It's holiday time, which is usually the perfect opportunity for a proper rest that gets rid of all the tiredness you've built up since the start of the year. Over the last few months, who hasn't secretly dreamed of sleeping like a marmot, lounging under the sheets for hours, free from the tyranny of the alarm clock? Smelling wafts of coffee and hot toast from the comfort of your bed has to be one of the best feelings in the world (that's just my opinion but I'm sure you'll agree).
Here in Val Thorens, the marmot is a great example to follow when it comes to sleep. This charming animal spends 6 months a year asleep, in total hibernation (living the dream), before waking up in the spring to enjoy the beauty of the season. Although studies have shown that it may be less restful to sleep above altitudes of 2,000 metres due to the lower oxygen levels, it seems that the locals have become accustomed to kipping perched high up in the mountains. Maybe they're hiding some well-kept secrets? Is génépi liqueur a powerful sleep-aid? Or is the mountain air so cold that you dive under a duvet the minute it gets dark? Perhaps the call of the marmot plunges residents into a deep slumber?
Many of these hypotheses are yet to be proven (especially the one about génépi liqueur) so in the meantime, here are my tips for peaceful, relaxing sleep, advice from a professional sleeper and marmot in-the-making.
1 - Cold nights
The mountain has the advantage of mild (even hot) days and cool evenings. We already know that we usually sleep better in a room that's cooler than the rest of the house. When the sun goes down, air out your room for a few minutes, enjoy the coolness, the fresh air and the silence. Take a look at the shadows the sun sketches on the mountains, look for the first stars of the evening. There, that's better.
In winter, consider airing your home for about ten minutes every morning, and lowering the temperature of the heating in your bedroom by a few degrees.
2 - Plant power
I'm clearly getting old before my time, but every night I drink herbal tea before going to sleep. Several plants are known for their soothing and sleep-easing properties: camomile, linden, lemon balm, verbena, orange blossom or passionflower and lavender. Here are my herbal tea recommendations: 2 Marmots, Yogi Tea (organic), Clipper (organic) and Guide herbal teas (organic). So get your cup out, heat up the water (not too hot, 80°C) and let the plants work their magic.
3 - A good book
It's time to switch off. It's well-known that the electronics we're besieged by throughout the day are bad for our health and keep our brain awake. In the evening, curb your instinct to check your email, social networks, messages… Put your mobile to one side (or even better, put it in airplane mode). Open up a good book (preferably read alongside a mug of the herbal tea mentioned above) and let yourself embark on new imaginary horizons. And if you're lacking inspiration on what to read, take a look at Thibaut's article recommending 5 books about the mountains to read this summer.
4 - A bit of physical activity
Regular exercise is directly linked to sleep quality because it's anxiolytic, antidepressant and analgesic (thanks to the endorphins our body releases while we're exercising). It's like a virtuous circle: we exercise, which makes us less stressed, which makes us sleep better, so we feel better and exercise more, and so on, QED.
During the summer, try out one of the many hikes that crisscross the Belleville Valley, escape it all playing some beach volleyball, relax on a mountain bike ride, let yourself hang out on a paraglider... In short, get moving! Julien Chorier, multiple ultra-trail running champion gives us his tips on optimising training at high altitudes.
In winter, discover a different side to the mountains through ski touring, snowshoeing or fat biking. Of course, skiing is also considered a sport if you spend more time on the slopes than you do lounging on the terraces ;-)
5 - Calm your mind
Being agitated is no aid to relaxation... All day, demands are placed on us from all directions that we can't help but bring home with us, however hard we try not to. So before going to bed, try to create a calm environment around you - and, most importantly, inside your head. There are some very simple exercises to help you to clear your mind and refocus on what really matters. Gazing at a beautiful landscape helps to lower the heart rate and thus reduce the effects of stress on the body. You can also try a little meditation; Sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus only on the flow of your breath and the movement of your abdomen, without letting your mind wander. It's easier said than done, but I guarantee that with a little practice, the benefits are well worth the effort!
If my advice has helped you to have a good night's sleep, then my work here is done. If, on the other hand, you fell asleep while reading this article, I'm going to have to have a serious think about my writing style! If you have any tips on how to sleep better, don't hesitate to share them with us! I'll leave you with a quote by Henri-Frédéric Amiel, whose diary from 1865 showed he already knew the value of a good night's sleep: "The fairy sleep is the mother of the mind, a restorative and consoler of daily ills."
Good night all :-)