Tips and Tricks for Beating Insomnia

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A couple of weeks before Christmas, I couldn’t sleep.  No – before you ask – it wasn’t because I was buzzing with excitement for the big day and that bloke with the beard to sneak a little something for me under the tree (…I’m talking about Sunny, obvs) – I just couldn’t sleep.  It started off with the odd night where I’d roll over at 4am and then struggle to get back to sleep, but before long even nodding off in the first place was impossible.  I was starting to even dread getting into bed (my favourite thing!) because I knew that I’d just be staring up at the ceiling waiting in vain to drop off.  I’d put up with it for an hour or so before I ended up throwing the duvet off and stomping downstairs, scowling at Sunny who was snoring away so easily (how dare he!?).  It actually got so bad that I became stressed; I’d burst into tears of frustration because I was SO BLOODY TIRED and desperately needed to GET SOME SLEEP – so why couldn’t I!?  Insomnia.  Ugh.  We’ve all been there, right?

I’m not sure what exactly triggered my little Christmas special episode of insomnia, but when I found myself listening to Stephen Fry talking about lavender fields at 3am and still wasn’t nodding off – I knew I had press the reset button on my nightly routine.  I did a lot – a loooooot – of research (…zombie-eyed googling at 2am, 3am and 4am) in the midst of my little sleep crisis, and eventually something “clicked” into place and I did nod off.  What it was specifically, I can’t say – but here’s how I adjusted my routine… 🙂

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Full disclosure?  I DID NOT WAKE UP LIKE THIS.  My husband should be so lucky. Ha!

…During the Day

If you think a nightly routine only applies to the evening, think again!  What you eat and drink – as well as what you do and think – during the day all have an effect on whether you’ll get a good night’s sleep the moment your head hits the pillow.

1. Keep Your Mind Busy but Stress-free: 

Sometimes stress isn’t the problem, but eliminating it from your day will always be helpful when it comes to getting a solid eight hours at night – so give yourself a break!  Stay physically and mentally active, get in some light exercise (but no later than 7pm as it raises core body temperature) and keep your mind busy – for me, that’s always by doing something creative like baking, writing or taking photographs. 🙂

2. Avoid Napping:

If you’ve had a week of rubbish, interrupted sleep then the temptation to sneak in a couple of hours during the day is going to be tough to resist. But resist, you must!

3. Say Goodbye to Caffeine after 2pm: 

During those desperate, sleepless nights I read a couple of articles that suggested cutting caffeine out completely.  I was desperate, but not that desperate – no way was I saying goodbye to my morning cuppa. But, I did have a little bIt of a wake-up call (literally, ha!) on just how much caffeine I was taking in every day.  So I swapped out my afternoon brew of darjeeling for chamomile tea and cut down on chocolate too (yep, sadly chocolate has caffeine in it, who knew?).

4. Eat Foods that are high in Melatonin: 

So, melatonin is a hormone that works to control your body clock – most importantly, your sleep cycle.  The level of melatonin in your body rises in the late afternoon – preparing you for sleep – and then drops in the morning – causing you to wake.  The amount of melatonin your body produces can be disrupted by the lack of daylight in the winter, but also the food you eat.  Honey, Walnuts, Cow’s Milk, Cherries, Bananas, Yoghurt, Oats, Chicken and Leafy Greens all naturally contain Melatonin – so try and weave them into your diet for a better night’s sleep. 🙂

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…An Hour Before Bedtime

I’m a stickler for routine – I love having a specific bed time every night, and keeping a consistent schedule helps your body’s natural rhythms.  I like to head off to bed at 10pm (not even embarassed by that, I love being in bed early!) with a mind to nodding off before 11pm.  But a whole hour before that is probably what you’d call “winding down” time where I start readying myself for a good night’s sleep.

1. Minimize Screen Time: 

Time to put the phone down and dim the lights.  Blue light especially, which is emitted by mobile phone screens, computers and televisions tricks the body into thinking that it’s daylight (remember, Melatonin levels rise when it’s dark…), so it’s time to switch off – literally.

2. Make Yourself some Moon Milk:

Moon Milk – if you’ve never heard of it – is basically just an instagrammable cup of warm milk (“Hot Milk, but make it Instagram!”)… with an added melatonin boost thanks to a few extra (pretty) ingredients.  But hey, it works!  Traditional Ayuverdic Moon Milk contains a ground up, stress-relieving herb called Ashwagandha – but, you can add any melatonin-rich ingredient you like.  Mine’s made from cow’s milk, a tablespoon of honey and a good glug of cherry juice which gives it it’s dreamy pink colour.

