Laying awake in the middle of the night, anxiously trying to get some shut-eye is a common experience for many of us. But even for those without a history of insomnia, sleeplessness is an all-too regular occurrence in the midst of summer, as one tries desperately to find a position that is both cooling, and comfortable in the sweltering heat.
As a result, some will make the costly decision of alternating a selection of bedsheets and/or duvets throughout the course of the year.
But what if I were to tell you that this wasn’t necessary? What if I were to propose, that there is one material that could keep you all snuggled and warm during the coldest months, and could keep you wonderfully cool even during the peak of summer? And indeed, what if I were to say that this particular material not only improves with age, but also, looks good straight out of the dryer?
It was that last one in particular – “a loathing of ironing” – that first got Jessica Mason, Founder of Piglet, into linen. Since then, Jessica has been determined to uncover the material’s seemingly endless benefits – its durability, its rustic appearance, its breathability and so forth.
Jessica Mason, Founder of Piglet, pictured beside Piglet’s very own Indigo Blue Duvet Cover.
“I had been working in PR and marketing for a bunch of different companies for five years,” says Jessica, “and admiring a new wave of e-commerce brands who were creating really meaningful connections with their customer base and a sense of community through social media,” in reference to brands such as Glossier, or Gaiam.
“When I saw what I felt was a gap in the market for high quality linen bedding online, I pounced at the opportunity to combine my love of interior design and homeware with my interest in e-commerce.”
And thus, Piglet was born – a direct-to-consumer e-commerce brand selling the finest in stonewashed linen bedsheets. Made from 100% natural stonewashed French flax, each of Piglet’s products is founded upon a love and appreciation for this highly-adaptive material.
But then, Piglet isn’t alone in its use of linen. So, what is it that makes Piglet different to other companies selling linen-based bedding?
“I think what makes Piglet stand out from other high-quality linen bedding brands is the unique range of colours that has stayed really up to date with interior design trends (such as our Blush Pink or Sage Green) and the personal customer service.” And indeed, it was due to Jessica’s willingness to engage with her customers, and become what she had originally intended to – an e-commerce brand that formed meaningful connections with its customer base – that has allowed Piglet to grow in the way most preferred by its first, and most loyal followers.
Piglet’s range of high-quality, pre-washed linen bedding comes in a range of tasteful colours (such as ‘Sage Green’ pictured above). Sadly however, the piglets aren’t included…
“We started really small with just a few colours and a couple of sizes and found that talking directly to our customers about what they wanted and what would make their lives easier really helped us.”
Saying that however, Piglet is not for just one ‘type’ of person. Whether it’s parents with younger children appreciating the convenience of purchasing quality bedding online, or younger customers looking to acquire some bedding for university that won’t require too much upkeep, Piglet is for anyone and everyone it would seem. Including, those of us eager to improve our sleep.
A large part of Piglet’s appeal for example, derives from its products’ adaptability, and this is particularly obvious when we turn our attention to sleep. When asked as to how Piglet is able to keep up with the rapidly-evolving demands of the modern sleeper, Jessica referred to Piglet’s focus on ease and manageability.
“Our products are designed for people who want to spend less time on ironing and more time snuggled up in bed. We have heard from our customers that they sleep more solidly throughout the night in our bedding because of linen’s heat regulating properties.” In that sense, Piglet haven’t sacrificed any comfortability when designing their bedding, focussing on maximising each and every benefit linen can have on its users.
“Our bestseller are the Dove Grey King Size Bundles. Dove Grey works super well in so many different styles of homes and is loved by both men and women. I think this new neutral is here to stay!”
Jessica herself, was quite nervous to share her more recent experiences with sleep, simply due to the fact that she was managing to get more than is often expected in today’s ‘sleepless’ society. “I always feel a little embarrassed answering questions about sleep because at a time when everyone is struggling to get enough sleep I almost definitely get too much. If I didn’t need to function normally in the world I think I could quite happily enjoy a solid 12 hours a day.”
As someone who is currently experiencing a somewhat different relationship with sleep (I am currently running off 9 hours’ sleep from the past three days), I asked her how that was even possible? A magic serum perhaps? An unnamed medicine of some sort?
“I personally really focus on making my bed into somewhere I love to be,” she said. “Great bedding, restful fragrances and a good book all play a big role in helping me to unwind at the end of the day.”
Indeed, it’s easy to think of our bedroom as a multidimensional, all-in-one room in this day and age, capable of having us sleep in it, peruse the internet in it, eat in it and even work in it. And yet, researchers insist that the bedroom should be left as a place only associated with sleep. In other words, much like Jessica advises, no other stimulating activities should be done in your bedroom’s vicinity if you’re hoping to achieve a good night’s sleep.
As for the future, Jessica has recently launched Piglet’s very own linen pyjamas. Following months of testing, they’re finally available for online purchase, and provide that same combination of comfortability and breathability provided in Piglet’s linen bedding.
Made from 100% natural stonewashed flax, Piglet’s pyjamas are available in both White and Navy Linen.
