The phrase ‘sleep hygiene’ has a schoolmarmy edge that I’ve never been entirely comfortable with. Even if you do everything you are supposed to before bed - no blue light an hour before, Epsom salt baths, pillow sprays, writing down worries so they don’t swill around your brain and reassemble themselves as ‘naked in Ikea’ dreams or whatever, you can still end up with only five hours on clock and the feeling that the REM police might cart you off for some cerebellum reassignment. Does that make you a sleep slattern?
During the working week, I get it - stress saps sleep, but this is often my story at weekends – nothing too taxing on TV, only one glass of wine, a few drops of valerian just in case, but then at 3am, still unaccountably conscious.
The word among fellow sleep sluts, however, is Spacemasks . These single-use self-heating eye masks are made of only two things – iron powder and essence of jasmine. You take the mask out of its foil pouch and it heats up on contact with oxygen, like those hand warmer pads that ramblers use. You hook the loops around your ears and lie back for 15 minutes of otherworldly calm.
I don’t know how, but it propels you off to sleep at warp speed, in an almost drug-like way (I've tried sleeping tablets too). I’m guessing the magic is in the way the heat relaxes the small muscles around the eyes, which are put to work relentlessly during our waking hours. And who on earth knows how to relax their eyeballs?
The heat feels almost counterintuitive as eyes usually seek cold things - cucumber, ice cubes, cooling rollers. But think of it in the way that a hot water bottle soothes stomach cramps or the way the heat of the sun on the face feels so soothing.
I first heard about Spacemasks from Jo Love, who runs the mother and baby luxury online marketplace Lobellaloves.com. The masks went viral among her new mum customer base and have been hugely popular gifts - what better present is there than sleep?
Jo herself suffered from postnatal depression and started the Instagram campaign #depressionwearslippy after a troll told her she couldn’t possibly have a mental health condition because she looked too groomed.
“Sleep is such a key driver to feeling well,” says Jo, whose site donates a proportion of sales to charities supporting mothers with mental illness.
”One of my triggers is lack of sleep, so I will do anything to cut that trigger off, which means I’m not usually very far from a Spacemask. I will just have a nap and feel 1,000 times better. It’s a mini moment of self-care, that’s just really easy. It’s acknowledging that I need to be replenished, having a business and a mental health condition as well as being a mum. We always put ourselves at the bottom of the list.”
Anecdotally, people also use them for everything from soothing migraines to helping with anxiety, depression and grief and even to stay calm during hospital procedures. And according to Jo, Spacemasks are brilliant for hangovers. “You know when you wake up at 5am and think ‘uh-oh’, you’re parched, you have that dull headache and you know you’ll only get that light sleep for the next couple of hours? Well, these will black you out again. If I’m going to a hen do, I'll always take a couple.”
Personally, I find that they disable the hair-trigger of my eyelids, which ping wide open at the slightest noise or intrusive thought. Once my eyes are relaxed, my body relaxes and as a bonus, the deep frown lines in my forehead soften. If you have no luck meditating, try it with one of these.
My challenge now is to find my pack of five – my teenage daughter has stolen them, drawn at first magpie-like to the K-beauty-style packaging but admitting it gave her had the best night’s sleep in months. She's planning to buy them a for her exam-stressed friends. At £3.50 a pop it’s got to be worth a go.
PS: I had another surprisingly powerful snooze experience this week - The Light Salon & MZ Skin Hydra-Bright Golden Eye Treatment at Harvey Nichols Beauty Lounge, Knightsbridge. Just 13 minutes under mood- and collagen-boosting LED light with Maryam Zamani's Golden Eye Hydra Bright Treatment serum infused eye masks (with a face massage to follow) took me from hectic Tube journey to nearly asleep in seconds. I woke up with a fresh and rested face. This just doesn’t happen!
Follow Victoria on Instagram @victoriawoodhall and Twitter @vwyoga
Buy Spacemasks £3.50 each or £15 for a pack of five .
Book The Light Salon & MZ Skin Hydra-Bright Golden Eye Treatment Available from 9th April 2018, it costs £50 for 20 minutes.