleep-stealing conditions like osteoarthritis, heartburn, asthma and heart failure. It also puts you at risk of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a major cause of snoring, when sleep is interrupted by multiple pauses in breathing.

Frustratingly, there are few clinical trials looking at the effects of sleep deprivation on weight or, more to the point, on whether longer sleep can aid weight loss, which could settle the matter one way or the other.

So it seems that, despite what you might read, it’s too early to blame your sleeping habits for burgeoning weight. We’ll be keeping a look out for the latest research on this fascinating question, so watch this space.

Image © GiZGRAPHICS – Fotolia.com. Patsy Westcott, co-founder of this blog, is a health writer and nutritionist.

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What on earth is ‘sleep hygiene’?

Hotel RoomThis sleep business has some funny jargon, I’ve been discovering. It took me a while to find out that sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnoea as the NHS puts it was a particularly acute type of snoring* then people keep banging on about ‘sleep hygiene’.

What on earth did they mean? Grubby sheets, failure to shower before bedtime, dust under the bed? No – turns out it refers to your pre-sleep routine or basically good bedtime habits that will promote a restful night’s sleep

These are pretty well catalogued if you look at any sleep site but rather harder to put into practice

* having a comfortable bed with a pillow that suits the way you sleep and appropriate bedding for the time of year (i.e. not too heavy in summer)

* having a cool, well-ventilated room and curtains or blinds that block out natural light and keeping the lights low before bed-time

* having a regular bedtime and waking-up time so your body knows when to go to sleep. These should enable you to get enough sleep: opinions differ on this but in the region of 7-8 hours

* avoiding drinks that are high in caffeine, particularly strong coffee, from early afternoon onwards

* avoiding drinking too much alcohol (that’s obviously good for other reasons) especially just before bed

* avoiding heavy meals in the evening, again particularly close to bedtime

* not catching up on sleep late in the day. A short post-lunch nap is OK but not a 5pm crash-out

* taking some outdoor exercise during the day – preferably before or straight after work rather than in the evening

* and – probably most important of all – switching off all electronic devices including tablets and phones at least an hour before bed-time. That apparently includes watching TV in bed 😦

Daunting, huh? But possible as I outlined in an earlier post though there are still a number of aspects I’m working on ….

There’s a useful longer post on the patient.co.uk website.

*although there is a critical difference according to this very informative NHS video

Image © jolopes – Fotolia.com

Posted in Bedrooms, Sleep remedies | 1 Comment

Tried and Tested: The Fine Bedding Company’s Breathe duvet

Breathe duvetEven though I now realise I was a total novice when it came to bedding BSB (Before the Sleep Blog) I did at least change from a winter to a summer duvet so I was intrigued to see whether my choice – a Debenhams 4.5 tog goose feather and down – was the best one for warmer weather when the Fine Bedding Company offered to send me one of their new ‘Breathe’ duvets to try.

It came in its own posh little carrying case, unfolding to a light, billowy quilt which was surprisingly light for 7 tog. The filling is a mixture of something deeply secret called Smartfil®, blended with modal, a fibre derived from natural wood pulp.

I confess I found it a little hot for high summer but then we often sleep with just a sheet or a light blanket at this time of year. I’d probably go for the 4.5 tog version although can imagine the 7 tog would be perfect for spring or early autumn if one could afford or had the space to indulge in a duvet wardrobe. (They also have 10.5 and 13.5 tog duvets in the range.)

The quilt finish was so silky I almost didn’t want to put a duvet cover on it and in fact wondered, given that the material was designed to keep you cool, whether it wasn’t counterproductive to put a layer of cotton over it, however fine. As it’s fully washable it would be tempting not to though I guess it would lose some of its texture and pristine whiteness through repeated washing. Particularly if you’re the sort of person who spills tea or has children romping over your bed.

Although I’m still wedded to my goosedown duvet Breathe certainly has one of the best synthetic fillings I’ve tried with the cosy wrap-around feel of a down-filled duvet. if you had allergy issues or find feathers and down a little rustly it would be an ideal buy.