“I am so excited to finally be releasing them. Sleeping in linen pyjamas while wrapped in linen bedding really is the most wonderful feeling.”
Seems almost dreamlike doesn’t it. Unless you’re regularly inclined to sleep in your birthday suit, wearing something/anything as comfortable or as cosy as your bed sheets would have previously been dismissed as merely wishful thinking.
That was, until Piglet came along.
Click here for the very best from Piglet and much more.
It was the end of a long week, and I’d just returned home after a day at work and an evening in the gym. I wanted nothing more than to put my feet up and relax on the couch until I eventually turned in for the night.
With looming deadlines behind me, and the dread of having to set an alarm for the next day (for a Saturday – can you imagine!) due to prior commitments, I could definitely feel the exhaustion setting in at the prospect of my weekend being cut short. Despite this foreboding sense of irritation, I was determined to make the most of my relaxing night before dealing with the hectic weekend.
Specifically, I turned to use Scentered’sDe-Stress Home Therapy Candle, weighing a sturdy 220g, which was decorated beautifully in a light emerald green colour box with delicate silver line designs that made me think of life in a forest.
Scentered’s De-Stress Home Therapy Candle
Upon first look, I could only think that the candle was a little too beautiful to actually light! Coming in a frosted cylindrical glass tub with similar silver line designs, the candle looked sophisticated yet calming to complement a cosy home’s interior with ease. The wick was near the top of the glass, meaning that it would be easy to light with either a match or a lighter. And upon first whiff, I was overwhelmed by fresh, citrusy notes – I couldn’t wait to light it.
At first, I lounged in my very open living room in front of the television but struggled to catch a drift of the scent. Noting that Scentered uses a custom blend of 100% natural waxes at its base and only pure essential oils that are free of synthetic ingredients and parabens, it struck me that the candle’s fragrance would probably not be as strong as some of the more artificially-scented candles I was accustomed to using. Certainly guaranteeing a cleaner burn and less toxic fumes, I migrated with the De-Stress scent to my bedroom and set it on my bedside table; I bathed in its soothing, warm glow as I read a novel.
In this much smaller and cosier environment, I could definitely smell the candle’s delightful aroma now. The initial freshness was only stronger; I could definitely make out the zesty Sicilian Lemon scent, which was met with a light but sweet orange fragrance – quite possibly the combination of Mandarin, Neroli and Sweet Brazilian Orange. It was light and incredibly refreshing, without overpowering the natural aroma of my room. It merely lifted the smells, and slowly I realised, my mood as well.
Scentered’s De-Stress Home Therapy Candle
The next thing I knew, I was waking up after an hour and a half of dozing off. I had no idea, or intention, of falling asleep at that time, but it seems the candle did the trick of calming me sufficiently in that I nodded off within minutes of getting comfortable in bed. I was feeling more refreshed, relaxed, and decidedly happier than I was when I just returned home. Suddenly, I wasn’t dreading that alarm I was going to hear the next morning.
I blew out the candle, which was still burning slowly and steadily, and inhaled the fragrant after-smells. I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly the lingering aroma was, but I caught smell of a very delicate spicy, but still sweet, finish. Perhaps the Rose or Jasmine that featured in the heart notes. My room still radiated a light citrusy scent, and I couldn’t wait to deeply inhale it all before falling asleep again.
Genuinely, I am amazed by how quickly Scentered’s De-Stress Home Therapy Candle got me to fall asleep; I intend to feature it a regular part of my night-time routine, especially if it means that I can fall asleep with ease, and wake up without a sense of tension, and instead a relaxed readiness to face another day.
“Ew, what’s that smell?” – is certainly not the way we want to feel just as we’re turning in for the night. Bad smells aggravate and alert us, doing exactly the opposite of what we want to do as we fall asleep.
We often associate our olfactory senses with food or the outdoors, but it’s important to remind ourselves that smell plays a key role in the bedroom as well. Just think about how pollen, mould or dust react with our lungs to disrupt our sleep; it’s no different when taking into account the thousands of other scents in the world. After all, inhaling something merely causes a chemical reaction in our brains which leads to a motor response – some positive, and some negative.
And while we fondly remember the smell of fried bacon or freshly mowed lawns to calm ourselves, it’s about time we really connected smell and sleep and controlled it to our advantages. Cash in the sleeping pills, and switch to aromatherapy.
Pretty much everyone knows how lovely lavender smells, but few know that research actually suggests that inhaling lavender oil decreases heart rates and blood pressure, and even lowers skin temperature; all great reactions to garner some sleep. The study further concluded that lavender promoted lengthier deep sleep in the REM cycle, allowing subjects to assess themselves as more relaxed and refreshed in the morning after a decent night’s rest.
It doesn’t stop there. Camomile and bergamot have also been known to assist relaxation, making a few drops of their essential oils on your pillow a great way to welcome some sound sleep. And if you’ve had, in contrast, a bad night’s rest, sniff some peppermint or rosemary, and you won’t find a better pick-me-up on par with a cup of coffee.
