Tag: sleep

How Often Should You Wash Your Bedding? A Guide To Dirty Duvet Covers

It’s hot. Some of us have been sweaty. It’s a good time of year to consider how often we change our bedsheets – those potential breeding grounds for microscopic life that could even threaten our health.

Allowing dust, sweat and dirt to build-up for just two weeks can be enough to leave you with a scratchy throat or the sniffles, according to New York University microbiologist Philip Tierno – especially if you suffer with allergies. And for those who tend to leave their bedding to fester unchanged, it’s worth noting that doing so can allow sweat and dirt to seep into your pillows and mattress. 

So how often should we be stripping and washing our duvet covers, pillowcases and sheets?

[Read More: How many hours sleep do you really need? And what happens if you don’t get them?]

How often should we change our sheets?

The general consensus is that we should all be changing our sheets – including duvet covers and pillow cases – once a week, argues Tierno. However Professor Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, tells HuffPost UK she doesn’t believe leaving your sheets on for a few extra weeks will lead to health problems.

But, doing so might not look or feel great: Prof Curtis advises people to change their bedding once a week for “aesthetic reasons”. 

[Read more from HuffPost Life: The Sleep Edition here]

Should we wash our duvets, too?

We should be giving our duvet a six-monthly clean or – at the very least – washing it once a year, according to The Fine Bedding Company. Bacteria and bodily fluids build up in duvets over a short period of time, the company argues, with duvet covers and pyjamas merely acting as a “first line of defence” against sweat.

How you wash your duvet will depend on two things: the type of duvet you have and how big your washing machine is.

Obviously, check for care instructions on your duvet first and follow any instructions. But in general, natural-filled duvets (think: feathers and down) should not be washed and dried at home, regardless of the capacity or capability of your machine. Most dry cleaners will launder this type of bedding and it’s essential that natural duvets are thoroughly dried – otherwise the filling may start to rot.

[Read More: I said I wouldn’t co-sleep – and then I did it with both my children]

When it comes to synthetic duvets, these are usually fine to wash at home. For larger or higher tog duvets – ie your winter ones – it’s usually recommended that they are washed in a large capacity machine. For example, a 9kg drum should comfortably accommodate a king-sized duvet. (If your washing machine isn’t big enough, try taking your duvet to a local launderette.)

What about washing pillows?  

Yep, they should get cleaned, too. A 2005 study analysing fungal spores on 10 different pillows that were between 1.5 and 20 years old, found that every single one had four to 16 different species of fungus living in it. 

Lead researcher Professor Ashley Woodcock, from the University of Manchester, said at the time: “We know that pillows are inhabited by the house dust mite which eats fungi, and one theory is that the fungi are in turn using the house dust mites’ faeces as a major source of nitrogen and nutrition. There could therefore be a ‘miniature ecosystem’ at work inside our pillows.”

It’s recommended that pillows are washed more frequently than duvets: around four times a year – or every three months, according to The Fine Bedding Company. 

Most pillows filled with synthetic fibres can be machine-washed at 40oC or 60oC – but check the care label first. Natural pillows typically require professional cleaning.

If you don’t want to wash them regularly, adding a pillow protector can prolong the need to wash the actual pillow itself, and these can be washed frequently and easily.

35 Tweets About Sleep Struggles That Are Way Too Real

Insomnia. Anxiety. Night terrors. These are just a few of the many issues people commonly experience that prevent a good night’s sleep. 

Sleep disorders and conditions that affect sleep can be a serious problem, and should definitely be addressed by a doctor for treatment. But many people who deal with them also use their struggles as a source of humour.

We’ve rounded up 35 funny tweets about sleep problems to help you feel a little less alone if you experience them too. Whether you find yourself unable to fall asleep or have major issues once you do get some shut-eye, you’ll hopefully relate to these. 

– brush teeth
– set alarm
– oh god I’m on twitter
– take melatonin
– close eyes
– I’m still on twitter???
– omg after death there’s no moment where I’ll realize I died, l just won’t exist & won’t even know
– fave a tweet
– it’s been 4 hrs & sleep will never come

— Nicole Silverberg (@nsilverberg) June 26, 2018

me: time to sleep

anxiety: time for my one-woman show

— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) May 30, 2019

do you think insomnia is punishment for begging to stay up late all the time when i was a child

— Bec Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) March 23, 2014

GOD: [inventing sleep] make it the best thing & give it to evryone
ANGEL: aw thats nice
GOD: and make it imposible to experience or remember

— jonny sun (@jonnysun) August 11, 2016

Until I started experiencing insomnia I had no idea it was possible to be this furious with each of my pillows individually

— Erin *crosstalk* Ryan (@morninggloria) June 3, 2018

I only use high thread count sheets to ensure that I have the most luxurious night terrors

— Eliza Bayne (@ElizaBayne) May 23, 2013

some personal news: I’ve started sleepwalking again. please hide your candy because I will eat it

— Sam H. Escobar (@myhairisblue) April 11, 2016

You call it insomnia, I call it no one bothering me while I eat all the snacks time.