3. Take a Bath or a Hot Shower:

There’s a little bit more science to this one than you’d think.  Yes, baths and hot showers are relaxing – but it’s all about body temperature.  Your core body temperature needs to drop before you can drift off – so, in theory, jumping into a hot shower an hour before you hit the sack will encourage that drop once you get out of the steam and into a cooler room.

4. Write down your Worries:

We’ve all been there. You’ve had a long day, you’re tired and ready to hit the hay, but as soon as your head hits the pillow the world and its worries start playing on your mind.  So write them down! The trick is, that once you’ve scribbled a worry or distracting thought down onto paper, you’re giving yourself permission to stop thinking about it. If you’re not currently worrying about anything (lucky you!) then writing down what’s on your mind will still help focus it ready for sleep – whether that’s simply keeping a diary or writing a to-do list for the next day.

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…Just Before Bedtime

It’s time to turn in.  But what can you do between the moment you head up the apples and pears and when you slip between the sheets to help you nod off more easily when the time comes?

1. Prepare your Bedroom:

So obvious, but make sure your bed is comfortable! That’s about more than just having a comfy mattress; make sure that your quilt isn’t too heavy or hot, the sheets allow your skin to breathe (Sunny’s always joking that I’m like the princess and the pea because I’m a stickler for 100% cotton; it’s cool and breathable – percale just doesn’t cut it for me) and that the pillows support your head.  Make sure the room isn’t too warm (apparently between 18 and 21 degrees is just right) and switch your phone to sleep mode.  Spritz your pillows with a relaxing scent; Sunny swears by the This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, while I’m a fan of Olbas Oil (the smell reminds me of home and it keeps me breathing through the night).

2. Kick Pets Out of the Bed:

Sorry Bungle! Sunny and I both agreed that our beloved Goldie can roam freely about the house at night and sleep wherever he’s most comfortable – but when it comes to bedtime, our bed is out of bounds.  He takes up a lot of room!  He can jump up first thing in the morning, but not last thing at night.

3. Listen to Music/Meditate/Read a Book:

Everyone’s got their own way of slowing down their mind and nodding off, whether that’s reading a book, listening to a playlist of calming music or even meditating.  Before Christmas I tried a few sleep apps with guided meditations and relaxing stories – but honestly? None of them worked for me.  There’s tonnes out there though, so if you are struggling to switch off, give them a shout.

4. Herbal Remedies:

I’ve got some tablets that I picked up in America for when I can’t sleep; they work for the odd night where I’m struggling to sleep due to pain or illness, but they’re not the sort of thing you’d take every night during a bout of insomnia and don’t do anything to get you back to your natural sleep cycle. Over Christmas I tried the Bach Rescue Remedy Drops for the first time after hearing good things, and I did feel like they helped to relax me and – in the very least – alleviate my anxiety around falling sleep.  You can either pop a couple of drops straight onto your tongue, or spike your bedtime drink. 🙂

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…In Bed

The whole catch around falling asleep is that it involves doing absolutely nothing!  There’s nothing specific you can do to tell your brain to shut up and switch off, which makes it all the more frustrating when you just can’t get there.  So, what to do?

1. Breathing Techniques:

Again, blinking at my phone at 3am over Christmas I read a little bit about a few techniques that help you slow down your breathing, relax and drift off.  Try the “4-7-8 Technique”:

Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds…
…Hold that breath for 7 seconds…
…Then, breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
Repeat.

2. Don’t Count Sheep!:

IT DOESN’T WORK.  It’s just too easy.  Instead try something a little more difficult, like counting backwards from 100 in threes, or try visualizing specific details of somewhere you went on holiday, a room you know well or a journey you take every day.  Another trick that worked well for me was one where I lay flat on my back and then started clenching and relaxing my muscles one by one for a count of five – from my feet all the way up to my face.  If I wasn’t fast asleep by the time I reached my head, at least I was very, very relaxed.

3. And if you do struggle to fall asleep?  Don’t panic!  Get up, then try again:

If you don’t fall asleep within half an hour, don’t just toss and turn for hours getting more and more frustrated – get up.  Go into a completely different room and read a book, go downstairs and make a hot drink (no caffeine though!), make a list or do a crossword puzzle… and then come back in an hour and try again.