And spritzing and mists are definitely the way to go today. With diffusers available to change the smell of a large space, you can rework the ambience of a room to feel incredibly sleepy with the push of a button. Alternatively, you can purchase small bottles of mists specifically designed for pillows, or even dab a few drops of essential oils on cotton balls to achieve the very same effect.
So there you have it. That’ll get you some good olfactory sleep.
Click here to see myza’s range of candles and sprays, guaranteed to change the scent and ambience of your room for a great night’s sleep
“Revolutionary technology based on Nobel Prize-winning mechanisms that help you sleep better.” It’s not everyday you find yourself reviewing a product with a description like that.
Then again, the AYO is far from an ‘everyday’ product.
A blue-light emitting wearable, controlled and customised using the wonderfully-simple goAYO App (for iOS and Android), the AYO suggests it can do three things:
Significantly boost your energy during the daytime
Regularise your sleeping patterns, and reduce your ‘social jet lag’
Beat jet lag, and adapt to a new time zone 2 to 3 times faster
But of all these things, would it help me achieve high-quality sleep?
To do this, the AYO relies upon its usage of blue-light.
Blue-light has received quite a bit of press – both negative and positive – in recent years, as our understanding of different wavelengths’ effects on human physiology and sleep has dramatically increased. For instance, as a short-wavelength light emitted by devices such as smartphones and laptop screens, blue-light has been shown to delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, the hormone responsible for inducing sleepiness in humans. The suggestion therefore, that blue-light could somehow be used to improve rather than hinder my sleep initially confused me.
Upon opening the box, I was immediately greeted by what could easily be mistaken for a somewhat larger-than-usual medicine capsule. However, rather than merely part of the packaging, I soon realised that this was the AYO’s charging dock, and indeed, the AYO’s home (when it’s not on your face of course). As a result, rather than having to charge your wearables in the open, making them vulnerable to damage and so forth, you charge your AYO whilst it’s housed in its capsule.
This came as a very welcomed surprise to someone such as myself. In an age when you can pay as much as £1000 for a mobile smartphone, and still be left without a case or travelling bag for your device, AYO’s attention to their consumers’ needs is massively appreciated. High-quality, wonderfully-styled, and beyond practical, the case is perfect.
To be clear – the wearables are not identical to a pair of glasses. For example, rather than covering the entirety of your eyes, there is but a sliver of glass beneath each upper-rim of the wearables. From here, the gentle blue-light is emitted, allowing you to wear the device when you’re walking to the station, working in the office, or even getting changed in the morning.
Comfortable and easy-to-wear, I was admittedly stared at quite a bit when I began wearing the device on the street/around the office/at home. However, rather than due to my slightly eccentric dress-sense or the AYO’s unconventional appearance, this as I later found out, derived primarily from an intense interest in the effect of blue-light. So many it seemed, had heard something about the possibility of blue-light enhancing your mood or regulating your sleeping patterns, and they simply wanted to know whether the AYO was simply a gimmick, or did it do each of the three things listed above?
Well, I can tell you now, that after using it extensively for two weeks, and following the advice/programs uniquely styled to each user offered by the goAYO app, I now sleep better – more consistently and more deeply – as well as possess more energy when I most desperately need it during the day.
The goAYO app is easy to use, and includes a number of programs that are customisable and succinctly explained at appropriate stages throughout the app. Arguably the most useful of these programs is the CHRONOFIT, which after you have entered your ‘sleep’ and ‘wake’ times for the work-week and weekend, calculates your ‘Social Jet Lag – the extent to which your biological clock is out-of-sync with your daily sleep schedule. Once activated, the goAYO app syncs with your calendar, reminding you each morning to use the AYO at specific times after your desired wake-up.
Not only did this allow me to initially get used to the AYO, wearing it whilst I was getting ready for work each morning, but also allowed me to experience the full power of blue-light. Using the AYO after first waking up, I experienced first-hand the impact that blue-light could have upon my wakefulness. And, within a period of only five days, I had gone from a repeat ‘SNOOZE’ button offender, to a morning person. An actual morning person!
AYO isn’t alone in manufacturing blue-light emitting wearables. And as we continue to learn more about the possible advantages/disadvantages of different light wavelengths, we can only look forward to what the future will have to offer, in the form of wearables.
But, for the time being, the AYO is seemingly in a class of its own.
Saying that however, it got me thinking: is the AYO for everybody? How much you receive from using the AYO for example, largely depends upon how much time and effort you are willing to put in. If you’re unlikely to follow the CHRONOFIT instructions, and ignore the early morning reminders to use your AYO, you will inevitably fail in your attempt to reduce your Social Jet Lag. What’s more, despite personally finding the AYO easy to use whilst working, and a rather stylish addition to my wardrobe, some may struggle to wear the AYO, particularly in public. And if so, this will only prevent you from maximising the AYO’s potential to lift your mood, improve your sleep, and enhance your energy. Purchasing the AYO in other words, is only the beginning.