— Amanda Mancino-Williams (@Manda_like_wine) July 9, 2016

Any jeans can be Pajama Jeans if you have narcolepsy!

— Megan Amram (@meganamram) October 3, 2011

Doctor: How are his night terrors?
Me: Well…they’re called night terrors.

— dadpression (@Dadpression) August 6, 2016

One thing I’m passionate about is ruining a trip by being unable to sleep the night before I leave.

— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) January 2, 2019

The best part about insomnia is it gives you more time to win every single argument you’ve ever had with someone in your head.

— Kashana (@kashanacauley) March 10, 2018

been doing one of those highly successful people habits. keeping my bed made. keeping my bed made by never going to sleep in the first place by having sleep disorder by way of highly successful anxiety

— tara shoe (@tarashoe) December 4, 2018

me: tomorrow’s
a long day gotta
get a good night’s
sleep. my brain: pic.twitter.com/1RMB4EOogR

— kim monte 🏳️‍🌈 (@KimmyMonte) June 30, 2019

I can’t sleep
I’m bored
It’s hot
It’s hot
It’s hot
I’m bored
It’s hot
It’s hot
Everything I’ve ever said to anyone is terrible

— insomnia

— Elizabeth Hackett (@LizHackett) August 28, 2017

should I use my insomnia for good or for evil or for eating half a pack of string cheese

— Chelsea Nachman (@chelseanachman) September 27, 2015

Was up all night wondering if dogs get insomnia.

— EnvyDaTropic™ (@envydatropic) July 16, 2018

One time at a hotel, I ate a mini fridge chocolate bar, while sleepwalking.
My boyfriend at the time saw me do it and said he didn’t want to wake me to tell me not to eat the chocolate bar cause it would start an argument.
We argued about letting me eat a $12 Bounty bar anyway.

— Jennifer McAuliffe (@JenniferJokes) May 21, 2018

Insomnia: “Cat’s In The Cradle” is a catchy tune, isn’t it?
Insomnia: 🎶The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon—
Me: I hate you.

— The Personification of Nevil (@TheAlexNevil) October 23, 2018

At the end of the day, my body is basically just a device for converting whiskey into night terrors.

— Julius Sharpe (@juliussharpe) May 10, 2012

My look today can best be described as I didn’t sleep well last night.

— EnvyDaTropic™ (@envydatropic) June 19, 2019

Classy dog names:
Joan of Bark
Shia LeWoof
Charles Barkley
Woof Blitzer
Anderson Pooper
Arf-ony Hopkins
Kate Barkinsale

yes I have insomnia

— Robin Thede (@robinthede) November 25, 2016

2:00 AM – can’t sleep
3:00 AM – can’t sleep
4:00 AM – can’t sleep
5:00 AM – can’t sleep
5:57 AM – falls in slow motion down a dreamlike rabbit hole… the kind of sleep you only see in luxury mattress commercials
6:00 AM – ALARM

— Elizabeth Hackett (@LizHackett) May 5, 2019

When you are awake at 4:30 in the morning for no GD reason and you check Twitter to find that (on the day you need her most) your good pal Ambien is being dragged through the mud pic.twitter.com/Uw7OB4ZYy1

— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) May 30, 2018

When people see you lying down with your eyes closed they still ask “Are you sleeping?” Me: “NO I’M TRAINING TO DIE.”

— Joshua. (@SkaterJoshh) April 23, 2013

My wife just goes to sleep when she gets tired and it’s the most impressed I ever am by anyone doing anything.

— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) August 8, 2017

Me: I’m going to sleep now!

My insomnia: That’s cute, that really is.

— Jenny Jaffe (@jennyjaffe) June 4, 2015

wonders if night terrors experienced during daytime napping should be considered deleted scenes. I was on the edge of my bed the whole time!

— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) September 13, 2009

My grotesque sleeping schedule is a drawback on every day except New Year’s Eve, when I can use my insomniac skill set to pass as a Young.

— Lauren O’Neal (@laureneoneal) January 1, 2019

Sleep study in the streets, sleep apnea in the sheets

— Quinn Sutherland (@ReelQuinn) October 18, 2015

Me dropping my 10 yr off at her first day of school.
Me: Have fun.
Her: Bye. Where are you going?
Me: Back to sleep.

— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) September 4, 2014

thanks to my newly returned insomnia i just discovered that phone sex lines A – still exist, and B – still have awful commercials

— tracy the emotional support penguin (@brokeymcpoverty) September 24, 2018

Local Insomniac Has Been Looking Forward To Collapsing Into Bed All Day, Suddenly Wired At 10 PM, More At 11

— Anne Thériault (@anne_theriault) January 3, 2019

ME: Why can’t I sleep?
CUP OF COFFEE FROM 4 PM: I’ve put together a list of everyone who might be mad at you.