Do you have any tips and tricks when it comes to getting a better night’s sleep?  Let everyone know by commenting below! 🙂

Mozzarella Pupcakes

Peanut Butter and Mozzarella Pupcakes

My bestie turned two yesterday – can you believe it!?  He still acts like a clumsy, playful pup most of the time, only now he’s got 32 kilos of fluff to throw around which – obviously – he completely forgets when he’s charging around the house (…and I’ve got a massive hole in the plasterboard on my staircase to prove it…). Before having a dog, I’d have been one of those people who’d have thought it totally weird to bake a dog birthday cakes. It is a bit weird; I mean it’s just another day to him, right? And he doesn’t know what cakes are! But honestly? He’s such a legend; he makes Sunny and I laugh every single day, cheers us up when we’re feeling low – and just generally makes life a little bit – a lot – better (even when he wipes his butt on the sofa cushions or inhales a whole pile of expensive cheese straight off the kitchen counter…). So why wouldn’t we celebrate and spoil him a bit? He deserves it! 🙂

Bungle only gets these special cheesy Pupcakes on his birthday.  He’s got a couple of food allergies so we’ve got to be careful what we give him – but these I know are safe!  And he loves them!  They’re full of dog friendly ingredients and treats, with a piped cream cheese and peanut butter frosting.  Watch out if your dog can’t handle dairy, though, as these are full of the stuff!

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Pupcakes
“Oh wow! For me?! Thanks, you guys!”

Mozzarella (Mutzzarella?) Pupcakes (makes 6)

Ingredients

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 50g grated Mozzarella
  • 6 tbsp Natural Yoghurt

For the icing:

  • 200g Cream Cheese
  • 50g Peanut Butter
  1. Set your oven to 170 and lined a muffin tray with paper cases.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, natural yoghurt and grated cheese, and then fold in the flour.
  3. Separate the mixture into the muffin cases and then bake for 20 minutes.  Leave to cool.
  4. To make the icing, smear the peanut butter down one side of your piping bag, then fill with cream cheese.  Decorate, then allow doggo to devour.  🙂

Peanut Butter and Mozzarella Pupcakes

Have a great week!

Easy Green Thai Noodle Soup

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I think 2018 will be remembered as the year I officially, head over heels fell in love with Thai food.  It’s fresh and filling and colourful (I don’t know about you, but colourful food cheers me up this time of year); more importantly, it’s so quick and easy to make!  Pad Thai (♡♡♡) and Massaman Curry are my midweek meal saviours, and even though that’s not about to change, I’ve been feeling like branching out a little and adding a few more Thai recipes to my arsenal.

I threw this soup together just before Christmas.  I had some Thai Green Curry paste in my cupboard and a can of coconut milk going spare, and, when I reached right to the back I found an old pack of instant noodles.  The filthy kind.  You know the ones, they cost about 30p (or at least they did when I used to buy them on the way back home from High School) and come with a flavour sachet.  So wrong and yet so, so right.  I was just going to whip up the curry and have the noodles with it instead of rice, but then as they were boiling away it occurred to me that the flavoured water they were bubbling in would make a pretty good stock.  So I poured one pot into the other and wham-bam, here’s your Noodle Soup, maam.  It’s vegetarian (as long as you make sure you use vegetable-flavoured noodles instead of the chicken ones, obviously) and perfect for cold and gloomy January nights at home in front of the box.  Just make sure you only add the noodles when you’re ready to eat, because they’ll start slurping up that soup before you get a chance to! 🙂

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Easy Green Thai Noodle Soup (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • Thai Green Curry Paste
  • 400ml can of Coconut Milk
  • 2 packs of vegetable-flavoured instant noodles (cheaper the better!)
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • Sliced Chestnut Mushrooms
  • Shredded Red Cabbage
  • Shredded Carrot
  • Sliced Spring Onions
  • Sprinkle of black pepper and sesame seeds
  1. Heat up a deep saucepan with the vegetable oil, then add most of your vegetables – holding some spring onion slices back to garnish with later. 
  2. Stir in the green curry paste until it coats the veg, then pour in the coconut oil – stirring until it turns green. 🙂  Bring the boil, then simmer.
  3. Break the noodle block into a separate saucepan, sprinkle in the flavour sachet and then add boiling water.  Leave the noodles to bubble until they soften.
  4. Once the noodles are soft, pour the stock into the curry to create your soup.  The noodles will soak everything up quickly, so only add them to the soup once you’re ready to eat!  
  5. Garnish with the remaining spring onions, black pepper and sesame seeds – then slurp! 😉

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Happy weekend! 🍜

 

Why I’m Making Habits instead of Resolutions

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Happy 2019!  I’ve gotta admit; it feels pretty good to be back in the swing of things (even if the first thing I marked in my brand new diary was a dentist appointment for today – the most Monday-est of Mondays…).  To be completely honest with you, this post was supposed to be a recipe for Thai Noodle Soup, buuuuuuut the truth is that I spent a little too much time on the sofa during the Crimbo Limbo scoffing cheese and chocolate and binge-watching You on Netflix instead of prepping Blog Posts.  NO REGRETS.  You’ll just have to stay-tuned for that recipe, but until then how about a good ol’ chin-wag about Resolutions instead?

