Well, this has been an interesting month! Just to recap, this has been a month where I’ve been focusing on improving my sleep. This is how it went:
- Research sleep cycles.
I read a few articles on sleep cycles (here’s a useful one I found), and discovered that, because sleep cycles are 90 minutes in length, the optimum sleep is nine hours (impossible!), seven and a half (ok, maybe) and six (a little short perhaps?). Actually, I found it quite comforting to realise that it wasn’t about getting the perfect eight hours sleep each night, as we all know that sometimes that isn’t possible – especially when you’re getting up at 5.30am. In order to get up then, I need to be asleep by 10pm. I’ve been working on this, and the nights I manage it, I definitely feel as if I have slept far better; I’m less groggy in the morning. But as I take a while to get to sleep, I need to be in bed and ready for sleep by about 9.30pm at the latest – maybe even 9.15pm. So, that’s still a struggle.
- Start a sleep routine.
So, my research has been pretty definitive, that watching screens before bed (phone or laptop/TV), is not good for getting your brain into sleep mode (or, in the words of the Huffington Post: ‘Reading on a screen before bed might be killing you‘. Sadly, I haven’t completely cut my boxset-habit on a weekend, but what I have been doing is reading a whole lot more before bed, which has been shown to help induce your brain into a slower, more relaxed state. Also, Tim Ferris reckons that reading fiction is better than non-fiction for going to sleep – alongside a lot of other terrifying advice, it must be said. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it’s had the added bonus of reawakening my love of novels. I swear, I’ve barely read a novel in the last seven years, since finishing my literature degree (there’s definitely a correlation). But now I’m well and truly back! It’s amazing. This post on creating a sleep ritual is also really interesting, and has shaped some of my routine.
- Examine diet.
Well, we’ve finished the reintroduction phase of our Whole 30 diet. Basically, we’d been on a diet purely based on whole foods for 30 days: no wheat, no gluten, no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy – nothing processed. Then we reintroduced different foods and monitored what happened to our bodies. Annoyingly, I react to dairy and Ben reacts to gluten, so we’re avoiding both, or eating very small amounts of them as a treat. But the results on our sleep, among other things, has been remarkable: very deep sleeps, vivid dreams, and far less fuzzy grogginess in the morning.
- Go to bed earlier.
This was always going to be the tough one, especially because I get in from work just before 7pm, and no one wants to go to bed an hour after they get home. So, I’m pushing the furthest I can on this, staying up until around 9.15/9.30pm, and knowing that if I’m feeling particularly wide-awake, I could always try the six hour sleep cycle (11.30pm!). Trouble is, I don’t know if I can stay awake long enough for that. :(I’ve actually weirdly learned quite a bit about my body from this month – I think because sleep is something that is so taken for granted, so unthinking for the most part, paying attention to it has made me realise just how incredible and important it is; how much it affects us day-to-day, and how much is within our power for most of us to improve our sleep, if we just take a bit of time.