When it comes to sleep, not all people are created equal….some people fall asleep pretty much as soon as their head hits the pillow. Not me. I seem to be forever chasing the getting better sleep unicorn.
The question is, when it comes to getting better sleep, is this just a pipe-dream for me? To find out, I’m teaming up with BedGuru – the online bed retailer and sleep specialists – and their #ChooseSleep 4 week challenge, where I’ll be working to improve my sleep pattern by focusing on leading a more healthy lifestyle.
Bed Guru is determined to help solve the sleep loss epidemic by raising awareness through the Choose Sleep campaign – educating people about the importance of sleep and ways to help get the most from a good night’s shut eye. Bed Guru understand that no two people share the same sleeping requirements, not just as a belief but as an obligation to ensure that everybody gets a great night’s sleep!
Preparing for the challenge
To kick things off, I received a Sleep Challenge Booklet and an extensive weekly sleep diary. All I had to do was follow these simple tips to get off to the right start.
1. Go to bed at a similar time every day – okay do-able!
2. Exercise daily, but not right before bed – easier said than done
3. Enjoy your caffeine early, not after 2pm – not a problem
4. Avoid the night cap. Alcohol actually disrupts sleep – I’m off the alcohol right now so that will be surprisingly easy!
5. Keep your room dark and below 18 degrees – really? Anything under 18 and I feel like an ice cube!
6. Ban electrical devices an hour before bed – nightmare! says the iphone addict!
7. Eat no later than a couple of hours before bed time – eeeek! I can’t live without my bedtime snack!
Next I completed the pre-challenge evaluation.
- What time do you go to sleep Monday to Friday?
- What time do you go to sleep on a weekend?
- How would you rate your average night’s sleep out of 10?
- How many caffeinated drinks do you usually have a day?
- How many minutes of exercise do you do per day?
- How many minutes do you nap per day?
- Do you have any mental/physical health concerns that may
affect your sleep?
The sleep diary
I have to say, I felt a bit intimidated when I first saw this! I mean, it’s seriously comprehensive! But needs must, and I know this is for the greater good. Here is what I had to fill in each day:
- Day of the week
- What time did you go to sleep?
- What time did you wake up?
- How long were you asleep in total?
- Sleep quality out of 10?
(10 = perfect, undisturbed sleep
1 = terrible, awoke multiple times)
- How do you feel this morning?
(Refreshed, fine, sleepy, exhausted)
- How many caffeinated drinks have you had today?
- How many alcoholic drinks have you had today?
- How many minutes of exercise have you had today?
- What did you do in the hour before bed?
- How many minutes did you nap today?
- Overall mood today in one word?
So how did I get on
As someone who thought they already had very good sleep hygiene, exercises daily, doesn’t drink caffeine or alcohol any more, I have to admit I was a bit sceptical about what I could learn from the Choose Sleep challenge and whether there could be any further changes I could make to my daily lifestyle which could result in a better night’s sleep.
But I was proved wrong!
By filling in the diary I realised a few key things:
- Even though I was exercising at home pretty much daily, my thirty minutes of exercise a day – when I was sitting at the desk for much of the remainder of the day apart from when I am on mumming duties – was not cutting it. Usually I would try and do a quick thirty minute workout before hitting the afternoon school run. I’ve realised this is not enough for me. Things changed for the better when I then added on another thirty minute workout in the evenings too but the right kind of workout – a yoga flow which would not overstimulate my nervous system when I should be winding down for the day.
- The days when I felt stressed were the days I slept the worst so I have been focusing on my mood – ending the day with yoga every day pretty much without fail has really helped because no matter how stressful or intense my day has been, I have a time and space to calm down and clear my mind and get rid of any negative thoughts or energy at the end of the day.
- I realised that I was guilty of doing chores in the evening rather than spending time winding down which was not conducive to getting me into a relaxed mood. Changing my pre-bedtime activities – again thanks to incorporating more yoga every evening – has really helped with this as it forces me to slow down rather than keeping rushing around.
Amazingly, these three revelations really do seem to have made all the difference! I am falling asleep so much faster because both my mind and body are on the same page and ready to sleep.
Rather then lying awake for hours on end, I am falling asleep almost certainly within the hour which is an amazing improvement for me, and I am often waking up before everyone else – before 7am, without an alarm of child’s bum in my face. I have even been able to squeeze in a quick meditation, stretch and shower as a result. Of course, I have the odd blip still but this is such a massive improvement overall.
We all want to Choose Sleep but the reality is, when we so desperately want to, we often don’t know where to start when it comes to changing things that can help us nod off more quickly rather than tossing and turning all night.
I have learnt that keeping a sleep diary – no matter how daunting it may seem – is such a great way to understand what might be getting in-between you and a good night’s rest as it helps you to spot any patterns and behaviours which you may not give a second thought to, but could actually really have some negative impact on the quantity and quality of your sleep.
With that said, I want to say thank you to Bed Guru for helping me to #ChooseSleep. And if you’d like to hear more from me on how I worked towards a better night’s sleep by focusing on exercising more and having a better evening wind down routine, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel as there will be a sleep diary video posted there soon!
Do you struggle with sleep? Have you ever tried to keep a sleep diary to see what changes in your habits and lifestyle could make a difference? Please do share in a comment below.
*This is a collaborative post