Lifestyle: The Art of Sleeping Well

Sleep is something which, in phases, evades me. Most of the time I’m a pretty good sleeper. I can drift off within half an hour of so, and generally stay asleep most of the night. I’m a tad grumpy if I don’t get 7-8 hours a night, so it’s best for all those around me! That said, the stress of the last few months have meant my sleep has been disrupted.

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I’ll still fall asleep easily, but then I’ll be up and awake a few hours later. Still exhausted, but too many thoughts rushing around my mind to drop back off again. And that will be it, until around an hour before my alarm is due. I’ll listen to the planes starting to land at Heathrow again and know that I’ll feel dreadful in the morning. This will go on for a few weeks, myself getting more and more grumpy and irritable, then it will suddenly stop. I’ll go back to sleeping through. Peace will be restored.

I like to claim that my general good sleep can be credited to a decent bedtime routine. That said, with my recent stint of dreadful nights spent tossing and turning, I’ve switched things up a bit. Thankfully I’m back to *just about* sleeping properly, though the hot and muggy nights aren’t helping!

A Good Bed

Oh, this is key! I very rarely have a good nights sleep in a non-comfy bed – and as I’m quite particular that’s a bit of an issue. I like quite a firm mattress, nothing soft at all. I hate too thick-duvets. I’m one of those people who likes to have a summer weight duvet (say around 4.5tog) then a slightly thicker one for winter. And it can’t be higher than my neck.

I’ve been lucky so far in that all my university rooms and rental places have had fairly decent mattresses. In fact, the one in our current flat is almost too firm for me. I’m not entirely lying when I say the floor might be softer… We recently received an Eve Mattress Topper* and it’s shared the bed entirely. The mattress is still firm, but there’s now a supportive layer to sink into. It’s made getting up in the morning VERY difficult! I’m so, so gutted that we’re moving to a flat with a different sized bed now…
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Wind-Down Time

There’s no point me typing up a blog post, or watching an exciting TV drama (how gripping was Three Girls?!) and then trying to get straight off to the land of nod. It just won’t work. My brain will be too fired up and I’ll be up for hours with my mind racing. Better is to spend half an hour really getting ready for bed. I’ll light a candle, put on my fairy lights (I have a cheap-y Primark set wrapped around the ladder shelves that W built for me) and read a book.

Having said that, I’ve recently had to change the style of books I’m reading – turns out gripping psychological-thrillers aren’t conducive to a good night’s sleep!

Washing Before Bed

Linked in with wind-down time, I like to wash before bed. I actually shower in the evening, when I get home from work – I find this works best as I don’t have to rush, my hair is fully dry before sleeping, and (more selfishly) there’s a full tank of hot water! However I do like to redo my face before bed, washing with water (I’ll take my makeup off earlier) and moisturising. Obviously if it’s been a particularly warm evening I’ll also wash other more personal areas too!

My bed is so cosy this morning. If I am late for work I am blaming @sleepypeopleuk!

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Sleep Inducing Smells

Obviously lavender is high on the list for most people, but for me this breaks me out into insanely angry acne – it’s the worst thing for my skin! Instead one of my ‘sleepy’ smells is the Bodyshop’s Argan range. I find it so soothing and calming! I keep the Solid Oil by my bedside and apply a little to my wrists if I’m feeling particularly stressed. It’s also great rubbed into my nails and the ends of my hair!

Another one is malty, milky drinks. A favourite is warm milk with honey but, as I don’t have a microwave (and heating milk in a pan is a faff) I do like a mug of Horlicks made with boiling water and topped with plenty of milk. Of course, I’d prefer a hot chocolate but I’ve got to make some kind of an attempt at gaining a summer bod right…?

Cutting Out Sugar & Caffeine

This is something I really need to do – I’ve managed to cut down my cuppa addiction over the last few years, but since January my sugar habit has gone through the roof. I’ve used some difficult personal times as an excuse but now I’m craving sugar constantly and I’m pretty sure it’s affecting my sleep. I’ll keep you posted on how cutting down helps!