— Elizabeth Hackett (@LizHackett) February 20, 2018

People with insomnia, how do you sleep at night

— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) July 18, 2014

“Living With” is a guide to navigating conditions that affect your mind and body. Each month in 2019, HuffPost Life will tackle very real issues people live with by offering different stories, advice and ways to connect with others who understand what it’s like. In July, we’re covering sleep and sleep disorders. Got an experience you’d like to share? Email wellness@huffpost.com.

Wearing This Eye Mask To Bed Every Night Has Transformed My Sleep

Honestly, it’s life changing’ is a regular series where we talk about the weird and wonderful possessions we can’t imagine life without. Think of it as an ode to the mundane, bizarre and, sometimes, wholly unnecessary products in our lives.

Call me a princess: but I can’t sleep without an eye mask anymore.

I mean, I could – if I really had to. But why would I?

My obsession started when I first started dating my boyfriend who, in the 18 months before we moved in together, lived in two places with bedrooms that were as bright as the sun. The first had the kind of thin white blind you only normally see in GP surgeries; the second was on the top floor, with huge double doors leading out to a blindingly bright terrace, uselessly framed by – get this – UNLINED curtains. Sleeping was basically impossible: unless you wore an eye mask.

Now our room is pitch black at night, but every evening we still follow the same ritual. Climb into bed, plump up the pillows, put on an eye mask, turn away to sleep with our backs to each other. (Obvs, because this is clearly the best sleeping position). We probably look like weirdos, but who cares? No one can see us – and we certainly can’t see each other.

[Read More: How many hours sleep do you really need? And what happens if you don’t get them?]

I don’t think I’ve ever slept as well, and if you came for my eye mask I would not hesitate to fight you off. It has transformed my nights – and my mornings.

That gorgeous spring sunshine peeking through the crack in the curtains? Shut that shit down with your eye mask. Does your partner get up annoyingly early to go to the gym every day (not that I’m pointing fingers)? An eye mask will shield you from the awakening blaze of the Big Light.

[Read More: Forget The Big Light, Here Are 10 Of The Best Table Lamps]

Not only does it block out any chinks of brightness determined to rouse you from slumber, but I’m convinced just putting an eyemask on, helps send me to sleep. In restorative yoga, you sometimes use a weighted eye pillow – a fancy way of saying bean bag, albeit one scented with lavender – to stimulate the vagus nerve and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (the one that makes your heart rate slow and generally chills your body out). I genuinely feel putting on an eye mask helps stimulate that.

And it also keeps me from checking my phone.

This is probably a good time to explain that I am a MASSIVE loser. I lose everything, all the time. Purses, phones, bank cards, keys – you know where this is going: I’ve even lost eye masks. If I go on holiday, or sleep away from my own bed, I take my eye mask with me. Sometimes they don’t come back. So I’ve tried my fair share of eye masks in my time – more than I’d care to admit – and know the good from the bad. 

I’ve tried my fair share of eye masks in my time – more than I’d care to admit – and know the good from the bad.”

I have two joint favourites: a pink leopard print Slip mask which was silky and luxurious AF (a gift from my BF that I stupidly lost on holiday) and an Elizabeth Scarlett one, which I bought myself (because I’m not made of money).

The latter has a cute jungle leaf print and a polyester velvet underside, which is really soothing on your eyes. And it’s filled with 63% lavender (and 37% polyester) so it smells delicious. And lavender helps you sleep, so.

[Read more from HuffPost Life: The Sleep Edition here]

Unlike previous eye masks I’ve owned, it isn’t too tight for my massive head (cheers for the morning headaches Oliver Bonas) and it’s pretty safe to wear at your in-laws (unlike the one that says “fuck off” across your eyelids).

At £20, it’s certainly more expensive than some on the market – especially those cheap and nasty ones you get for free on long-haul flights – but it’s money well spent. If you work out the cost per wear, and make sure you don’t lose it, it’s a bargain. Can you put a price on a good night’s sleep? I certainly can. 

Jungle Leaf Eye Mask, Elizabeth Scarlett, Amara, £20

We all work hard to earn our money – so it shouldn’t feel like hard work to spend it well. At HuffPost Finds we’ll help you find the best stuff that deserves your cash, from the ultimate lipstick to a durable iron to replace the one that broke (RIP). All our choices are completely independent but we may earn a small commission if you click a link and make a purchase.

I Said I Wouldn’t Co-Sleep – And Then I Did It With Both My Children

Before I became a parent, I read dozens of articles about co-sleeping.

I weighed up the pros and cons and swore I’d never do it, for fear of SIDS. Around five babies a week die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the UK, and studies have found that sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of cot death fivefold.