Moreover, there’s the cost.
But to those who think the cost is too much, I would ask you to think about all that you could potentially gain from using the AYO. Perhaps you’re a regular coffee drinker, contributing to the £730 million that Brits spend on coffee every year. Imagine however, if you were no longer solely reliant upon coffee for your energy boost in the mid-afternoon? How much do you think you would save, no longer relying upon your daily trip to Starbucks etc. to wake you up?
With the AYO, the need for a caffeine-boost in the morning, afternoon or evening all-but-disappears, together with the inevitable caffeine-crash two hours later. In fact, by the end of the two weeks trial, I found myself consuming as little as one cup of coffee per day (rather than the usual six).
In that sense, the AYO is an investment, but a potentially life-changing one, which can honestly make you sleep more consistently, work more effectively and (presumably) travel more efficiently. Soon to travel to the US, I look forward to testing out the latter very soon.
The AYO and much more are available to purchase directly from myza’s Audio & Visual department
Do I really know what I’m putting in me? Ironically, I write this as I pick at my store-bought cannelloni for dinner, staring intently at a beige mess of a meal with no hint of real vegetables or nutrition in general.
This thought has been lingering with me ever since I spoke to Andrew Thomas, the founder of BetterYou, who politely informed me that the quality of our (collectively speaking, of course) diet was worsening in terms of healthy vitamin and mineral content. And what seems to be lacking in particular, is magnesium.
A mineral we’re born with, but seemingly on the decline as we favour calcium-heavy meals, magnesium is a key component to the body’s healthy functioning, specifically with regards to promoting good muscle and joint health, sleeping patterns, and reducing the effects of respiratory issues and low energy levels. However, as we experience an increase in the calcification of our bodies, what with our preference for cheese and dairy-rich foods to leafy green vegetables and legumes, it’s clear as to why we seem more lethargic and in pain more than ever.
So, when I had the chance to try BetterYou’s Magnesium Body Lotion, I was both excited and relieved; excited because I was presented with a beautifully simple, yet highly effective, method of improving my magnesium levels, and relieved because I finally knew exactly what I’d be putting on my skin. It wasn’t just an eclectic mix of essential oils, but rather it was a natural source of magnesium chloride sourced from The Netherlands, which promised physiological results.
The lotion came in a simple tube with a handy pump, and is designed to look like a more official, medically-approved addition to your skincare range in your bathroom cabinet. A deserved look in my opinion, as it avoids the excessive marketing ploys of colours and fancy fragrances, and gives us a clear and precise representation of what is inside.
Following the instructions, I applied the lotion as part of my bedtime routine after showering, when my skin was clean but still slightly damp. I pumped a large dollop of the lotion into the palms of my hands and massaged it gently into my legs and arms. It was incredibly hydrating (maybe a little too much so) in terms of texture and absorbed well into my skin.
Perhaps if you were to inhale very deeply and closely, you’ll smell hints of coconut, but largely speaking the combination of shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil and vitamin E left the lotion with a fragrance-free solution. I was most pleased with this lack of scent, as it meant that I could go to sleep without being awakened by an unfamiliar scent, no matter how pleasant it could be.
On the first night, I went to bed feeling fully moisturised (but just a tad sticky) and calm, but otherwise experiencing no difference. I was a little disappointed, but knowing that it was impossible to see improvements that quickly, I went to sleep.
The following night was a different story. I adjusted my quantities and applied a fraction of what I used on the first night, and felt a world of difference. It’s true: a little goes a long way with the BetterYou Magnesium Lotion, as this time I could attest for the formula’s lightness. It absorbed wonderfully, and I could certainly feel the softness and silkiness, without any traces of stickiness at all.
Furthermore, that night, I returned home after a series of exercise classes in the gym. Knowing my affinity for exerting myself just a little too much, I knew that I would be spending the following day limping to work and shifting uncomfortable in my chair due to stiffness and dull aches. I applied the lotion in the same manner, and hoped for the best.
And, if you care to believe me at all, I woke up with very few aches and hardly felt any muscle strains! I was absolutely in awe, and completely amazed that I hardly struggled up and down the stairs on the London Underground. I moved with ease, and while I did feel a little sore during work, I believe these would disappear over time and with frequent use of the lotion.
Transdermal magnesium (meaning that the mineral is absorbed through the skin and not the gut) in this form gave me access to 150mg (equivalent to 43% of my daily recommended intake) in just five small millilitres of the lotion. Knowing what difference it could make to my feeling tired and sore in general, and knowing exactly what I was putting on and in my body, I was deeply satisfied knowing that I was doing myself a favour by complementing it with lost minerals for the benefit of nobody but my own.
I expect this lotion will become a staple of my skincare routine, for it was moisturising, nourishing, and most importantly, it made me feel like I was doing myself some good.
It’s one thing to be suffering from sleeplessness, or constantly feeling the effects of “social jet lag”. But it’s another thing having to constantly bear witness to what effect such poor sleep is having upon your physical body, usually in the form of dark, baggy circles under your eyes.
