Yet a few years ago the former BBC Springwatch host suffered from bouts of insomnia so bad that it had a major impact on her life.
“Insomnia makes you fear going to bed. Sleep becomes the enemy,” says Kate, 49, who admits long hours and a lack of routine in her work as a freelance TV presenter were to blame for a year of sleepless nights.
“Lying in the dark my brain would start to go mad. I’m a worrier. I say I don’t care what people think but actually I do.
“If somebody took my car parking space as I was about to drive in I would replay all the things that I should have said to them as they got out of their car. In the middle of the night insignificant injustices feel enormous.”
Kate says while drifting off wasn’t an issue she would wake for hours on end each night. “I never had a problem going to sleep because I’d wait until I was utterly exhausted before heading to bed at 10.30pm.
“But then I’d wake between 2am and 5.30am. When my alarm went off at 6.30am I’d feel as if I’d been hit with a sledgehammer.”
And Kate, a regular on BBC’s Countryfile, is by no means alone.
In the UK about 16 million adults are thought to suffer from sleepless nights and 31 per cent of the population say they have chronic insomnia, defined as having adequate opportunity but inadequate ability to sleep for at least six months.
In a study by Silentnight and the University of Leeds, 30 per cent of respondents said they would rate their sleep to be “bad” or “very bad”.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Kate Humble
Common mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression often underpin sleep issues. And likewise, prolonged poor sleep can lead to poor mental health.
Each year Britain loses 200,000 working days to employee absences caused by lack of sleep.
“Being unable to get to sleep is one of the most frustrating feelings and one of the most psychologically and physically draining too,” says Dr Pixie McKenna, sleep expert for bed retailer Dreams.
“The causes of insomnia are wide and varied but most commonly they include anxiety, stress and depression, although physical problems such as back pain, asthma and arthritis can also trigger an inability to sleep.
“The effects of insomnia affect all aspects of life, often triggering a vicious cycle whereby lack of sleep increases poor mental and physical health and vice versa.
Poor mood, lack of concentration, memory loss, fatigue and unhealthy eating are all common effects of insomnia.”
While Kate says she was “professional and bloody-minded enough” to not let sleep deprivation affect her work she admits that she often experienced emotional fallout as a result of lack of sleep.
“I’m quite an impatient person and I’d feel more short-tempered and emotional. When you’re overtired a tiny thing can make you want to cry.”
Kate Humble is an English television presenter, specialising in wildlife and science programmes
There are health implications too. A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US suggests insomniacs are at increased risk of heart attacks, cancer and obesity.
After a year hoping her sleepless nights would go away by themselves Kate decided to try cutting back on alcohol.
“If I drink too much, just three glasses of wine, I won’t sleep,” she says. “Alcohol doesn’t really suit me so I’ll have the odd gin and tonic or a glass of wine once a week.”
And following a friend’s recommendation, a sceptical Kate then agreed to a session of reflexology, a complementary therapy believed to alleviate stress and treat illness through the application of pressure to the feet and hands.
Much to her surprise it did the trick.
“It was extraordinary. Suddenly I could sleep again. I went home and slept for something like 12 hours. I think reflexology broke the pattern.
“The same sort of thing happened when I was filming in Kerala, India. I had bad insomnia after going through different time zones and the owner of the guest house we were staying in told me to get an appointment with a local masseur.
“This guy hung from the ceiling while I lay on a slab like a piece of meat and he walked all over me for an hour and a half. It was excruciating but I went back to the hotel and slept for 14 hours.
“There is probably a medical explanation about the benefits of releasing tension which then allows your exhausted self to sleep.”
But back at the home in rural Wales she shares with her TV producer husband Ludo Graham, 57, Kate credits her daily morning walks with having the biggest overall effect on her sleep.
IN 2007 the couple relocated to a four-acre smallholding from London and now enjoy a slower pace of life.
“There is something really wonderful about being part of and immersed in the world when it’s waking up. It’s a very calming way to start a day,” says Kate.
“I’m probably at my fittest now and mentally I’m more stable.”
REST EASY: Kate Humble and, inset, with husband Ludo Graham
Kate, who now experiences insomnia “much less frequently”, walks every morning with her three dogs in tow.
“Having uninterrupted time by myself to do something gently physical outside gives me the space to process things and put them into perspective.”
As well as walking, super-fit Kate enjoys running, strength training and Pilates which has also helped heal a persistently troublesome piriformis muscle.
“I had about six months of it being in spasm. It’s a classic female runner’s problem,” she says. “It’s absolutely fine when you’re walking around but when you go to bed it hurts like hell. Pilates has really helped.”
Save for being hospitalised twice with malaria in 2001 and 2006 – “I should be dead, twice,” Kate says – she has evaded illness over the years thanks to a balanced approach to healthy living.
“I don’t have any hard and fast rules when it comes to my diet. I’m lucky, I grow vegetables, I have chickens so I have my own free-range eggs and we can produce our own meat some of the time.”
And Kate says she never takes her good health for granted.
“If you are lucky enough to have inherently good health it’s your responsibility to make the most of that because life can change in an instant.”
To order a copy of Thinking On My Feet by Kate Humble (£20, Aster) call the Express Bookshop on 01872 562310 or visit expressbookshop.co.uk
Read more here: Daily Express :: Health Feedhappy wheels
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