The most recent statistics date from 2016 – when 219 babies died, up from 195 in 2015. I’d read all the headlines, and when I had my daughter, I was petrified.

As I watched my bump grow and we bought new baby paraphernalia – including a Moses basket – I was determined that I would stick to my bed, and she would stick to hers. I’d read the NHS guidelines and I knew that for the first six months, the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as its parents, rather than in the same bed. 

[Read more: Co-Sleeping Safety And Risks: What Parents Need To Know]

The reality was less straightforward. I was breastfeeding, and my daughter was a light sleeper. She’d fall asleep while I fed her sitting straight up in bed, for fear I’d fall asleep too and the worst would happen.

Eventually, so tired I could barely focus, I’d pick her up and place her in the Moses basket, holding my breath so as not to risk waking her. But every time I laid her down, her eyes would pop right open.

I spent those first few months getting little to no sleep at all, and feeling increasingly exhausted. And then I read the advice of The Lullaby Trust, and realised that I could co-sleep – so long as I did it safely.

They publish FAQs, advice and a list of circumstances in which you shouldn’t co-sleep. Top of the list: when either parent smokes, or has drunk alcohol or taken drugs. We passed those first checks.

[Read More: How many hours sleep do you really need? And what happens if you don’t get them?]

She’d fall asleep while I fed her sitting straight up in bed, for fear I’d fall asleep, too.”

Next, following the trust’s advice, I needed to make sure there was no loose bedding that could slip over the baby’s head and risk suffocation, and that the baby wouldn’t overheat – so I dressed my daughter in a baby sleeping bag, and kept the duvet pushed down around my feet.

I made sure she slept flat on her back, rather than on her front, and I gave her half the bed, so she couldn’t fall out. The cat was shut downstairs at night (The Lullaby Trust advises not letting pets or other children into the bed with you. They also warn you never to fall asleep with your infant on a sofa or armchair). 

[Read more from HuffPost Life: The Sleep Edition here]

But I was still too nervous to sleep properly, and even more tired – which is a known risk in itself. So, we bought a co-sleeper: a special cot that straps to the side of the bed, with a detachable side separating your baby’s sleeping space from your own.

It meant I could pull my baby daughter towards me to breastfeed her, and then pop her back into her own safe space, all without waking her.

[Read more: Baby Sleep: How To Survive New Parent Exhaustion]

It changed everything, because it gave me the confidence to let myself go and get a good night’s sleep. And when I had my son a few years later, I did it with him, too. 

The funny thing is: I’m still co-sleeping – even if it’s not entirely by choice. My two-and-a-half-year-old son may have graduated to his own room and his own bed, but he still toddles in during the middle of the night to sleep with me.  

But now that I know there’s no danger of him doing anything but kick me in the head and stomach repeatedly, I’ll take it. I know these night-time cuddles (and kicks) won’t last – and I want to enjoy them as long as I can. 

A Night Owl And Morning Lark Swapped Sleep Routines – Here’s What Happened

In our daily morning meeting, the HuffPost Life team is split into two camps: those who have stayed up late and are struggling to get going, and the people who’ve been awake for hours and ticked off half their to-do lists.

But is there any hope for those who want to swap sides?

HuffPosters Sophie and Nancy – who live at extreme ends of the sleep routine spectrum – tried to find out.

[Read more from HuffPost Life: The Sleep Edition here]

Nancy (left) and Sophie (right) pose for a rather unconventional work photo.

Sophie: ‘I live for an early bedtime and 8 hours sleep’

Sophie: As a child I thought one of the best things about adulthood would be staying up late; with no parents to stop me, it would be all midnight feasts and late night Donkey Kong on the Nintendo. Turns out, I was an idiot. One of the best things about being an adult is, in fact, an early bedtime and eight delightful hours of uninterrupted sleep. Especially when your alarm clock is set for six o’clock.

I wouldn’t entirely describe myself as a ‘morning lark’ – I don’t leap out of bed, fresh with enthusiasm when my alarm goes at six. I definitely need a strong tea to get me started before I reach my desk at 7.45am, but I am certainly more productive, more alert before lunchtime. For some time, I presumed that was the case for everyone – energy levels gradually depleting as the day progresses, resulting in a 4pm slump and forage for a Hobnob.

But it appears not. For some people, the optimum time for productivity is during the antisocial hours, late at night (you can tell I’m still getting to grips with this). And the idea is that I try to become one of them.

[Read More: When to exercise (and how) for a better night’s sleep]

Nancy: ‘At 1am I could conquer the world’

Nancy: I have never been a morning person – not even as a tiny baby, says my mum, who was the first to negotiate my ‘just woken’ grumps (and nappies to match). As a teen, the moods got so stormy I was ‘gently’ encouraged to eat breakfast up in my bedroom to spare the rest of the family my thunder. 

