Tag: real life

Operation Declutter

Operation Declutter

  I’m decluttering. Properly. I’m writing this post after week one of what I’m calling ‘Operation Declutter’. Those of you who know the real me will know that this isn’t something I’m doing lightly. Clutter has genuinely become a real problem in my life. I […]

Thrifting Ain’t Easy – Simple Money-Saving Hacks

Thrifting Ain’t Easy – Simple Money-Saving Hacks

  Thrifting. Who doesn’t need to know about the subtle art of thrifting, really? I know I do. You don’t need me to tell you about the pinch most of us are feeling nowadays. Money’s tighter than Mick Hucknall ever dared to mention, especially if, […]

5 Ways To Clean Up Your Sleep Routine

5 Ways To Clean Up Your Sleep Routine


How messy is your sleep routine? No, not your bedroom. I’m talking about your actual sleep routine. Have you got one? Have you even thought about this before? If I had a tenner for the amount of people who are always tired, I’d be Alan Sugar. Now, I’ve got an excuse (more on that later) for being consistently exhausted – but do you? If not, maybe it’s time to have a long hard look at your sleep routine, and try out my 5 ways to tidy it up a bit.

Sleep routines are for kids. I’m an adult.

Yes. Yes you are. An adult who’s probably completely run-down every day from a life of constant work-based, life-based stress. An adult who more than likely stays up way too late watching pointless documentaries on 90s’s love triangles, Gavin and Stacey repeats on Dave and only mildly amusing re-runs of 8 Out of 10 Cats.

You also fall asleep on the sofa watching said TV bilge and then wake up in a small but disgusting puddle of your own drool at 3am, don’t you?

Sleep routines are for kids. They exist for a reason…but that reason is valid for adults too. We neglect our sleep health as soon as we can. It’s the one routine that almost all of us forget to take care of. And yet, it’s the one routine that can make the biggest difference to our health and wellbeing. Most adults need at least six to nine hours sleep a night, and many of us just aren’t getting that on a consistent enough basis.

When I was first diagnosed with narcolepsy, I had to work so hard to reset my clock and actually cultivate a sleep routine. It’s all gone to pot in recent years, I’ll be honest, but it genuinely made such a difference to my life when I stuck to it. I felt awake. Actually awake, and not just dragging my battered carcass through each day until Dave o’clock.

When was the last time you felt truly awake?

If you fancy giving it a whirl, here’s 5 ways you can get started with cleaning up your sleep hygiene. That’s what it’s called, by the way, I didn’t make that up.

1. Ditch the TV.


Look, you’ve seen them about 400 times. You can recite the ‘2 steaks Pam’ routine with your fingers in your ears and still do the Essex accent to boot. You look fabulous, and you feels it, alright?

Turn the television off at least an hour before you go to bed. It’s the same thing that you’d do with the kids, and it does actually work. Your brain needs wind-down time, especially with the level of mental and online processing it does on a daily basis.

Use this TV-free time to relax, have a bath or do something relatively concentration-free to help your brain tell your body that it’s time to switch off.

2. No caffeine after 3pm.

I know. This one was a much bigger one for me to combat that I realised. I used to drink about ten cups of tea a day. This was before I knew I had a sleep condition, and just thought I really loved PG Tips. Crafty old brain. Basically though, you can’t expect your brain to chill out for bed properly if it’s wired off it’s neurological tits with caffeine, nicotine or sugar.

The hormone that tells your brain it’s night-time and time to wind down is called melatonin. Foods that contain an amino acid called tryptophan boost the production of melatonin and therefore induce a better quality of sleep.

Things to eat and drink that can help relaxation and promote sleepiness are:

  • tryptophan-rich proteins such as chicken, turkey, nuts and seeds
  • milk and dairy products which also contain tryptophan
  • decaf (horrible I know) tea or coffee if you have to drink it

Make sure you’re not eating a massive dinner just before you plan to go to bed either. Digesting it will push your body temperature up and delay your brain’s ability to start the sleep process, plus you’ll feel really uncomfortable trying to sleep on it straight away.

My advice on this point is to try and reduce your caffeine intake gradually. It’s not easy, but it is achievable!