What do you do to make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

Travel: Italy with a Tomato Allergy

One of the things I was most worried about before our holiday was the eating part. The last time I accidentally exposed myself to a little bit of tomato resulted in the scariest 10 minutes of my life. And yet here I am going to a country where tomatoes are pretty much the favourite ingredient. Oops.

 photo Food in Venice 4_zpsi3upwtc8.jpgIn the end, it wasn’t too bad. Realistically my choices were limited, I’m not going to lie. I had a lot of ‘fried fish’ – a mix of prawns, calamari, and other seafood – which I’m not complaining about. I wasn’t particularly inspired by most white pizza options (cheese on bread – no thank you!), and carbonara was a safe bet.

 photo Pizza in Rome 4_zpscsmv3wdu.jpg photo Pizza in Rome 5_zpsxvci5uc0.jpgIn terms of what I ate, I found more local restaurants were actually easier in terms of they had more options – but it was more difficult to get across my allergy. I did manage to learn the Italian phrase I needed, but even then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable ordering something I was uncertain about! On our final night in Rome we found the most lovely Pizzeria, wonderfully decorated, friendly service, cheap wine and a whole menu of tomato free pizzas (plus more ‘normal’ ones!). I ended up choosing a mozzarella pizza with anchovy cream, radicchio and parmesan – and it was stunning.

 photo VenicePasta2_zpslyvdv34m.jpgI’ve had a lot of practise of eating out with allergies, and unfortunately it’s not all good. It says a lot that I felt more comfortable eating out in Italy than I do in the UK – clearly the new legislation isn’t going enough! My tips are;

  • Don’t be too adventurous. I tend to stick to meals I can tell are safe for me. Fine in Italy, in the UK unexpected garnishes can often cause an issue.
  • Inform and ask. Always, always, always inform a restaurant of your allergy even when picking ‘safe’ foods. This might end up getting you a special dish too – my favourite meal in Italy was a specially cooked Seafood Pasta. So good.
  • Take allergy meds. I never go anywhere without strong antihistamines – unfortunately doctors don’t take my allergy seriously so until I end up in hospital I don’t have an epipen.
  • Avoid exercise. You are more likely to have an allergic reaction if you consume the allergen before or after exercise – no idea why, but it makes sense!
  • Know your symptoms. For me, the first sign of a reaction (small or severe) is my chest going blotchy. Completely unattractive, but its great to have a warning sign!

 photo VenicePasta1_zpsrfsihdib.jpgIt’s not easy having an allergy or a food intolerance, so when Vital Footprint along with EatJoy sent me over their detailed document on exactly that I couldn’t help but share. So here it is, the Food Intolerance Guide (With Illustrations).

 photo Food Intolerance Guide_zpsxg812cys.pngIn essence, it offers a discussion about the differences between allergies, intolerances and gastrointestinal diseases. It talks about what causes intolerances, common ‘problem’ foods, and how to ease (and possibly eliminate) symptoms. It’s a highly useful document, so I definitely recommend giving it a read!

Do you suffer from an allergy or food intolerance? What are your tips for avoiding being affected? 

Fashion: Killing The Pain of Heels

I adore wearing heels, and since starting work in July I rarely wear flats. It might be the fact that I’m pretty short (I fit nicely under W’s armpit) but I just feel so much more confident and professional in a pair of heels! Plus my legs need all the slimming they can get in a pencil skirt…

 photo b4a646f0-d6a9-4042-a134-73f80d7b3ded_zpscvttl3xf.jpgThat said, heels can be painful, particularly if they don’t fit well. I’ve found that New Look (size 4) and M&S (size 3.5) fit me really well, though Primark (size 3) aren’t too bad, just a pain to get hold of! Even then after walking nearly two miles to work, wandering round town/the park at lunch and then walking back home it’s safe to say my feet definitely don’t feel as comfortable as they could! When I was offered the chance to try out some products from Premier Health I jumped at the chance to see whether I could help my poor little footies recover more easily in the evenings…

 photo b8034858-c93a-4726-a9cf-10ab899d59d9_zpszw0zbtug.jpg photo 37ad0017-b39d-4b17-8cfa-2d48e878c0bd_zpseljwjnns.jpgThe little red roller thing you see (I can’t find a link and can’t remember exactly what the packaging said it was!) has been a godsend for my aching arches. I have pretty flat feet so wearing heels is helping to correct this, but it’s painful. There are days when I curse my heels, but rolling this under foot really helps to take the pain away.

 photo b28054de-43d3-404e-88cd-ca7c73ab7c1c_zpsobvxmhmw.jpgThe foot care cream comes in a massive squeezy tube (far nicer for feet products than tubs – ahem Bodyshop) and is nicely moisturising, whilst sinking in quickly and feeling freshing. They also have a lighter and more minty-smelling lotion for ‘refreshing’ and ‘cooling’ which I am reserving for summer use.

