Why Our Sleep Patterns Can Tell Us a Lot

23/01/2012 21:54 GMT | Updated 24/03/2012 09:12 GMT

I'm 38 and have lived the other side of the world, worked for News Corp, trekked round South America, yet the idea of an empty house at night makes me feel like a five-year-old who is afraid of the dark.

Since I was a kid sleep eluded me. As a toddler I'd demand that my father told me stories wearing a hat at 3am. Every night I'd have weird and wonderful dreams - other cities and worlds I visit and revisit. I'd see tidal waves, the most fantastical fairground rides, multicoloured skies.

But I hated the dark, the endless night. I couldn't sleep with mirrors in the room or the door closed.

I grew out of most of this when I went to Oxford. It was less about sleep there and more drinking coffee or cider well into the morning. Sleep came easily because it was deprived.

Then I got into an ad-land routine of 12 hours plus a day so it was a dreamless sleep interrupted with budget figures or lists of tasks to be done.

Living with boyfriends made sleep both easier and harder. For me personally it was mainly the latter. There is nothing worse than being the same bed as someone yet feeling so disconnected from them. The gap in the bed seems like the wall of China. Back to back hearing the other person breathe and feeling bereft.

I also did the separate room thing with one of my ex-boyfriends which makes you feel like a stranger in your own home. I have heard couples talk about the virtues of sleeping apart. But sharing a bed is sharing one's life. As soon as you go to bed alone you start being on your own. New little habits that turn into bigger ones - texting friends that become more than that or sleeping in your socks that becomes sleeping in granny pjs.

Yet now I have met my beau sleep is one of the highlights of the day. We have created a nest. It makes me feel safe and loved. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before. Even as a kid.

So when he is away I am flung back to childhood years of vulnerability without my protector.

I have learnt that the feelings of loneliness at night are often bad childhood or phobias. As I talked about in my last blog it's often good to delve into some of these to understand more.

I moved countries at a young age. Simple things such as dark sky at bed time (instead of a Grecian sunset) made me need a night-light. Or the chilly sheets in the morning that made me wake up with a start and want to stay in bed all day.

All of this stuff stays with us.

Now I like sleeping under skylights so I'm never in the dark. Candles ease me into the blackness of night. Also there are the obvious no-nos for me. Reading a paper or watching tv or iPad makes my brain overactive rather than sleepy. Also no phones or BlackBerrys. The flashing red light used to be my bed partner when I worked for Fox. Waking me up at two then four then six. No sleep patterns can ever get properly established.

One trick a yogi taught me was to imagine in your the 'comfiest' place you have ever known - a beach, a hammock, a lawn and that will soothe you to slumber.

Most of all I have learnt that being untrue to you, unhappy in work or at odds with friends or family is the biggest sleep obstacle. Solve the problems and the body can rest easy. The old adage 'sleep on it' seems to misleading to me. It is liking sleeping with a full stomach. You need to digest first. Some people find writing out their issues in a diary before sleep a good way. Others use incense to clear the room's energy.

Whatever the way you choose may your pillow be soft, your duvet envelop you and may you all have the most pleasant sleep this evening.