Oh, but the evening hours. So rich in potential, so live with possibility: 11pm is when my mojo kicks in; 1am, and I could conquer the world. Truly, I love nothing more than pottering round my flat after midnight. Reading and writing, snacking and scrolling, messaging fellow night owls – and all to a soundtrack of late night radio. Sailing By, Shipping Forecast, God Save The Queen, Bed.

This routine flew just fine when my job started at 10am. It’s less workable now my alarm goes off at the same time as Sophie’s and I have to face our daily 8.30am ideas meeting on five hours sleep. So I’m swapping my late finishes for her 10pm bedtime – and we’re starting on a school night. 

[Read More: How many hours sleep do you really need? And what happens if you don’t get them?]

Evening one: ‘Where does Love Island fit into this routine?’

Sophie: First obstacle to navigate: my bed partner who looks at me like I’ve asked him to eat a wasp when I mention I won’t be retiring with him at 10pm. I’ve got at least another two hours before I can justify hitting the hay. But what to do with my time? I’ve already been out for dinner with friends (coming home just before nine), had a shower including leg shave and hair wash, put away the washing and watched two 20-minute episodes of The Office. Yes it’s been pretty productive but I normally achieve all that and still make it into bed by 10.

Now comes the post-bedtime hours. I’m not enjoying them because I’m so focused on counting how many minutes of sleep are slipping away – diminishing by the second and to what end? It feels like a bizarre form of self punishment that I’ll pay for all day tomorrow, and is making me feel very anxious. (It’s at this point, I acknowledge the cult of ‘sleep wellness’ might have more influence on my sleeping habits than I previously thought.)

I end up binging a Netflix series to try and keep myself awake. I also eat a lot of biscuits. At one point, I may even have nodded off briefly on the sofa. By the time I drag myself to bed I fall asleep straight away and wake up very bleary-eyed the next day. Is it possible to feel hungover with no alcohol? 

[Read More: These are the most sleep deprived cities in the UK]

Nancy: It helps that I’m just back from holiday and well-rested, for the first night of our experiment. I’m home from work by 7 – early for me – and I’m all ready to put my holiday washing on, just as soon as I’ve uploaded my Instagram snaps (and checked out everyone else’s). I look down at my phone, then up at the clock and, shit, it’s almost 9pm. I HAVE TO BE IN BED IN AN HOUR – and I still have supper to cook and Love Island to watch. 

Something’s got to give and it’s not going to be Tommy Fury. Still, I feel a bit panicked. Forget eight hours of sleep: when I work a long day, sandwiched by a not inconsiderable cross-London commute, I feel constricted if I have anything less than six waking hours to myself in the evenings. (Neither Sophie nor I currently have kids to deal with, and I wonder how they’d affect things).

I tweet my editor in an attempt to hold myself accountable and, by some miracle (or the fact I essentially hate breaking rules), I’m in bed with the light off by 10.01pm. Never mind that I’m not asleep for another two hours. Sigh. 

Evening two: ‘I’m struggling to focus through a cloud of fog’

Sophie: Night two, and I’ve been for a run, cooked dinner, cleaned up, hoovered the flat, watched two episodes of Killing Eve and packed my bag for tomorrow. I’ve even booked a bloody smear test. I’ve definitely filled the time before bed, but it still feels like I’m just generating admin to fill the time before I’m allowed to sleep. Night owls like Nancy tell me about their late night creativity bursts – but that definitely isn’t happening to me. I’m just tired and have no motivation to do anything apart from stay on the sofa. 

The next day, I’m knackered again. Whether it’s the placebo effect (possibly) or genuine physical tiredness, I’m not sure – all I know is I’ve struggled to focus through the cloud of fog, been reliant on coffee, and have had several (fairly bad) arguments with my partner. Would I have been as irritable and, frankly, irrational had I been well rested? Who knows. Sorry to my partner for making him my sleep guinea pig.

[Read More: Wearing this eye mask to bed every night has transformed my sleep]

Nancy: I meet a friend after work, but as she has spent the entire afternoon standing in the driving rain at her daughter’s primary school sports day, she’s as ready for an early night as I am. And oddly, I actually am – it’s only been a day, but I’m – yawn – starting to feel the attraction of an enforced bedtime.

We cover off the holiday gossip at Olympian speed, keep it to one glass of rosé each (hard!) and call time on our catch-up a full two hours earlier than usual. By 9.20pm, I’m on a train across London that gets me home soon after 10, whereupon I immediately flop on to my bed.

Fatal error: that’s on, not in. Once again, I fall into the triple vortex of Whatsapp, Instagram and the Twitter meme-stream from Westminster and Majorca. By the time I get off the bed to brush my teeth and make a cup of sleepy tea, it’s half 11. It’s not that I don’t like my bed, I’m just not very good at putting myself in it. 

