Born and raised in Australia, Molly is rarely found without her polaroid camera in hand - usually in a far-flung location. On a ski slope in Canada, she met Joel Jeffery, who would later become her business partner, and then her husband. A long-distance relationship ensued, with Sunday Skypes (usually in pyjamas) becoming an important part of their weekly routine.
In 2012, Molly moved to the UK to chase both her loves - Joel and Sundays - with the latter spent in Joel's shirts due to a lack of luxurious, affordable, cotton nightwear on the market. In 2014, the pair launched their inaugural 100 Desmond & Dempsey pyjama sets to deliver just that.
The brand has since built a strong international presence with renowned stockists including Selfridges and Liberty, while their quarterly broadsheet, The Sunday Paper, is "a celebration of slowness, indulgence, adventure and freedom".
With sleep a hot topic for 2019, we picked Molly's brains about changing attitudes towards night owls, beating jet lag and making sleep sexy.
- How did you first become interested in sleep?
- I have always been interested in sleep and its impact on our well-being but I started to think about it more when we began creating Desmond & Dempsey. I wanted to create a brand that would help to enhance people’s downtime. We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep and I want people to make the most of it!
- Why is sleep so important?
- It’s important for virtually everything. When you don’t get eight hours your mind finds everything harder to process and your body doesn’t function properly. A lack of sleep can also weaken your immune system so you’re more likely to get ill. Sleep invigorates the mind too, helping your brain to replay and then strengthen your thoughts and memories.
- How many hours should we be getting a night?
- Ideally, a minimum of eight. If you get less than seven hours it can have a serious effect on your health – it’s said to be nearly as bad as too much alcohol or smoking. Being awake for 16 hours straight can affect your performance as much as if your blood alcohol levels were 0.5% (the legal limit is 0.8%).
- Do you think the importance of sleep is only just being recognised?
- We live in such a fast-paced world and people are starting to realise the repercussions that this can have on your health. We’re seeing burnout and the negative effects of being “always on”. Aside from the research, it is our own personal experiences that are showing us the positive impact sleep has on productivity and general happiness.
- What can we do to maximise our chances of getting a good night's sleep?
- There are two great lessons I learnt recently from a book called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. The first is that going to bed and waking up at the same time is very important (which unfortunately means no weekend lie-ins). The second is about the effect of light. False light can be damaging for sleep, so in the evening it’s important to take time away from phones, laptops and others screens and use soft lighting or candles. I also think reading in bed for an hour or so is a great way to switch off and sleep soundly, while a warm bath about 90 minutes before you go to sleep also helps.
- Do you have any sleep rituals?
- Of course! As soon as I walk through the door, I have a warm shower or bath and put my D&Ds on. I light all the candles in the house (I am obsessed with our rosemary and watermint ones) and put a record on. I might do a little bit more work but after dinner it’s no screens. I write in a journal every night and then read my book in bed. Joel is a terrible sleeper so his routine includes spraying a deep-sleep spray (either Neom or This Works) on his pillow.
- It's 3am and we can't sleep. We're panicking and it's getting worse. What should we do?
- I’m a really deep sleeper so this almost never happens to me, but I would get out of bed and go and sit in a comfy chair in another room and read my book with a really low light. If you can’t sleep because you are worrying about something, write it down in a notebook. This helps you to rationalise the thought, then physically put the notebook away so that you feel like you are getting rid of the worry until the following morning.
- What do you think about the trend for memory foam mattresses?
- xI think it’s so great that they are making sleep sexy. Anything that can encourage people to recognise the importance of sleep and invest in their bedtime routine is really cool. Brands in this industry should do everything they can to emphasise how important it is to take time to relax, particularly when everyone is trying to “out busy” each other. It is something we are really aware of at D&D.
- Do you have any tips for sleeping on the road (e.g. plane)?
- A Desmond & Dempsey eye mask, of course! For me it’s all about the mask and Bose noise-cancelling headphones. I always try to wear comfortable, loose clothing and pack a jumper or blanket in case I get cold. I also carry a good book that I can delve into and forget what’s going on around me.
- What about for overcoming jet lag?
- Joel and I did long distance from London to Australia for two years and yet I still haven’t mastered this one! There isn’t much you can do to avoid it, but a couple of things can make it less severe. I make sure I get a good night’s sleep the night before I fly and then force myself to stay awake as long as possible (usually with a large glass of wine) so that I am tired when I land and can slip into the time zone more easily. If I’m in Australia then it’s all about a swim in the ocean.
- Which are your favourite hotels and why?
- Joel and I just came back from Jumby Bay, an incredible island in the West Indies. Aside from it being a beautiful location, I fell in love with the place because everything about our stay made me feel relaxed. I like hotels that have character and a human touch; I want to eat local breakfasts and get tips from the staff.
- What can hotels do to help their guests get a better night's sleep?
- If a hotel room can make guests feel calm and relaxed, the chances are they will sleep well. Doing simple things like providing a selection of books or magazines, a soft dressing gown and slippers to really make you feel at home. It’s also useful if hotels don’t have plug sockets by the bed because it forces you to put your phone on the other side of the room during the night. Hotels often seem to have really early breakfast hours too – they need to be extended to cater to the night owls among us.
- Why do you think society favours early birds over night owls? How can we change this?
- People tend to associate being awake earlier with getting more done but research shows that everyone has a different biological clock that dictates whether you are an early riser or a night owl. It’s really hard to change this natural rhythm. I think there should be more flexibility in the workplace. At D&D we offer different working hours. If you are a early riser you can opt to work 7.30am – 4.30pm and the night owls can choose to come in a little later and work 10.30am– 7.30pm.
- Does what you wear in bed make a difference to the quality of your sleep?
- Absolutely. It’s the reason why all of our Desmond & Dempsey pyjamas are made from 100% cotton as it allows your skin breathe and doesn’t trap heat under the covers.
- What's on your bedtime reading list?
- I’m about to start In Extremis by Lindsey Hilsum which is a biography about the late war correspondent Marie Colvin – her passion and determination is inspiring. We are also beginning to think about ideas for our SS20 collection which will be based on India, so next on my reading list is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.