Then again, poor sleep isn’t the only reason for dark, tired eyes. From inherited facial features to allergies, stress to increasing skin laxity, we’re all (sadly) susceptible to those dark circles.
Devoted to using natural ingredients and showing the upmost respect for the environment, Inlight Beauty were the very first UK skincare company to gain Cosmos accreditation, working closely with the UK’s Soil Association to maintain the best possible standards in the beauty industry. All packaging for example, is responsibly and sustainably sourced, and recyclable.
Sustainability aside however, Inlight also provides what can only be described as skincare products of the highest quality, free from harmful ingredients or chemicals responsible for causing skin irritation.
So, when I first heard that they had produced an organic eye balm – Inlight Beauty’s Under Eye Revive – specifically formulated to combat puffiness and brighten the look of dark circles, I was particularly excited to test it out.
Meticulously sourced and blended, Inlight Beauty use the finest organic ingredients, chosen for their natural therapeutic and preservative properties.
Of course, I did have questions. Would it be suitable for sensitive skin? Having tried so many products/devices to counter my congested eyes, and sadly to no avail, what was so different about Inlight Beauty’s Under Eye Revive? And most importantly of all – would it even work?
Upon first using the oil-based, water-free formula, I was presented with a wonderfully luscious liquid that was oily, but not-at-all greasy. With jojoba oil as the base oil, the balm is perfect even for sensitive skin, and combined with the deeply-moisturising hazelnut oil and beeswax, my skin felt immediately hydrated after its first application.
How and when you apply the organic eye balm is entirely up to you. However, I soon became sure that applying the formula immediately after washing my face and administering my preferred toner, and before my moisturiser, was the most effective way to use it.
It’s recommended that you use Inlight’s Under Eye Revive for approximately 3 weeks, applying both in the morning and evening, before you begin to reduce your regularity of applying the product. In that time, it was suggested that any evidence of congested and tiresome eyes would near-disappear.
After 2 weeks of use, a tinge of darkness admittedly remains under each of my eyes. However, I cannot emphasise enough the difference it’s made not just in my skin’s appearance, but in general feeling. Refreshing and invigorating in the morning, cleansing and luxurious in the evening, the eye balm now takes pride of place in my daily skincare routine.
Of all the products I have used under my eyes – ice-gel masks, caffeine serums etc. – it has been particularly difficult to find a substance that is both reinvigorating, and deeply-hydrating. But the Under Eye Revive does exactly that. And if you’d like to, I’d even suggest keeping the case in the fridge, if you’re keen for that early-morning wake-up some of us so desperately need.
So, as you brace yourself for even more late evenings, cold weather, and inevitable stresses of daily life, why not treat yourself to something that not only reinvigorates your face, but also, awakens your mind and body.
The first word that came to mind when I looked at this tea was: beautiful. Aesthetically, it was a gorgeous teabag, if it is even possible to describe a humble tea bag in such a manner. Gentle, earthy colours of pale greens, woody browns and mustard yellows are lifted by striking hues of pinks, blood reds and violets, making for an electrifying pop of colour. If I wasn’t going to brew it in my mug, I’d definitely star this tea blend in the middle of my living room in a potpourri bowl.
Lola’s Apothecary’s Clementine Calamity Relaxing Tea comes armed with the promise that it’ll combat stress and “taste happy” with every sip. And what better place to reap the rewards of such a tea, than in busy and hectic London? Our small but strong team of three, with deadlines galore and creative juices flowing, decided to put Lola to the test to see how true her claims really were.
We grabbed three office mugs at promptly 3pm on a Friday, just as we were embracing the #TGIF feeling, whilst also struggling to find the motivation to get through the next few hours before it was officially the weekend. In dire need of an afternoon pick-me-up, we tied the tea bags to the handles and poured boiling water over the them and let it steep for 5 to 7 minutes, as directed on the website. We took the bags out, and let the water cool a little before we took our first sips.
It was sweet, but not saccharinely so; a pleasant combination of vanilla and faint cinnamon washed over my taste buds, and citrusy notes of orange and lemon balm lingered on my tongue. The tea definitely had a robust flavour, but what I particularly liked was the warm and cosy feeling that the tea left me with once it had made its way down my throat and into my belly. Perfect, for the cold weather outside.
I’ll be honest: I couldn’t discern the linden flower, to passion flower, to rich honeybush to oat straw in terms of flavour. But this made little difference to me, as what mattered most was the holistic flavour of the tea at large. The calmingly sweet apple was complete with a delicate aftertaste of ginger and some identifiable spice, and its aroma was gentle and wholesome. As I made my way to the bottom of the mug, I could definitely feel myself becoming calmer; my colleagues were definitely sharing this sentiment as we chitchat and laughed for the duration of our tea break.