Evening three: ‘I’m delusional to think I’ll write my magnus opus this way’ 

Sophie: Finally, it’s the weekend – when I can enjoy staying up late without having to deal with the following morning. If I’m out, I usually start to flag by about 2am – but tonight I have more energy. Perhaps those late nights have trained me up? Maybe I’ve experienced the much-sought-after switch between morning lark and night owl? Or maybe it’s just the alcohol.

After my later night, on Sunday morning I sleep till about 9am but that is a totally normal weekend rising time for me. What I’ve never worked out is whether this propensity for a sneaky weekend lie-in is tapping into my natural body clock (and the time I’d always wake up then if I didn’t have a job to go to) or whether I’m always just making up for my early hours in the week. 

[Read More: I said I wouldn’t co-sleep – and then I did it with both my children]

Nancy: My sleep routine is actually better at weekends than during the working week: I’m often up and out for a swim by 9am and go to bed earlier than on a school night. (Underlining, perhaps, that I stay up late not because of some crazy disco body-clock, but because I simply want to fit in more me-time). However, as someone who suffers from Sunday blues in a big way, Sunday night often proves problematic. I’ll wind down around 10 with a book in the bath, only to lie for hours in bed unable to sleep.

Tonight, however, it’s different. It’s 8.22pm, and I’m doing the washing up and picking out a work outfit so I can be in bed by nine with ITV2. Even after watching Aftersun (yes, really), my light is out at 11pm – and I’m asleep before midnight for the first Sunday in weeks. This makes Monday morning manageable, rather than the achey-headed endurance test I’m used to.

[Read More: How to make your bedroom a relaxing sleep haven]

Time for an (alarm clock) reset?

Sophie: I am so glad this experiment is over – in fact I celebrated by getting into bed a whole hour earlier than normal to read my book. I know my colleagues mock me and think I basically have the routine of a toddler, but with a full-on job I don’t want to be waking up feeling exhausted every day. Yes, sleep is for when you’re dead, but I feel only half alive when I don’t get eight hours. And no, I don’t feel like I’m missing out – I still go out and socialise during the week, I just make sure I leave before nine o’clock, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Nancy: What have I learned? That I’m even more addicted to my phone than I feared. That I’m delusional to think I’ll get my magnum opus written by staying up late into the night (I could just pen a novel in the time I’m watching Love Island). That 11pm is still a magical hour – and Sophie and I have fundamentally different experiences of time. But that sometimes putting yourself to bed at a nice, normal time is actually the grown up thing to do.

Struggling With Hay Fever? 5 Ways To Sleep Better During The ‘Pollen Bomb’

With a heatwave on the horizon, the warmer weather brings a fresh set of challenges for the estimated one in five of us living with hay fever.

This week and running into the weekend, the Met Office has warned of “very high” grass pollen levels across England and Wales, with Northern Ireland and Scotland seeing high counts, too.

It means major discomfort for a lot of people, including disrupted sleep – over half of adults (57%) and up to 88% of children with hay fever suffer from sleep problems, which can lead to daytime fatigue and an inability to think clearly.

Not ideal if you’ve got to work. Or just want to enjoy your weekend.

To give yourself the best chance of catching some shut-eye despite this week’s dreaded pollen bomb, we asked experts for their advice.

[Read more: Why people with asthma should have inhalers on hand this week]

1. Wash Your Sheets More

Sadly, washing your sheets once a fortnight just won’t cut the mustard in the weeks to come. “In hay fever season, consider washing your sheets once a week to keep sheets free of pollen, as well as dust and other particles that might make symptoms worse,” says Neil Robinson, chief sleep officer at Sealy UK.

A hot wash should do the trick. A study found that washing items at hotter temperatures was more effective at removing traces of tree pollen, so when you wash your sheets, make sure it’s at a temperature of 40C or above – ideally at least 60C.

2. Banish Pets From The Bedroom

Yes you might love having your cat or dog curled up at the end of the bed, but they’re actually a nightmare for allergy sufferers. “Their fur can be a magnet for pollen, dust and other allergens,” says Robinson, “meaning you’ll be the one to suffer when they climb into your bed late at night.

“With 10% of people banishing their partner from the bedroom to make room for their furry friend, it might be time to evict your pet and invite your partner back in during the summer months if you don’t want your allergy symptoms to flare up.”

[Read more: Hay fever getting you down? Here are 22 doctor-approved tips to keep symptoms at bay]

3. Shower Before Bed

If you find your allergy symptoms worsen at night, try jumping in the shower. At the end of a long day, your hair, skin and clothes will be covered in micro-particles of dust and pollen, especially if you’ve spent long periods outside enjoying the sunshine.

“A quick shower before settling down for the night can help remove these allergens before you sleep, reducing night time symptoms,” says Robinson.

4. Close Your Windows

Make sure you keep your windows closed in the morning and evening when pollen counts are highest. Tree pollen tends to peak in the early afternoon, while grass tends to be worse in the morning before 11am and again in the late afternoon and early evening from about 4.30pm.