For the record, I’m not a fan. I’m a pantser not a planner by nature with absolutely zero willpower (see Netflix and Chocolate binge above and the fact that I bought a five pack of jam donuts this morning ten minutes after my dentist appointment…) and so the prospect of waking up on the 1st of January a new and improved version of myself complete with a laminated list of goals for the year ahead in hand is not only enough to bring me out in a cold sweat but absolutely and completely bonkers.  For a start, I’m lucky if I even get out of bed on the first day of January, and who the hell wants to pile that kind of pressure on top of themselves on the very first day of a new year anyway?  It’s so easy to make those ambitious, slightly vague statements on New Years Eve with a glass of champagne in hand, isn’t it? Before you know it, it’s February and – just like the champagne – you’ve lost your fizz and all your grand plans have fallen flat.  That’s resolutions for you.

But hey – despite all of that – I still can’t resist that squeaky clean, brand spanking new, fresh diary feeling you get at the very start of a new year. Of course, there are a few things I’d like to change and try my hand at this year, but instead of making resolutions, I’m making new habits.

Why? Well, the problem with resolutions is that they’re usually a bit vague (I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money) and/or a bit extreme (I’m never eating dairy again, I’m going to read 50 books) with no realistic plan in place to actually achieve them.  They demand perfection without a blink at the planning and hard work that needs to be put in; so it’s really no surprise when we flunk out come February. Habits on the other hand, are specific changes in behaviour that need a bit more thought and planning to put into practice.  Habits become a part of your daily routine – you have to actually make time for them – and so they’re much trickier to break and a more realistic way to achieve a new goal.  They’re more about the long road to perfection than perfection itself.

For example… 

RESOLUTION
“This year, I’m going to get fit.”

HABIT
“This year, I’m going to go to Pilates class every Wednesday night at 7pm.”

RESOLUTION
“This year, I’m going to find a new job.”

HABIT
“This year, I’m going to spend an hour every Tuesday night between 8 and 9pm applying for jobs.”

See what I’m saying? Think of it this way; the resolution is the goal, the habit is the plan you’re going to put into place to make sure you achieve it! …Or that’s the idea, anyway. 😉

So, which resolutions am I hoping to turn into habits in 2019? Honestly, they’re all really boring! Firstly, I want to read more books (she says, for the third year running… resolutions, ugh!); I love reading, but I’m terrible when it comes to making time for it. So this year I’m scheduling in an hour of reading time every day between 5 and 6pm. Be there or be square! Secondly, I want to add some more recipes to my midweek meal repertoire, especially some healthy ones. I’ve got a handful of go-to recipes that I’m getting bored of making all the time, so I’ve decided that I’m going to make it a new habit to spend an hour every Sunday researching a brand new recipe to cook for dinner during the week. And thirdly, I want a cleaner house (See? I told you they were boring!). Just before Christmas it became very clear that my old cleaning routine just wasn’t cutting it (the whole house was pretty much buried under a layer of Bungle’s fur…), so this year I’m going to try and set aside an hour a day to keep on top of the cleaning, one room at a time.  If I come up with something that works, I’ll let you know.  And that’s it! For now, at least…

So what about you? Are you making any changes this year? Also now’s the perfect time to let me know if there’s anything you want to see more (or less!) of here on the blog in 2019. Let me know in the comments! Hope you’re having a great start to the year! 🙂

Goodbye 2018

And just like that, we’ve hit the end of the road!  Goodbye 2018!  It’s been an amazing year full of surprises, amazing food and friends (which always tend to come hand in hand!), two incredible holidays (I dipped my toes in Canadian glacier water and the Gulf of Mexico this year…), a giant inflatable pineapple, an engagement (congrats little brother!) and a very mischievous bundle of blonde fluff.  Despite how it looks through the lens, I’ve had my own little share of heartbreak too over the past twelve months – but on the whole, I really, really can’t complain; I’ve had the most incredible year.  So, here’s to 2019 (that’s insane), and to you, lovely reader; thanks for sticking around, and I hope that the new year holds only the most amazing things for you and your favourite people.  Happy New Year! ✨



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Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Happy New Year!)!  See you on the flip side!