Well hello world.

This week I have mainly been thinking about coffee.  At my house we’re as anti instant grains as you can get. Having travelled around South America and sampled some of the most exquisite beans the world has to offer, I find it ludicrous that Nescafe and other such brands can even think about marketing their freeze-dried, processed dirt grains as coffee. I will let nothing other than fair trade, dark roasted Guatemalan beans, ground with green cardamom pass my lips (unless I’m out and then I’m stuck with whatever an independent coffee shop may have to offer).

The point to this rant was the fact that caffeine sits in your system for several hours, even though the effects on the brain only one. Therefore you could drink three cups in a day, only achieve three hours of productivity and have to battle to get to sleep much later. Since being advised against drinking coffee after 4pm, I’ve struggled against my slight addiction and taken to consuming pints of peppermint or green tea instead. As it took me a while to heed this advice, I have spent rather a large number of hours perusing the internet waiting for sleep to arrive.  This is how I discover these wonderful things with which to regale you with every week.

So, can I just say a big Hurrah for the BBC! They have everything on their website, including a whole series of articles on the science of sleep. Not only is there information, but also the opportunity to generate your own personal sleep profile. In addition to sensible stuff, there are some light-humoured games like the face memory test, designed to ask whether you’re too tired to recognise faces!

I took the personal sleep profile test and scored 60% suggesting that I’m not really optimising the way I sleep. It’s a bit of a given really seeing as my current employment situation requires me to be in the West End of London at my desk by 8am. Factoring in shower/make up/coffee/travel time I regularly have to force myself out of bed at 5:40am, which would be fine had I managed to allow myself a full 8 hours of sleep. Sadly this is never the case and I’m always groggy, cranky and completely unaware of my surroundings in the morning. 

If you can’t get enough sleep, could it make a difference if you took steps to ensure your body was in its deepest form of sleep throughout that short period? Scientists believe the age-old saying ‘quality over quantity’ can also be applied to sleep. Meaning, if you took steps to ensure your sleep time really was restful, it would maximise the effect and therefore allow you to awake feeling refreshed and alert.

Right, so we’ve ascertained that good sleep is powerful, what can we do to achieve the most out of our stolen 5 or 6 hours?

Relax prior to bed time?
Drink a milky drink?
Reduce light?

Anything other than the usual out there?

How about a spot of hypnotherapy? Um, yes, you read me right. Hypnotise yourself into a deeper sleep.

You must have guessed by now that I like the DIY fixes, so I opened up my Android mark and was amazed at the plethora of smart phone applications claiming to guide you through relaxation tracks and to gently lull you to sleep. Picking at random I ended up with “Sleep Soundly Hypnosis” (free of charge, of course).

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the calm and gentle manner in which the female (American) voice asked me to breathe deeply and repeatedly insinuated that I was comfortable. She then began to count down from 10 backwards to, I presume 1, but I don’t remember hearing anything after 5. There was a ‘wow’ moment around number 8 where the voice suggested my scalp may be tingling and I discovered that indeed it was. I got a little bit excited and then realised I shouldn’t really do and had to calm my breathing down again.

The million dollar question is how did I feel in the morning? I’d be lying if I said fit as a fiddle but there was an element of smugness embedded into my psyche that allowed me to waltz onto the train platform with a gentle spring in my step. Not quite enough pizzazz to relish being awake, but not quite as much hate for my fellow commuters as per usual.

Thus, I give this app a thumbs up. There’s nothing not to like about it (unless you despise an American accent) and even if there’s a psychological placebo effect at work it certainly alleviated the stress of knowing that I wasn’t going to get enough sleep. Anything for an easy life…isn’t that the modern moto?

Let me know what you think!

Find the BBC Sleep page here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/