Natalie Masters, hay fever and summer allergies expert at Boots, previously told HuffPost UK: “Towards the end of the day, the temperature drops causing the pollen that has risen in the atmosphere during the day to fall back to the ground. This explains why hay fever sufferers may experience a worsening of symptoms at night which can impact how they feel the next day.”

5. Switch Up Your Medication

If you take medication to relieve your symptoms, consider when you are suffering the most and make sure you’re taking them at the appropriate time.

Keep a diary of symptoms and notice the times of day you have flare ups. If night time is when you suffer the most, Robinson suggests taking any medication before bed so you reap the full benefits.

But make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes.

Professor Green Shares The One Sleep Habit That Helps His Anxiety

In ‘What Works For Me’ – a series of articles considering how we can find balance in our lives – we talk to people about their self-care strategies. 

Professor Green sleeps with his bedroom curtains wide open, but it’s not because fame has turned him into an exhibitionist. The rapper and documentary-maker says being woken up by the sun each morning helps reduce his anxiety – forcing him out of bed and into a routine. 

“If I’m in an anxious place in the morning and I’ve got a bit of a knot in my stomach, rather than feeding it, I nourish myself instead – I get out of bed and walk the dogs,” he tells HuffPost. “I just find that getting up and out and getting my day started, irrespective of what my sleep was like, makes me feel better.”

Starting his day earlier – and switching his phone off at 9pm to avoid distractions – also helps him “chip away” at his to-do list, which he used to find overwhelming. 

“The longer you leave things the more they manifest, the more you have to do and the more difficult it seems to take that first step,” he says. “But I think the first step is the most important thing when it comes to mental health.”

The 35-year-old, whose real name is Stephen Manderson, has long been open about the mental health problems he’s had since childhood. Alongside anxiety, he’s experienced bouts of depression and continues to be affected by OCD

“I used to count a lot when I was a kid, I’d twitch my leg muscle for every word that someone spoke,” he recalls. “[Now] my OCD often presents itself as hypochondria if everything starts to feel like it’s getting out of control, but I’ve got much better at recognising it.”

He describes his mental health as being in “a really good place” at the moment, and tells me he stopped taking the antidepressants he was prescribed last year.

“In the time when I was on them it did help break a negative thought cycle,” he says, adding that it changed some of his own preconceptions about medication. “But there’s a stigma that comes with it. I didn’t want it to define me, like ‘oh he’s on antidepressants’ and I’m quite stubborn. I like to try to fix things other ways if possible.”

Coming off them was tough, he admits: “I had terrible side effects. I was in bed for 17 hours a day when I was getting on them and it was a much similar thing while I was getting off them.” 

This year marks 10 years since Manderson landed his first record deal. In that time, he’s witnessed how the music business is “one of the only industries where certain bad behaviours are celebrated”. But the decade has also taught him it’s unrealistic to aim for a consistently happy place – instead, he’s managed to find contentment. 

“I think happiness is something that you feel – like sadness is, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a constant,” he muses. “If there’s any baseline, it’s really just [being] content, and being in a place where you’re able to experience the highs and the lows.”

A key part to finding this balance has been learning to say no, even when that means turning down work. Having been brought up by his ‘Nanny Pat’ in a working-class, Hackney household, it’s something that took years to get used to. “When you’re from a background like mine, there is no safety net, there is no plan B and I think: ‘I have to make this work’” he says. 

But 10 years in the business has afforded him the confidence (and money) to know that turning down one job won’t cause the world to implode. 

“There’s something really important in understanding what is good for you and not just doing what everyone else wants you to do,” he says. “Because if all you ever do is say yes to people, you’re never really being yourself, you’re just being who everyone else wants you to be.” 

The hardest opportunities to turn down are often the charity gigs, he says, that have continued to flood in since the release of his 2015 documentary ‘Suicide and Me’. The documentary followed Manderson as he sought to understand the factors that may have contributed to his father’s suicide, and the reasons why men still account for three-quarters of suicides in the UK

It came at a time when discussion around mental heath and toxic masculinity were still in their infancy, and Manderson wasn’t sure how the film would be received. “I was worried about people seeing me crying, people seeing me upset – even down to things like me being booked for work and stuff,” he recalls. “I worried it was going to affect that, and that people would pass judgement.”

But the response was overwhelmingly positive, teaching Manderson a valuable lesson: it’s okay to be vulnerable. 

“All anyone commended me for was my strength,” he says. “That made me realise there is a strength in vulnerability if you own it and if you’re honest with yourself about what your vulnerabilities are. You run into problems when you try to deny those vulnerabilities and that’s when you become unstuck.”

The documentary catapulted Manderson from rapper to role model and – in a new Gillette campaign – he talks about the role models that have had the greatest impact on his own life.