Next time, I intend to leave my teabag in for slightly longer as I quite like my tea strong and completely filled with flavour. But the fact remains that I am going in for a next time, as Lola’s Apothecary’s Clementine Calamity Relaxing Tea certainly fulfilled its promise of happiness and relaxation, what with its sweet and delicate flavour and fragrance that was the perfect complement to the end of the work week.
Headspace, Digipill, Pillow, Sleep Cycle – smartphone-based apps have revolutionised the way we sleep. And together with a whole host of articles proclaiming “5 Ways to Sleep Better…” (myself included), the level of sleep-related advice available to us is greater than ever.
Each of these things represent a new age of self-help. More easily than ever before, we can entirely rely upon our own efforts and resources to achieve whatever we so desire. But where does the idea of self-help come from, and indeed, is there any reason to question its ability to make a ‘better you’?
“Heaven helps those who help themselves”
Times have changed since the birth of humanity. Whereas once our lives revolved around simply surviving each day, reproduction and outlasting treacherous weather conditions, many of us now rely upon philosophical insight to guide each of our actions, and to provide our lives with some form of meaning.
Despite there having been numerous advocations for personal development before the 19th century, from Boethius’ “Nothing is miserable unless you think it so”, to Robert Burton’s “What cannot be cured must be endured”, it was the Scottish author, doctor and lecturer Samuel Smiles who coined the concept of ‘self-help’.
Published in 1859 – the same week as Charles Darwin’s revolutionary On The Origin of Species – Smiles’ Self-Help became an international bestseller in its year of release, second in sales only to the Bible. Derived from Smiles’ own political perspective, it was his view that in order for society to become more civilised or successful, individuals must take it upon themselves to become ‘better’. In order to do so, Smiles advocated a life of sacrifice, defined by a dedication to hard work, thrift and sobriety.
“Why did I not stop?”
The work of Samuel Smiles was largely derivative of his own life. Smiles – unlike some contemporary self-help authors – practised the work he preached, working tirelessly throughout his life to write hundreds of articles, and publish over 25 books.
Smiles’ autobiography (1905) however, published one year after his death, depicts a man who had judged success in particularly confined terms. So much so, that he had suffered for it. Describing his rapidly declining health for example, no longer able to eat or sleep, Smiles asks himself, “Why did I not stop?” before declaring, “Poor, weak, unreflecting human nature. We know the right, and yet the wrong pursue.”
Looking now, it is clear that Smiles’ narrow-mindedness and focus solely upon work and success, neglected the need for pleasure and leisure in one’s life. Any time spent resting for instance, was time that should have been spent working, and furthering your chances of material gain and societal success. What had previously provided the Scottish author with fame and fortune, had by later life, become a system of oppression, one that prevented him from enjoying life.
To many, Smiles was little more than an advocate of classical liberalism, championing a form of individualism that was free from reliance upon the state. “Heaven helps those who help themselves” after all.
But in fact, Smiles wasn’t solely interested in the individual. It was Samuel Smiles’ aim in fact, that readers would be able to become more practical, and more hard working by following his proposals outlined in Self-Help, and thereby, be able to give to their society in a more efficient and effective way.
His idea of self-help was revolutionary, not merely for its unprecedented success, but also, because it finally prioritised a notion of self-improvement that was free from notions of self-aggrandisement, selfishness or short-sightedness.
The Future of Self-Help & Sleep
The self-help industry has changed drastically since the days of Samuel Smiles. Now a multi-billion dollar industry, sharing secrets of ‘eternal youth’, the ‘perfect body’, and the ‘happiest life’, self-help books/websites/articles/apps have become a staple of contemporary life. And this is hardly a surprise. People have always been fond of trying to improve, and indeed, telling others how to live their life.
But what about self-help and sleep?
What arguably makes ‘sleep’ different to the ‘perfect body’, or ‘eternal youth’, is in its realism. We all need to sleep. We all have the same genetic make-up, and each rely upon high-quality rest to reaffirm our memories, regain our energy and forget about those concerns that life throws at us. Not only that, but we also know what will happen if we become deprived of sleep. Cancer, type 2 diabetes, a stroke or heart attack – our general well-being relies upon us sleeping well.
We also, know how to improve our sleep, due to the sheer volume of sleep-related self-help available to us today. Avoid your phone or any electrical device at least one hour before bedtime. Limit your caffeine or nicotine intake. Maintain your circadian rhythm by not altering your bedtime, even on the weekend. Don’t have alcohol before bed. You’ve almost certainly heard them all before. But have you ever taken some time to explore truly why you want to improve your sleep?
It’s an important question to ask yourself, before delving into the world of self-help. Rather than ‘what’, why do you want to change? Self aggrandisement? Keeping up appearances? To make money? Or to truly better yourself, and enhance your ability to give to the people around you?
Choosing the latter doesn’t necessarily make you a better person. But one would assume, changing for the many – your partner, your housemates, your family – will have a more positive effect than viewing your ‘improvement’ purely through your own guise.