 photo 438fc09b-518c-4262-b61a-e5d357346f86_zps2a2zddbh.jpgI’m even more in love with the smaller tube – it’s a heavy cream for cracks and dry skin (sorry!), and it is one of the best options I’ve used. I tend to use it before bed. Perhaps doesn’t help with heel wearing, but it will certainly go a long way to giving me presentable feet for flip-flop weather!

 photo 23c390ae-8272-4df1-a839-1d8df0423844_zpsfecdyoku.jpgOnto a long-standing favourite, and this spray from Bodyshop is great when you have a burning pain from wearing heels or going for a run. It’s instantly cooling and soothing, although it doesn’t smell great. And don’t forget to check where you are spraying it – it stings eyes like hell!

 photo faeba61d-3bee-4753-bbd0-943882918d21_zpsuabxromi.jpgSaving one of the best til last is this gel pad. I’ve never been a fan of these before as they slid around and made my shoes fit weirdly. This is slightly different to others in that it sticks to your foot and not your shoe – and it stays there all night. I wouldn’t use these everyday, but I’ve found them great for days when my team socialises after work. I’ll slip these on when leaving the office and feel like I’ve only just put my heels on.

 photo 477ed5b4-03be-405a-a613-a85ba9903af7_zps0de1zktf.jpgOf course, another way to help with the pain? Remember to walk to/from work in flats and take heels with me.

Do you wear heels regularly? What are your tips for relieving the pain of them?

Lifestyle: Exercising At Home

Gyms are all very well and good, but at £25+ a month I just can’t justify the cost. I was planning on signing up over my placement year, but said gym is the other side of town from where I am living, and I don’t feel comfortable with the walk in the dark. Sure, I still go swimming on occasional weekends but the majority of my exercise is done at home, in my teeny tiny room.

 photo 2015-02-08 17.08.52_zpsztvdyxqu.jpgI’m planning on heading out for proper runs as soon as the evenings lighten up – which shouldn’t be long now as there’s now enough light to see the keyhole when I get back (I was shining my phone at the door last week – note to self: ring council to fix street light). I’ll be using the Couch-to-5k program, but my real goal? I really, really, really want to run a 10k by the end of the year. I wasn’t going to mention it here, but I’m feeling that telling you all with give me motivation. Feel free to nag me if I get lazy!

 photo 2015-02-08 16.05.34_zpsfrjcw865.jpg photo 2015-02-08 16.04.36_zpsmpi05k2t.jpgI’ve also been loving the motivation from Youtube videos – this one is my current favourite although I find it really tough. I’m not really a huge fan of celebrity exercise DVDs, but I’ve enjoyed Charlotte’s 3 Minute Belly Blitz. The exercises are actually really fun, and it’s not too teeth-grittingly cheesy. 3 Minutes is a total lie, the Warm Up is 5+ minutes, but the actual routines are quick, fast-paced and seem to be having the desired effect. I find them fun too, with the best part being they don’t require too much space. Thanks to Cash Generator for sending me this!

 photo 2015-02-08 17.10.53_zpskjeaus1h.jpgI’ve also been doing some of these 3-day Challenges – my favourite being the Squat one. I do them twice a day. In the morning I use the time it takes to boil the kettle (now I’m on 150 I’m filling it up a bit more!), in the evening I just slot it in after whatever other workout I’ve done. I’ve been skipping rest days too, as I really struggle the next day! The Lunge one I’m taking slowly as my technique is poor, and I’m struggling through the Tricep Dips. I’m picking up an exercise mat this week to start on the Abs too!

 photo 2015-02-08 17.11.17_zpstde8mprn.jpgFinally, weights. I’m not after muscle, but I am after tone, and using light weights is actually making a real difference. I don’t do an awful lot with them at the moment, but just a few reps in between more fast-paced cardio bits is fine for now. Once I’ve lost weight I’ll be upping the toning!

Alongside this I’ve been eating healthier, taking low-fat soups to work and cutting down on the tea. Dinners are more packed with vegetables, and I’ve really cut down on white processed carbs. I must admit I am finding that tough, I was far more reliant on pasta and potato than I realised. Keep an eye out for more healthy recipes over the next few weeks…

Do you have a gym membership, or do you exercise at home? Tell me about your routine!