There’s Nanny Pat, for example, who became his legal guardian as a child after his mum left when he was one. His dad had become a father at 18 and was an intermittent presence in his life. Manderson saw his dad for the last time on his 18th birthday – and was told that he had taken his own life six years later. 

He “hates to think where [he’d] be” without his beloved Nanny Pat, he says. “If I didn’t have her I would have been in care,” he tells me, adding that she taught him hard work while juggling three jobs. “Everything that was thrown at her, she bounced back.” 

His manager Ged, who he’s had since he was 20, has become another parental figure. “Occasionally when I do really well at something, he’ll send me a message and say how proud he is of me,” Manderson says. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have had that from my dad, but me and Ged, we’re as much friends and brothers as he is any kind of parental figure.” 

Despite finding ways to manage his mental wellbeing, through his music and these role models, Manderson maintains he’s still a “work in progress”.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen one day from the next,” he says. “I just hope this period where I’m at continues, because it makes life a hell of a lot easier and a hell of a lot more enjoyable.”

This Father’s Day, Gillette is celebrating all the role models that help you be your best. Join Gillette in thanking the people who’ve made a difference in your life. #MyRoleModel

Tired This Morning? How Night Owls Can Retrain Their Body Clocks In 4 Simple Steps

‘Night owls’ who struggle to wake up in the morning could benefit from a few tweaks to their sleeping patterns, according to researchers.

A small study found that, over a three-week period, it was possible to shift the circadian rhythm of so-called night owls using four simple interventions – and there wasn’t a sleeping pill in sight.

The tweaks could lead to significant improvements in sleep/wake timings, better performance in the mornings, improved eating habits and a decrease in depression and stress, say researchers. 

So what’s the secret?

[Read More: 9 relaxing bedroom accessories to help you create a calming oasis]

In this study, 22 healthy individuals – who had an average bedtime of 2.30am and wake-up time of 10.15am – were asked to make four changes to their sleep routine. 

Firstly, they were told to wake up 2-3 hours before regular wake-up time and maximise outdoor light during the mornings. They were also told to go to bed 2-3 hours before their usual bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening.

Another rule was that they had to keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days (such as the weekend). They also had to have set food times: eat breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7pm.

The study, conducted by the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK and Monash University in Australia, showed participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours, while having no negative effect on sleep duration.

Overall, participants reported a decrease in feelings of depression and stress, as well as in daytime sleepiness – according to the researchers. 

Lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs, from Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, said the findings reveal simple interventions can change the sleep habits of night owls and, in turn, reduce negative elements of mental health and sleepiness, and improve performance.

Study co-author Dr Andrew Bagshaw, from the University of Birmingham, said: “We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental wellbeing and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes.”

Dr Facer-Childs added that night owls, compared to morning larks, tended to be more compromised in our society, due to having to fit to schedules that are out of sync with their preferred patterns. “By acknowledging these differences and providing tools to improve outcomes, we can go a long way to achieve optimal productivity and performance,” she concluded.

It’s Not Just Kids Who Need Naps In The Day – Us Parents Do, Too

Children are happier, have fewer behavioural problems and excel academically when they take a nap in the afternoon, a new study suggests. And I can totally believe it. 

The research from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California revealed a connection between midday napping and greater happiness and self control, as well as a higher IQ – the latter particularly evident in older kids.

Nearly 3,000 children aged 9-12 were involved in the study over several years. Their napping frequency and duration were analysed – along with how they behaved and performed at school.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance,” co-author Adrian Raine concluded.

“How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?” The report also showed that sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness is widespread, affecting up to 20% of all children. 

[Read More: When to exercise (and how) for a better night’s sleep]

Sleep researcher Sara Mednick called it “the first comprehensive study of its kind”, adding: “The more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps on many of these measures.”

Now, this study seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me. Anyone with kids will readily admit that the afternoon nap can change a child’s temperament with almost immediate effect. It’s like recharging their batteries – especially when they’re young – and if they don’t have one, you’re left with a grizzly, easily agitated child, who will be miserable until bedtime. Oh, the joys. 

[Read More: 9 relaxing bedroom accessories to help you create a calming oasis]

My grandson might be younger than the children tested in the study, but nap time is an essential part of his daily routine. Heading to the land of nod every afternoon practically guarantees us a couple of virtually stress-free hours in the evening.

Nap, play, dinner, wind-down, bath, bed. That’s how it goes. When that routine is broken, I’m left with a grandson who falls asleep at the wrong time, usually early evening, then wakes up out of sync and raring to go – at 9pm. 

But who doesn’t feel revitalised if they’re lucky enough to take 40 winks in the afternoon on the sofa? Here’s my two scents: nap time should be made mandatory for everyone – parents included. The UK should seriously consider an afternoon napping culture, for kids and adults. 

After all, if it works for adults in China, surely we can make it work here?