A chance to grab more than forty winks

Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 00:00

Every parent understands why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture and anyone who has ever experienced insomnia will know that getting enough shut-eye is imperative in order to keep the body in full working order.

But although it is recommended that we all get an average of eight hours’ sleep a night, sometimes this just isn’t possible. So if researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of America are to be believed, keeping a few extra Zs in reserve could prove useful for times when sleep has eluded us.

Spokeswoman Tracy Rudd says that those who bank sleep are “more resilient during sleep depravation”.

“If you fill up your reserves and pay back your sleep debt ahead of time, you’re better equipped to deal with the sleep loss challenge.”

As much rest as necessary

So it was with this in mind that I headed to Lisnavagh House in Carlow where, on designated weekends, the stately home is turned into a “sleep farm” with the emphasis on allowing guests to get as much rest as necessary in between bouts of gentle yoga and freshly prepared, vegetarian cuisine.

Set in 800 acres, the impressive house built in 1847 has been home to the Bunbury family for several generations and the current occupants are William Bunbury and his wife Emily who, as well as being mother to three young children, runs the sleep retreats and grows lavender which she turns into bath oil and soap.

I arrived on a Friday evening, exhausted after the week but excited by the prospect of two whole days of unadulterated rest. I was welcomed with a glass of home-grown apple juice and shown to my bedroom which came complete with a gloriously plump-looking four-poster bed and a separate bathroom with a cast iron, claw-footed bath.

Relaxing and luxuriating

After a couple of hours spent relaxing in my room and luxuriating in front of the crackling fire in the library, I joined my fellow sleepers for our first yoga lesson.

Teacher Pamela Butler gave a short demonstration before encouraging us to follow her gentle, graceful movements – and over the two-hour session, we slowly relaxed and unwound in the oak-panelled room which was softly lit by the embers of an open fire.

Having finished the session, we made our way to the dining room where a magnificent display of organic food cooked by Rosebud Bunbury – who was born and bred in the house – was waiting for us.

After all the pampering, by 9.30pm I was itching to get on to the main event of the weekend. So bidding the other guests goodnight, I made my way upstairs and without even pausing to read one of the books and vintage magazines dotted around the room, I snuggled up under the feather-filled duvet and was asleep within minutes.


Without the aid of an alarm I awoke early the following morning feeling revitalised. After a scented bath, I made my way downstairs to breakfast where the table was laid with home-made soda bread, jams and smoothies made with fruit picked on the farm.

Then after a brisk walk around the estate, I made my way back to the yoga room, for round two.

Slightly more advanced than the night before, this session concentrated on getting us to move seamlessly between poses. And by the time we reached the closing sequence, we were all so relaxed that nodding off beside the fire seemed a distinct possibility.

But the lunch table was beckoning and once again, our little group (four women and two men) reconvened at the dining table which was laden with mouthwatering salads and breads.

After lunch there was a choice of a guided tour of the beautiful estate or an afternoon siesta. I opted for the more vigorous choice as I knew I wouldn’t sleep at night if I tried to have 40 winks in the middle of the day.

Then just when the light was beginning to fade, we were back on our mats for another two-hour yoga session.

Following the class we were free to read, bathe, sleep or simply relax while we waited for our next delicious meal to be served. Once again, I was in bed by 10pm and asleep within minutes. The next morning, saw another round of breakfast, followed by yoga and lunch until finally the weekend was over and it was time to go home.

‘Banking’ slumber

For someone who manages on very little sleep, the luxury of a whole weekend dedicated to resting my body and mind, was an extraordinarily wonderful treat.

In keeping with the American research, the theory behind this sleep farm is by “banking” a large chunk of slumber, it will be held in reserve for times when you don’t get enough.

My experience has left me feeling rejuvenated in body, mind and soul. I managed to bank quite a lot of sleep, which is fortunate as I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

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