Sure. You wouldn’t want to take any sleep tips off Smiles. And perhaps the Victorian writer had a point when he said that humanity often knew “the right, and yet the wrong pursue.” But the extent to which people now worry about their sleep, and make enormous efforts to improve it, should make us sincerely hopeful for the future. For it could be, that so many people wish to do so in order to contribute to societal well-being.
A new political slogan for the sleep-deprived perhaps?
Our common perception of ‘dreams’ have undergone a vast transformation in the past two hundred years. From the work of Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung, to the advancement of Behaviourism or discovery of REM / rapid eye movement sleep in the 1950s, the usefulness and even significance of dreams haven’t always been a given in society. But, whereas relatively recently a series of “thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep” would have been disregarded as useless brain leakage, the 21st century has seen the re-emergence of a significant interest in those infrequent “excursions into the limbo of things.”
A Dream and Philosophy Slam with Mark Vernon and Robert Rowland Smithfrom The School of Life was the final instalment from Eve Sleep‘s Sleep Suite, a five-day spectacular celebrating sleep with a selection of talks on diet, interior design and travel.
Mark and Robert were each from The School of Life, an organisation based in London devoted to improving our emotional intelligence. How can we find work and life more fulfilling? How can we become more understanding of one’s past or personality? How can we be better at maintaining relationships? The School of Lifeprides itself on making us think differently about our greatest worries, and think more intelligently and openly about our central emotional concerns.
To do this, The School of Life hosts a number of events with some of the most intriguing minds in academia and culture, and A Dream and Philosophy Slam was no different. Dr. Mark Vernon for example, is an author, teacher and journalist, with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warwick, and degrees in Theology and Physics. Together with Robert Rowland Smith – a Prize Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, acclaimed author and lecturer in philosophy, literature and psychoanalysis – the audience were treated to the meeting of two remarkable minds. And despite the potentiality for a convoluted, overly-scientific discussion, Mark and Robert did not disappoint, producing a ‘slam’ that was both understandable and intellectually intriguing beyond belief.
“Comedy improv, without the jokes”
I had never partaken in a philosophy slam before, especially one concerning sleep. Described by Robert Rowland Smith as “comedy improv, without the jokes”, the audience were expected to shout-out anything – yep, anything – related to their dreams, and wait for Robert and Mark to respond with a selection of impromptu ideas drawn from philosophy, literature, psychology, art or political theory. In other words, this particular event required audience participation.
Anywhere else, audience participation would presumably fill the organisers, and indeed, the audience members, with dread – especially when the topic of discussion is something as personal, as private as dreams. After all, if we were to believe the theories of Sigmund Freud, dreams represent our deepest, often darkest desires for what we wish to fulfil in our waking lives. Would anybody be willing to shout out a term related to something potentially so revealing, in a room full of strangers?
Well, those fears were misplaced. Aided by the comfortability of our surroundings in the De Montfort Suite at the Town Hall Hotel, the desire to learn more about our sleeping state was tangible, with everybody and anybody wanting to contribute to the discussion. ‘Falling’, ‘heartbreak’, ‘flying’ and even ‘orgies’, it seemed nothing was off-limits during the hour long event.
Delving into the experience of ‘violence’ in dreams for example, Mark and Robert explored everything, from the Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature to HBO’s Game of Thrones, detailing the extent to which much of the cultural output we may consume today, as possibly real-world incarnations of our dreams. In other words, the desire of millions all around the world to obsessively view scenes of rape, murder and graphic gore as contained in Game of Thrones, could be in reaction to a general sense of unease amongst the show’s viewers. It is thereby, almost symbolic of our own ‘fight or flight’ mechanism according to Dr. Vernon.
More Arts – Less Science
Of course, some may have been disappointed. There were few, if any references to the scientific studies recently completed or currently ongoing in regards to humanity’s experience of dreams. The “activation-synthesis hypothesis” for instance, which states that dreams are meaningless and little more than electrical brain impulses that pull sporadic thoughts from our memory, was not extensively examined.
And nor was the work of Cristina Marzano and her colleagues at the University of Rome, who only six years ago were able to explain how humans come to memorise their dreams, using a signature pattern of brain waves. In particular, “low frequency theta waves in the frontal lobes”. Instead, psychoanalysis – the work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in particular – took centre-stage throughout the philosophy slam.
Perhaps several decades ago, the sincere inclusion of these figures in a discussion concerning our dreams would have been laughable, given the extent to which Freud’s work in particular, had been largely debunked by modern dream scientists.
However, as Mark and Robert clearly indicated, psychoanalysis has recently experienced a significant re-growth, offering valuable insight into the specific meaning of our dreams. Further, they were able to clearly illustrate the numerous and fundamental differences that existed between the research of Freud and Jung, rather than declaring ‘psychoanalysis’ as a catch-all term. For example, whereas Freud viewed dreams as the product of our unconscious mind, and representative of our truest and most flagrant desires, Jung – Freud’s mentee and later, professional foe – viewed dreams as the bridge between our unconscious and conscious mind. Rather than symbiotic of repressed sexual desires, dreams can provide the tools, imagery or solutions to those problems we face everyday in our conscious reality.