Breathe quilts cost from £45 from the Fine Bedding Company website.

* Incidentally the Fine Bedding Company has launched a clever campaign to encourage children to make their own Duvet Dens, a useful diversion during the loooong summer holidays. Nice idea.


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Sleeping at festivals: tips from a veteran festival-goer

camping at GlastonburyWith the summer festival season in full swing you may wonder if you can say goodbye to any prospect of sleep. Not so, says experienced camper Lea Parkyn – though some earplugs will undoubtedly help . . .

“I have a dear friend who was kind enough to stare at his computer screen long enough to bag us last minute tickets for Glastonbury 2014 in the ticket redraw which meant that we were less prepared this year than we otherwise might have been. By ‘prepared’ I mean having booked a space for a caravan or camper van and obviously having bought said caravan or campervan with us.

Initially we were game for roughing it in the refugee camp that the camping grounds at Glastonbury come to resemble, but as the weekend grew nearer and the weather less certain I wimped out and booked us a last minute ‘pitch your own’ spot with The Pop-Up Motel which operates ‘luxury camping’ at Glastonbury.

This proved to be the best decision (and the best £250 we could have spent as the weather did what it always does for Glastonbury and it rained – a lot – with some pretty spectacular thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.

There were three massive bonuses of having booked ‘posh camping’;

1. It meant we were able to take our wet weather camping kit and good camping mats which meant that we were dry and comfy when it came to sleeping,
2. Posh camping comes with hot showers and clean toilets within walking distance which meant that we were clean and not bursting for the loo (and afraid to go because they were so dreadful),
3. Each of the ‘pitch your own’ pitches is 12’x12’ which meant that we were sufficiently far from our neighbours that they didn’t disrupt us.

Tent at GlastonburyDespite all of the loveliness and the mile or so between the Pop-Up Motel and the festival site, we still needed earplugs to block out the noise to sleep, I think if we were on-site, with the late night shenanigans of the maniacs that party hard, you can write off any prospect of sleep (except for on the floor of the comedy tent during a quiet set) for the duration of the festival unless you are so tanked on booze that you’d sleep standing up!

As it was, smug in posh camp land, with ears full of foam and exhausted from too much partying (and the long walk) we slept quite well. It was the first outing for our new camping mats which are made by NaturalMat for Camping with Soul; they’re British made using recycled jeans and organic lambswool, covered with a washable, cotton-ticking cover and are pretty comfy.

camping mattressHaving slept in a nylon tent at Glastonbury I did find that the mats got cold and so, for their next outing, we bought some cheap foam roll mats to give us some insulation and help with a luxurious night’s sleep. It worked a treat, the mats stayed snug and we were comfortable and cosy in our temporary home.

We took our bell tent to the Port Eliot festival as the camping there is (somewhat) easier and we knew that the weather was due to be glorious. It was the right decision as there is nothing quite as nice as waking up to the cream canvas of the tent aglow with the sunrise. In hot weather I actually prefer sleeping in my canvas tent to sleeping in my house; I find that the cool, fresh air makes it so much easier to sleep when the weather is hot and humid and on our first night, before the festival kicked off, we slept really, really well.

Bell Tent at Port EliotDespite being the most idyllic festival in the calendar we were back to needing earplugs once the festival kicked off. I had forgotten them but fortunately we always carry an emergency pair in our holdall which I selflessly gave to Jim as I was equipped with a belly-full of booze and that lovely, torpid state of calm that seems to descend upon you at Port Eliot. It worked, I slept wonderfully until being woken up by the naughty boys in the tent next door who’d stayed up late enjoying the party in the woods but they were  so funny trying to be quiet that they were excused and I drifted off back to sleep. 

So, irrespective of camping gear and preparedness, I have established that the only way to sleep at a festival is through sufficient intoxication or using ‘festival strength’ foam earplugs. I think that camping out of the way of those that party hard probably helps but if that’s not an option I’d be inclined to leave the tent at home and stay up all night dancing. After all, you can sleep when you’re back home . . .

You can follow Lea and her husband Jim on Twitter @Noseyparkyn and @JimParkyn

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