last week i was invited down to the beautiful artist residence hotel in london by marks and spencer for a wonderful sleep retreat designed to unlock the secret to a restful night’s slumber. m&s have long been a go-to destination for all things better sleep related on the british high street, offering outstanding quality and product innovations to ensure their customers are able to create the perfect sleep retreat in their homes. this autumn their bedding range has undergone a makeover, offering an extended choice in bedding colours, texture and fabrications as a direct result of listening to customer feedback. i was very excited to hear about their innovative ‘stay clean’ duvets and pillows, designed to repel liquid, making them ideal for people who like to enjoy their morning cuppa in bed (who doesn’t?). they also have a new range of non-iron cotton linens which will ensure that changing to bed takes less than half the time – well, it’s not secret that i’m allergic to ironing!
so i was delighted to attend their recent sleep retreat to test out some of their new designs, as well as learning more about the little tips and tricks you can employ to guarantee yourself a better night’s kip..
a good night’s sleep is crucial for all aspects of health as it’s a vital time of rest and restoration, and one of the best ways in which we can support our sleep is through nutrition. during the m&s sleep retreat event we were treated to a delicious evening menu, designed by nutritional therapist amelia freer. built around healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds, along with plenty of protein in the form of fish and legumes, and minimal refined sugar to avoid overnight blood sugar fluctuations, the bespoke menu also provided plenty of magnesium; an essential mineral to help calm the mind and promote sleep. melatonin, a hormone produced by your pineal gland, is another crucial component in sending signals to the brain telling it to go to sleep. as well as being made by our bodies, it can also be found in some foods, including sour cherries which amelia added into our dessert to provide an extra melatonin boost. our meal was rounded off with a comforting glass of warm spiced cashew nut milk – and i’ve been on the hunt for the perfect recipe to recreate this ever since!
m&s sleep retreat menu
warm autumn salad (heritage beetroot with goats cheese)
oven baked haddock, with a spinach ‘pesto’ puree and butternut squash
morello cherry frangipane tart
warm chair with cashew milk
while we ate, clinical hypnotherapist and certified sleep coach max kirsten talked us through a number of different key factors affecting our ability to sleep soundly and how we can improve these to guarantee a night of better sleep.
of course, light interference is probably the most immediate factor you might think of when trying to identify external factors affecting your sleep, particularly if you live in a built up urban zone where light pollution from street lamps and other people’s homes can be a real nuisance. blackout blinds are of course a great option, but a more purse-friendly (and travel-friendly) solution would be an eye mask that shields your eyes from all light sources in your immediate vicinity – from the glow of your alarm clock display to the flashing light on your phone charger. speaking of, max recommends that all mobile devices actually be banished from the bedroom, and should you rely on your phone as a morning alarm clock, suggests that now would be the time to invest in an old-fashioned analog alarm instead..
its well documented that long-term exposure to a single colour temperature of light can be hugely damaging to the circadian rhythms of the body, disrupting the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin and affecting mood and behaviour, often leading to sleep deprivation. the blue light emitted by your mobile phone screen is one of the biggest culprits, because its short wavelength encourages your brain to be alert, not at rest. while activating the ‘night mode’ function on your phone can go some way to reducing this activity, its far more effective to limit your mobile usage after 8pm, turn off the overhead lights and light a few candles (or turn on a table lamp) instead, to allow the circadian rhythms of your body to wind down naturally in lower-level light conditions.
temperature also plays an important role in regulating circadian rhythm. during the day, body temperature naturally rises until the late afternoon, when it reverses and begins to fall, and this cooling down in a signal to tell your body it’s time for sleep. showering early in the evening (at least an hour and a half before you go to bed) gives your body a chance to warm and then cool as it winds down towards slumber. as you sleep your body’s temperature drops to its lowest level (usually around 3-4 hours after you fall asleep), and keeping your bedroom cool can help aid better sleep; around 18-21 degrees celsius is optimum.
your choice of bedding is also crucial, since if you become either too hot or too cold during the night, you’re likely to wake up and interrupt your sleep cycle.
the tog of your duvet is important, particularly as the seasons shift from summer to winter (the lower the tog the lighter and cooler the duvet, and the higher the tog, the heavier and warmer the duvet), but just as significant is the composition. natural duvets are filled with a combination of feather and down, or wool, while synthetic duvets are soft, light and non-allergenic. your natural core temperature and personal allergic tendencies will guide you towards the right composition for your own perfect night’s sleep, and it’s important to remember that this might be different from that of your partner, in which case you should consider the scandinavian approach of having your own personal duvet under which to sleep soundly.
i spent my night at artist residence sleeping under marks and spencer’s hungarian goose down encased in pure linen sheets, and in the morning awoke feeling entirely refreshed and full of energy. i was also, naturally, incredibly excited to indulge in the cambridge street kitchen‘s insta-famous skillet breakfast in bed, which was every bit as delicious as it looks, let me tell you!
do you feel you currently get the best possible sleep you can, and are there any little changes you could make to your routine to improve things? i know i’ve definitely taken away a lot of key pointers from my sleep retreat with marks and spencer that i’ll be implementing going forward!
this post is in collaboration with marks & spencer, shot on location at artist residence by sam mellish and kate baxter. all thoughts are, as always, my own.