3. Pick a bedtime and stick to it. No deviating.

Again, this is a tough one. I had to train myself to be in bed and actually asleep by 10pm. Also this was in the pre-child days, so much, much easier. However, if you’ve got one that’s in a fairly stable nighttime pattern now, you can give it a whirl. I used to start my wind-down at 9pm and then be in bed, on my way to falling asleep by 10pm. To begin with it was incredibly hard work, but after a while I started to wake naturally at 7am.


Without the alarm clock.

You know that when you’re waking up before your alarm goes off, and you don’t feel like actual death on toast, then something is going right somewhere.

It’s not easy, and temptations to work, catch up on emails or mess about on Facebook will always be there, but trust me, this one really does reap it’s own rewards. I need to start doing it again myself.

4. De-stress your bedroom.

You might not realise it, but your bedroom might be causing you more than your fair share of bad dreams. According to sleep specialists, your bedroom should be used for two things only; sleep and sex. As an aside, a moment of passion is one of the other things that can induce quality sleep, so that’s one to just make a side note of and file under FYI for later.


Your room needs to be quiet, dark, tidy and a cool temperature. Most importantly, it should be free of any electronics. My room has a bed, a chair and a chest of drawers in it. That’s it. No TV, no gadgets, literally nothing else. If you’ve got a television in your room, get rid of it. It could be playing major havoc with your brain’s ability to properly switch off.

Trust me on this, it makes a big difference.

5. Don’t fixate on a magic cure.

If you’ve got any sleep issues, like me, then it’s really important to know that they’ll take time to sort out. It’s never going to be as easy as following a list of tips and tricks to magic away insomnia or eye bags.

Proper cleaning up of your sleep routine takes time and perserverance, but also a pinch of salt. It’s important to take your sleep cycle seriously – not enough of us really consider the long term implications of poor sleep and the constant mental stimulation we all endure thanks to our tech-heavy lifestyles.

However, it’s not something to fixate on if it doesn’t all go to plan straightaway. You’re not going to definitely develop Alzheimer’s just because you’re using your iPad before bed each night! Like everything else in life, it’s about moderation and evaluation.


5 Ways


I hope you’ve found some of this helpful and that if you’ve been looking into your own sleep issues at all it provides a bit of food for thought. If you’ve got any questions about sleep disorders, sleep hygiene or narcolepsy, feel free to pop them in the comments below or drop me a tweet over on Twitter.

Anyway, I’m off to watch a bit of Dave. Sweet dreams.


Writer, tweeter and illustrator. Starving artist and thrifting expert. Pen for hire and first-time author at work.

Rugby For Fannies – A Beginner’s Guide

Rugby For Fannies – A Beginner’s Guide

  Last year I started a journey into a brave new world. A brave, new and very muddy world. The world of women’s rugby. I wrote about it last year in a piece for Huffpost – and things went a bit nuts off the back […]

Fashion For The Skint Bird

Fashion For The Skint Bird

  Fashion. DARLING. No, me neither. However, we do all have to wear clothes, and for those of you like me who really can’t be bothered to make that kind of effort post-kids, this one’s for us. Secretly, I still want to look half decent. […]




My love affair with Spain will never end. Most people think of Spain and they immediately think about tourist-filled beaches and expat nightmares. Well, that’s certainly true of some areas, but for me, my Spanish heart lies in two areas; Andalusia and Madrid. I need to explain more about the Spanish capital, because it’s one of the places  I think I really discovered the person that I am now. Not only is it vibrant, complex and beautiful, it’s a city that taught me true independence, a new language (kind of), and a deeper appreciation for the country I’d love to live in again one day.

But first, a flashback.

It’s 2004. I’m about to start my third year at university, the year I’d been dreading, and the one I’d been in total denial about since I started my Combined Languages course. I’d been oddly, naturally good at Modern Foreign Languages when I was at school and college, and so taking it on at university seemed like a natural progression. It didn’t hit me until much later than aside from becoming an MFL teacher, interpreter at the UN or translator for hire, there wouldn’t be much scope for me to do anything else career wise.

Never mind.

Anyway, it’s 2004. I’m freaking out about the fact that I’ve got to pack my life into a bag and go and live in another country for at least a year. I didn’t actually start learning Spanish until I got to university, so to say I was nervous would be a massive understatement. The plan was that I would fly out to Madrid with the others from my course, and then after a day or two doing paperwork, I’d head down to Andalusia to help out in a school there. Or something. I had family in Andalusia, so I felt a little bit happier about the whole thing with that safety blanket.

