Could an afternoon nap in a state-of-the-art pod help David Skipwith get some sleep?
Looking to improve my quality of sleep, reduce my use of sleep medication and curb feelings of stress and anxiety, I paid a visit to a sleep clinic, hoping some expertise and treatments could help.
Could a consultation with an expert, a nap in a state-of-the-art sleep pod and a bag of herbal medicines put an end to my nights lying awake, staring at the ceiling?
Sleep pods originated in Japan in the 1970s thanks to the work of architect Kisho Kurokawa. Capsule hotels such as the 14-storey Nakagin Capsule Tower and Capsule Inn Osaka were designed to cater to business people who found themselves stranded in the city and unable to get home after a night out.
The basic design saw sleeping room limited to a cocoon-like crawl-space with a glass door.
Eventually the concept spread with airports around the world offering sleep pods as a sanctuary for weary travellers caught in transit.
In recent years, the rise of the sleep fitness industry has seen pods developed like the ones at Auckland's new SleepDrops Sleep and Wellness Centre: built with state of art technology, they include electromagnetic field blockers and far-infrared enhancing mattresses that emit controlled infrared heat, to support the body's natural healing process. They have also become more luxurious, fitted out with memory foam mattresses, soft LED lighting, air conditioning, headphones and flat-screen TVs.
Numerous studies, including a report by the World Economic Forum, have found that sleep deprivation is linked to many health issues, including increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, and stroke.
Sleep pods are increasingly popular. It's claimed the far-infrared wavelengths generate heat from within the body, supporting natural healing processes by promoting deep relaxation and detoxification. Such treatments have been used to support cancer therapies and recovery, and help to heal sports injuries.
Meanwhile, from fans of a siesta to a US National Sleep Foundation report, a short nap - between 20 to 30 minutes - can help improve mood, alertness and performance.
I was super excited to nap in a sleep pod during the middle of my working day and to finally get some help with my sleep problems.
But first, I needed to meet Dr Estelle de Beer, at the Sleep and Wellness Centre.
After a near hour-long consultation, which involved taking a blood sample and asking about my personal and family medical history, I climbed inside a sleep pod for an infrared healing session. The pod looks like a hybernation chamber or something out of a space shuttle. After closing the door behind me and lying down under a blanket, I drifted off for a pleasant 50-minute nap.
While I was in dreamland, Dr de Beer came up with a supplement plan based on my consultation. My plan had three aims: To help me get to sleep, reducing the need for sleeping tablets, to maintain sleep and reduce night time and early morning waking, and to reduce anxiety levels and support the nervous system.
Going home with a bag full of herbal medicines which included tart cherry (a source of sleep-inducing phytochemicals and antioxidants), magnesium, Zinc, B5, B6, and high dose Vitamin C and a dosing timetable, I realised the treatment plan would require me to be organised. Each day I had to take a total of 50 drops of three different remedies, and six capsules of sleep and stress nutrients an hour before bed. It won't be the same for everyone, of course – I might just be at the severe end of the scale after years of bad sleeping habits . . .
I had my doubts about how I'd transition from often relying on medication and wondered whether natural remedies would be effective enough to get me to sleep.
I had my hiccups over the first week, forgetting or being too busy to stick to the schedule. And I fell off the wagon completely while I was off work for a week with the flu.
But I eventually got back on track and after several days started to notice I felt less anxious and stressed during the day, and tired at the right time of the evening rather than hyper-alert after 10pm. I was also relieved and pleased when I began getting to sleep easier and waking up - for the first time in years - feeling like I was getting a good night's sleep.
Changing sleep habits can be a nightmare, and I'm not out of the woods yet. On nights where I'm staring at the ceiling I'll still use sleeping tablets – but this has decreased over the past fortnight.
I'll continue to follow the plan and am due to go back for a follow-up consultation, but I already firmly believe the treatments will provide benefits if I'm commited to the programme.