I used to pride myself on being a Night Owl, staying up till midnight on school nights, and hell, whenever I darn well wanted on the weekends, because I’m a grown up.
Then I gradually started to realise that this particular grown up actually needs about 8 hours of sleep to function properly. It started with the purchase of a FitBit, because I can track my sleep now. All those light blue and pink lines where I was tossing and turning, give me something to point at and say “See! This is why I feel rubbish today!”. Going to bed at midnight and getting up 7:30am wasn’t translating into 7 and a half hours blissful sleep, it was more like 6 and a half hours, if that.
I noticed running was harder when I hadn’t had enough sleep, and I couldn’t concentrate as well on track at Roller Derby. If I went long periods with not enough sleep my skin started to break out as well.
I’m well into my 30s now, soon I’ll be heading out the other side, and it turns out that like vintage clothing you have to look after vintage people if you want them to be in as good a condition as they were when they were shiny and new.
So I was on a mission, to aim to keep my FitBit sleep averages at 8 hours a night every week. I don’t always hit it, but aiming for that means I end up on over 7 1/2, instead of 6! Since I started focusing on getting enough sleep my skin has been better, I’ve found it easier to stick to my diet and exercise plans, and I’ve lost weight and it’s easier to concentrate. Plus, sleep is nice. I like sleep.
Of course, I’d spent my whole life reading tips to improve my sleep, and never really paid much attention, but this year I have been experimenting with some changes. Some paid off and others didn’t. So here are some of the changes I made to improve my sleep that worked for me.
Having a routine tells your brain it’s Bedtime now. I’ve actually always been pretty good at this one. I have a cup of hot chocolate in my Buffy mug in bed every night while I read a book, or sometimes watch an Adventure Time on Netflix (which I probably shouldn’t, see later point!) You could have a warm bath, spend 10 minutes meditating, whatever tells your brain its time to sleep.
Mr Chick has always liked to sleep with black out curtains without a chink of light to be found. I hate it because although I sleep better, I find it impossible to wake up in the mornings as my brain still thinks its night time. Just that fact alone should be enough to twig that your brain associates dark with sleep time. Instead of changing the curtains, I’ve recently started wearing an eye mask to sleep in like I’m Holly Golightly or something. I thought I’d find it uncomfortable, but actually it’s like shutting my brain into its own little dark room where it can sleep undisturbed. It not only makes me feel super glamorous but has also had a big effect on those pale blue fidget lines on my FitBit.
I’m terribly bad at this one. Thankfully I’ve never been a work till midnight sort of a person. My laptop goes off early evening before dinner and I generally spend the evening watching TV or at Roller Derby practice. I am, however, far too attached to my phone, and like to have a last check of my emails and Facebook before bed to reassure myself that all it well with the world. I’ve been trying really hard to reduce the time I spend on it in the evenings and not deal with anything stressful on it. I find leaving my phone plugged to charge in another room, so I can perhaps check it as I pass rather than having it glued to my hand, helps, and turning down the screen brightness so it’s not as harsh on the eyes is something of an alternative if you really find you can’t switch off completely in the evenings.
This is the reason I shouldn’t really watch Adventure Time in bed, there’s lots of research that says it’s bad for you to have laptops and TVs on before you go to sleep, but Adventure Time is hardly challenging watching and I find the relaxation it gives me counteracts any blue light gubbins, so this brings me to my next point.
If something helps you sleep but goes against all the rules. Then do it anyway. I used to be a terrible one for waking up in the middle of the night with a “What’s that noise!?” terror, and then not being able to get back to sleep. Wearing earplugs made me feel shut off, like terrible things could be happening and I wouldn’t know and therefore made me more anxious, not relaxed. For a while I used to leave the TV on when I went to sleep, but Mr Chick didn’t like that, and also the light from the screen could wake me up. So I started wearing headphones in bed. I would listen to old podcasts and audiobooks that I’d heard many times before, so I wouldn’t focus on the story, and the noise would lull me off to sleep without hearing foxes knocking over dustbins and convincing myself it was burglars.
There are some good general guidelines to follow, but they’re just that, guidelines.
Back when I started my blog we had a very pretty, but very old, white metal bed frame. Then one night it completely collapsed in the middle of the night, which is as much fun as it sounds. For a while it was propped up on books, It creaked and the mattress was very old. We replaced the mattress with a cheap one as we didn’t have much money and my Mum & Dad bought us a memory foam mattress topper, which was way more comfortable for a while.
When we moved 3 years ago we finally bought a new bed, just a cheap Ikea one, which was an improvement on the creaking front (though we have to tighten the joints occasionally!) but the mattress was a few years old by then and even with the memory foam topper springs had started to poke through. I would frequently wake up with a pain in my right side ribs where there was a particularly irritating spring, and would fidget to find the best position to sleep in.
Then Dream Zebra asked me if I wanted to try one of their mattresses. This has been the HUGEST change to how I sleep recently and I have MASSIVELY less pink (awake) and pale blue (restless) bits on my sleep monitor since I switched. Not only is it the coolest name for a mattress, but they are also European sizes, so my new mattress fits my Ikea bed frame perfectly (which means I have had to find new places to keep all the stuff I used to have stuffed in the gap between the bedframe and my old mattress) There are no springs to poke me on this one as its latex and memory foam all the way through, and it comes with a 10 year guarantee, so I’ll be nearly 50 by the time I need a new mattress!
Honestly, if your bed is uncomfortable then how on earth can you expect to get a good nights sleep. Buy the best mattress you can afford or save up for. It’ll be worth every penny. Best thing about the Dream Zebra mattresses is that they don’t care where you put them either, they look all funky on their own and were designed for loft style living, so if you need a new bedframe because you’ve been rudely awoken in the night when one of the legs fell off, I advise spending the money on a mattress and putting it on the floor first till you can afford the frame.
I never manage to keep my bedroom as tidy as I want, but I sleep much better when I’ve just had a good clear out. At the very basic end keeping your bedroom cool, relatively clutter free, and making your bed every day will give you a relaxing and comfortable environment to sleep in. You can take it a step further, I’m particularly fond of lavender scented pillow and room sprays (mostly because someone once told me spiders don’t like it), but you can also get pulse point balms and roll-ons and plug in diffusers that can help keep your bedroom an oasis of calm relaxation.
Honestly this is SO obvious that I nearly forgot to put it in as a point. If you set your alarm for 7am for work and you want 8 hours sleep, then I’m really sorry, but you’re going to have to go to bed at 10:30. At least. Possibly earlier. Most nights I head off to bed around 10pm with the intention of the light going out around 10:30. Because I work from home I can adjust my start times, so if I want to stay up late watching Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries on Netflix, then I sleep in a little later in the morning. I’m lucky that way, if you’re not and you want sufficient beauty sleep you need to take it off the other end of the day! Sorry!
And that is how I am apparently getting at least 11% more sleep than I did a year ago, according to my FitBit! I do like a good statistic!
♥ Sailor Pin Up Bedding – George @ Asda (out of stock, though they do have the regular pin ups) ♥
♥ 60s Night Dress – Wake Up Little Susie ♥ Eye Mask – From a Benefit Cosmetics goodie bag ♥ Mattress – Dream Zebra ♥