So, when we experience ‘chasing’ within our dream, what could it be attempting to represent? Perhaps wanting something in our conscious reality – a material possession or a high school crush? But then how could we possibly achieve that? As Smith was keen to point out, referring to a number of artistic and cultural works, often the most effective form of chasing is seduction, and luring your desire towards you. Indeed, it could be that chasing someone/thing in your dreams could be telling you not only what you desire, but the optimal methodology to attain it.
The discussion-cum-philosophy slam may not have answered the fundamental questions currently plaguing us – why precisely do dreams occur, what does each dream represent and so forth. But what it did prove in abundance is to what extent the ever-growing interest in sleep is multi-dimensional, bringing philosophers, artists, scientists and doctors together for an immense discussion like no other.
Reclaiming Our Sleep, and Our Dreams
Famed for his research on biphasic sleep patterers in pre-industrial Britain and beyond, A. Roger Ekirch wrote in 2001, how we had “los[t] touch with our dreams”, due to the cultural and technological change of the past centuries. And yet, with the average person likely to experience 150,000 to 200,000 dreams in their lifetime, and spend as much as 10% of their lives dreaming, dreaming’s significance beyond the world of sleep cannot afford to be underestimated, however difficult it is to explore the mysterious phenomenon.
As soon became apparent last Friday night however, once our dreams are explored in an open manner, using familiar terminology, popular culture and philosophy, it’s impossible not to want to learn more about our near-nightly, sleepy excursions into strange and wondrous worlds.
Perhaps we have been “disanulled of our first sleep, and cheated of our dreams and fantasies,” by technological advances and the capitalist age. But, as The Sleep Suite series by Eve Sleep exemplified, attempts to reclaim a peaceful, high-quality and interesting night’s sleep are currently underway, and consequently, encouraging more open, more informed discussions in regards to all things sleep – whether about food or travel, the metaphysical or the practical.
Love is in the air as February 14th approaches, with Cupid’s arrow and your shopping cart at the ready to celebrate your loved one, or simply yourself if you’re a strong, independent (wo)man who don’t need nobody. Whether it’s a case of “treat your partner” or “treat yo self”, myza’s ultimate Valentine’s Day gift list has you covered for what to buy to add a touch of romance and warmth to these frosty, but lovely, days.
Ready To Mingle
Get date face ready with 001 London’sSupreme Equilibrium Mask, designed to battle frosty weather and unveil your natural rosy glow just in time for your Valentine’s Day schedule. With a powerhouse of ingredients like frankincense, myrrh, Manuka honey and gingko leaf extracts at its core, the mask tackles dry and dull skin with some TLC and by promoting collagen and elastin production. Complete with brown marine algae to enhance the skin’s hydro-lipid barrier, the mask promises to leave you fresh-faced, sensual, and ready to mingle.
001 London’s Supreme Equilibrium Mask
Embrace the “stay in bed all day” look with The Reach London’s unisex bathrobes, available in pearly whites and royal navy blues. Coming beautifully wrapped in delicate tissue paper and gift-boxed with black satin ribbon, the robes are made entirely from pure Turkish cotton with a wide shawl collar, tie belts and pockets. They guarantee a soft, fluffy cuddle – perfect for romantically lounging away the day in with your partner. Why not pair it with lush Perilla alpaca fur socks, or a silky Radice eye mask, to complete the look, and to look luxurious as you enjoy each other’s kindred romantic spirit?
The Reach London’s Unisex Full Length Turkish Bathrobe
Nothing sounds better than a cosy snuggle with your partner, under the warmth and comfort of a luxurious Tolly McRae throw. Available in a number of colours and shades to fit the aesthetic of any home, the super soft blanket is crafted from 100% fine merino wool in the British Isles, meaning that silkiness and insulation work hand-in-hand for the ultimate woollen embrace. Curl up on your sofa or in bed, and keep the cold away and the love in with a lush Tolly McRae hug.
Tolly McRae’s Throws
Crowns for Kings and Queens
The pillow is the crown of the bed – plush and comforting. So, this Valentine’s Day, rest your romantic souls in lavish and blissfully smooth embrace of a Coze pillow. Available in different levels of softness, the pillows are fashioned from varying ratios of Pyrenean duck feather to duck down, and are encased in 100% cotton in 200 (or more!) thread count pillow cases. Fit for royalty, the pillows are perfect to sink your heads into and gaze lovingly into your partner’s eyes this romantic season.
Wake up on the right side of the bed this Valentine’s Day with a Lumie Bodyclock – a dawn stimulator and alarm clock to keep your spirits high on a day filled with love and happiness. The gradually brightening light naturally boosts cortisol levels to wake you up feeling refreshed and energised, and the music function will allow you to customise your alarm tone for a gentle wake-up call instead the dreaded beeps on your mobile phone. Whether this is a gift for yourself or for both you and your partner, the Lumie clocks turn away winter morning blues and pave the way for a cheerful day for love and benevolence in the air.