Except, when I got to Madrid, there was no record of me. Literally every time I arrange something in my life, this happens. After a lot of stress (I had a one way ticket and I was 20 years old. Panic much?) I ended up sitting outside the British Council office in Madrid, with nothing but my suitcase and enough Euros to probably get me mugged. Much confusion abounded, and it turned out there was no way for me to get to or work in Andalusia.
But there was a bilingual primary school on the outskirts of Madrid that had a spot for an English language assistant.

So, I picked up my stuff and I got in this random Spanish guy’s car, who drove me out to a place called Arroyomolinos. This is a little town on the outskirts of the city and I’ll be honest, I’ve never felt so scared in my life as I did on that day. I had no idea where the hell I was, I could barely string two words of the language together and even worse, I had no idea where I was going to sleep that night.

I headed into the school building with the man who thankfully hadn’t attacked me and was greeted by a secretary named Maria. She was lovely. She didn’t have a bloody clue what I was talking about, and I didn’t understand her either, but she could see that this pale, ginger kid had literally no clue what was going on, so she took me in and gave me a drink. Into the staffroom I went, and thanked my lucky stars because in that room was a girl from Manchester University, and I’d never been happier to see someone else as pale and pasty as me in my whole life.

That girl was called Nikita and she became my closest friend. She said I could move into the flat she was renting; the room I would be in was basically a cupboard with no windows, but I didn’t care at all. I was grateful. As it turned out, the flat couldn’t have been in a better place. It was smack bang in the city centre of Madrid, and we were sharing with a couple of other girls from Manchester university who were there doing an Erasmus programme.

Being honest, I was apprehensive at first, but living with total strangers I could talk to would obviously be way better than with total strangers I couldn’t.




That year soon changed from being one of the scariest times to one of the absolute best years of my life. Me and Nikita were way more alike than either of us had realised – our birthdays were a few days apart, we had the same sense of humour, we lived worked together 24/7 and never had one argument the entire time.  It was the most intense, hilarious and awesome relationship I’ve ever had without actually being someone’s girlfriend. The work days we had together became fantastic fun, despite our tutor mentor being an absolute cow to us both.

I learned that I had a nack for city geography too; we travelled to Arroyomolinos and around the capital every day via Madrid’s brilliant public transport system. Metros and buses, walking and exploring, the place is a haven for pedestrians. Which is just as well as some of the driving (and parking) is just ridiculous…you could barely get a piece of paper between the bumper-to-bumper parking styles.

Living in Madrid itself was amazing. Looking back I realise how lucky we were to be renting that apartment for the peanuts we paid each month; it would cost an absolute bomb now. Madrid is a compact city, with the grand beauty of the Royal Palace, the tranquil gorgeousness of El Parque Retiro, and the shops and boutiques on Gran Via being prime places to check out. Away from the tourist hot spots, the general architecture of the place is just incredibly beautiful. I used to love just walking around and taking it all in.

Nightlife in the city is like nowhere else. Madrileños really know how to party. They go out late and they stay out late, sometimes seeing the sun come up on their way home. The clubs and bars were amazing. There’s a real cultural mix and party atmosphere all year round. Our street had a little cafe bar on it called Cherry, where they served the most incredible tapas and meals, not to mention the cocktails. One of the barmen took a shine to Nikita, but that’s a story too funny to share here. One of the best things about Madrid is how safe you feel walking around at night. The city lives for the evening.

That year helped me learn a lot. I became fiercely independent and made some friends for life. I experienced moments of real fear and panic, and learned I could survive them all. I gained a diploma at a Spanish university and met some incredible children working in that primary school. I learned how much I love cities, whereas before I’d never experienced that lifestyle. Living in Madrid was a huge culture shock to a young woman who’d lived in a small town bubble for most of her life. It made me view things so differently, and genuinely changed me forever.

I remember crying my eyes out when the time came for us all to leave and return home. I genuinely didn’t want to come back to my old life. I was different. My perspective on things was different. Most of all, I felt like I was leaving one home to go to another. It was a tough adjustment. I still miss it now.

Madrid is one of those places you have to visit. It changed me for the better. I hope that one day I get to go back, because it holds such strong memories for me, and because it’s an amazing destination to travel to, full stop.

Writer, tweeter and illustrator. Starving artist and thrifting expert. Pen for hire and first-time author at work.