Despite being a relatively good sleeper, I'd be lying if I said the idea of improving my sleep even more wasn't intriguing. I've never had trouble getting to sleep, but that's probably because I'm always super exhausted and terrible at sticking to any sort of evening routine.
About a year or so, I signed up to a daily newsletter from Buzzfeed which promised to improve sleep in two weeks. The idea was to create a routine in the first week, then in the second week use that routine to get up earlier/not feel as horrific every morning when you do get up. While I remember enjoying taking part in the challenge, I didn't make any effort whatsoever to stick to it... probably because of the whole 'no screens' thing and LOL, I need me some late night instagramming.
After a recent bout of really-all-over-the-place-sleeping-patterns combined with feeling like I've been hit by a truck every time I wake up before 8am, I decided to give the challenge another go... this time with the plan of sticking to it after the two weeks is up.
(Not spon BTW, I just really like sleep and while new pillow sprays and bath bombs are lovely, I figured some practical tips might be useful to any of you also struggling to sleep at the moment.)
So anyway, here's how I got on in week one...
Day 1: Shut It Down
I decided to start on a Monday because every great life change begins on a Monday, right?! The challenge for week 1, day 1 was to the one I'd been dreading most - turning the screens off. Might as well rip the plaster off early? The email told me to cut out screen use for the hour and a half before I wanted to fall asleep, so while I'd normally be scrolling askreddit for 'tips to not not get burgled by burglars' and screenshotting yet another handbag from Instagram that I need in my life, this evening in particular saw me switch everything off at 10.30pm and jump in the bath (complete with bubbles and chocolate because if you're gonna do self care you might as well do it right, yeah?). I then spent some time on my bullet journal filling out my various habit trackers/to-do lists, then I read a book, and then I tossed and turned for about an hour before finally falling asleep.
The Verdict / I did feel a lot more relaxed than usual, so I was really disappointed when I didn't drift off to sleep easily. In the end I got 7 and a half hours sleep which is less than I normally would, but I did feel quite awake this morning so I'm wondering if the no screens thing did help improve the quality of my sleep. Time will tell.
Day 2: Think Before You Drink
The second day's challenge is to consume less caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals, as well as avoiding sugar, spice and fatty foods for a couple of hours before bed. I've recently started to replace a lot of my brews with flavoured teas, so my caffeine consumption is quite low anyway. I am partial to something sweet in the evenings (I'm doing Slimming World, so I save most of my syns for the evening), but I managed to stuff my face earlier in the evening instead, go me.
The Verdict / I finished my book last night, so after doing my skincare and filling out my bullet journal I was sort of just lying in the dark trying to sleep even though I didn't need to. I felt really bored, all I wanted to do was reach for my phone and have a scroll but alas, no screens. I did actually feel like I had a good nights sleep when I woke up, but I definitely need to get some more books to read if I don't want to die of boredom every evening.
Day 3: It's All About Routine
For the third night I had to create a bedtime routine. I have a routine in terms of skincare, but I wanted to come up with a full routine that would really relax me before bed (and give me something to do once the screens are off for the evening!). I had a shower, did my skincare routine and cleaned my teeth, then I made myself a sleepy tea (it was this one and tbh, it didn't taste too dissimilar from what I imagine a cow pat would taste if it got dehydrated, ground up and put into a teabag) and sat down to fill out my Bullet Journal. There was still some tossing and turning, but I did feel super relaxed and ready to sleep.
The Verdict / I had the deepest sleep I swear to god. My alarm went off at 8am, Danny had already left for work and I hadn't heard him at all. I don't know if it was the sleep tea or the routine, but I'm definitely repeating it tonight because I feel so alive today.
Day 4: Get Cosy
We're half way through the first week now, and day 4's challenge is to make the bedroom as cosy and relaxing as possible. I already have super soft bedding and tons of pillows, but sometimes Danny will stay up late and the light from his computer or the TV probably won't help with sleep. Tonight I'm going to try using a sleep mask, and I'll also declutter the floor before I head to bed so that the room is neat and visually relaxing. I have a new book to read and don't currently have a lamp in the bedroom, so I'm going to dig that out before this evening so I'm not having to get up to turn off the big light.
The Verdict / Although I've been doing the challenge for a few days now and having better sleep on the whole, this was the first time I woke up easily in the morning. I still didn't find it easy to drift off to sleep, despite feeling relaxed and sticking to the same routine as day 3. I got 6 hours sleep in total, so I was pleasantly surprised to feel well rested and ready for the day. I actually jumped out of bed, which considering I can get 12 hours sleep and still struggle to leave my cosy quilt nest is amazing.
Day 5: Find Your Zen
The challenge for day 5 is to clear the mind of nagging thoughts and tasks before bed. To do this it wants me to create a to-do list of work tasks to complete the next day, make a brain dump of general life stuff, and meditate before bed. (There's some tips for practicing mindfulness in this article.) I already write a to-do list for the next day in my bullet journal and I *basically* use Danny as my human brain dump, but I'm definitely going to try the mindfulness videos in the article I linked to and see if they make a difference.
The Verdict / I definitely felt relaxed when I took a few minutes to meditate before bed, although as a newbie I did find it difficult to do without looking at a screen. I ended up using the tips I'd learnt from the mindfulness course I did at work rather than using an app or podcast; things like concentrating on my breathing, letting my thoughts come and go, and paying attention to my body and how I was feeling. I really struggled to get up this morning, so I'm already wary of how I'm going to manage getting up earlier next week despite the improved sleep.
Day 6: Awesome A.M
The challenge for day 6 is about preparing for the next day as much as possible, to make the mornings more streamlined and stress free. Things like preparing lunch, packing a bag for the gym or work, and choosing an outfit ahead of time. For me personally, choosing what to wear is probably what takes up the most time in the mornings. Whether it's realising a top isn't ironed 10 minutes before I need to leave, or just not being able to find the specific thing I'm after, I find getting dressed quite stressful (and 9 times out of 10 I leave the house unhappy in what I'm wearing).
The Verdict / I set out my outfit the night before, which made things so much easier this morning not having to rush around thinking of something to wear before I've even had coffee. I also switched bags, so made sure all my cards were switched over too, and my keys which I always forget when I swap handbags. This morning was much calmer than normal, but I did cheat a bit last night and go on my phone when I was struggling to sleep. I don't think it affected my sleep as I felt really rested and awake when I woke up this morning, but it's not a habit I want to get back into as I do think the whole no-screens thing has benefitted me.
Day 7: Get Some Rest
The final task of the week is the easiest in theory - get to bed earlier. We're on the verge of week 2, which is all about putting the techniques from week 1 into use and actually getting up earlier. Tomorrow's alarm is set half an hour earlier, so tonight the aim is to get my head down half an hour earlier, which also means screens off will be 10pm instead of half past. I'm going to stick to the bedtime routine I've created, and make sure I've got some reading material to help me cosy up and feel sleepy.
The Verdict / This was actually much harder than I thought it would be. I've got into a nice evening routine and have started to become tired around the same time every evening - so moving it back half an hour left me tossing and turning unable to drift off. I'm just going to try and stick to this new bedtime and hope I adjust to it quickly.
So how did I get on?
Although it's been difficult at times to stick to the same routine every day, I've really enjoyed creating some time for myself to just relax before bed. It's so easy to get into the habit of scrolling Instagram or twitter, but often it doesn't actually add anything to my life. It's not wasted time per se, but as I've learnt this week that time can definitely be put to better use. I'm excited for week two to see if I can actually start getting up earlier, make my mornings less stressful, and feel much more energised. Lets do this... (TBC)