Sleep is vital to staying healthy. A lack of sleep is linked to a variety of health problems including dementia, cancer and diabetes. Poor sleep, however, seems to be a very common complaint among mums and dads.
Online bed retailer Bed Guru has produced a guide to help anyone concerned with their sleep habits to help them improve the quality and quantity of sleep they get. The company challenged me to take part in its #ChooseSleep challenge.
For four weeks, I was to follow the suggestions in the guide. I was to keep a record of when I went to bed, how much sleep I had and how I felt when I woke up.
The aim was to see if it would improve the quality of sleep I experienced. I don’t mind admitting the four weeks were a complete sleep rollercoaster. Here’s what happened.
This week was all about discovery, discovering that my sleep quality was worse than I realised. As it happens, I had been concerned about my sleep habits for a while.
Don’t get the wrong idea, my sleep wasn’t dreadful, but some mornings I really struggled to get going before I had a strong coffee. This was a sign I needed to give more consideration to getting a good night’s rest.
When I read Bed Guru’s guide and started keeping a record of my sleep, I began to see why. I like to work out and keep fit, but don’t get the chance to do it every single day.
On the days I did exercise, I noticed I slept much better. I also noticed that alcohol could have an impact on the quality of my sleep. That’ll probably come as no surprise to you, but I noticed two pints of beer was enough to affect how well I slept.
I also wasn’t getting enough sleep. Some nights I would get as much as seven and a half hours, other nights it was closer six which is two hours short of the recommended amount. This was despite going to bed at roughly 10pm throughout the entire challenges (with a couple of exceptions, see below).
Armed with a written record of how much sleep I was getting and what was affecting it, I was keen to improve things. I started doing more exercise.
I noticed that any amount of exercise led to an improvement,even a quick 10 minute burst of activity. If I did 30 minutes or more, I fell asleep with greater ease and slept for longer. This became my new aim.
Towards the end of the week, things went awry. On the Thursday night I went to bed late, having been using a computer up until the moment I retired for the evening.
This is something I always try to avoid doing. I know it has a negative impact on my sleep, so I try not to using screens at night for this very reason. I should add that Bed Guru’s sleep guide suggests you should avoid screens at least an hour before going to bed. Having failed to follow this basic advice, I didn’t sleep well at all.
The following night was the Vuelio Blog Awards. This is an annual event and always a good party. I didn’t get home until silly o’clock in the morning having had a few drinks.
That night, I slept about three hours sleep. To my great surprise, I felt okay in the morning. Alas, I had been lulled into a false sense of security and progressively felt worse during the day. Two days of work stress, partying and drinking alcohol had a toll and I was in bed by about 9pm. I woke on the Sunday felling much better.
With that bump out the way, I started my third week of this experiment.
Despite the wobble I’d had in the previous week, I was seeing an improvement in my sleep. I was getting up less in the night and I felt the overall quality of sleep was improving.
I was keen to see if drinking more water would help me get a good night’s sleep. Bed Guru’s guide makes clear trust being well hydrated is important for achieving this. In previous weeks I had let standards slip and hadn’t been drinking enough water during the day so the #ChooseSleep experiment was a welcome reminder to drink more.
This week I was consistently sleeping for seven and a half hours. I was doing more exercise, had cut back on my caffeine intake (another suggestion from the Bed Guru guide) and drinking less alcohol.
One consistent issue remained. Whatever I did, I was waking up a 5am.
Until my youngest daughter started school back in 2017, I got up at 5am every day. It was the only time I had to concentrate on the blog without interruption.
Those days had largely passed and I had been getting up at closer 6am for some time. Unless, that is, I was experiencing stress for some reason. Whenever that occurred, I would slip into old habits and wake early.
I had been experiencing some stress recently and I think this is why I had been waking so early. The quality of my sleep had been good until this point, but Ideally I wanted to sleep for another hour.
I was now in my stride. Keeping a record of my sleep had been enormously helpful as it encouraged me to think about my sleep and to take action to improve it.
I was consistently getting about seven and a half hours sleep. I was thinking more about the quality of my sleep and taking exercise,drinking water, drinking less coffee and exercising more.
I was still waking early, but in the final three days of this experiment, I was waking closer to 6am. I need to work on sleeping for longer, but at least things are going in the right direction.
Over the course of the four weeks, I have kept a video diary. I’ve embedded it below so please do watch it when you get a moment.
As you can see, I have experienced highs and lows. Nonetheless, I have identified some problem areas and been able to take swift action to rectify them.
I will be working on sleeping longer and waking later. In 30 days, however, the quality of my sleep has definitely improved, without me having to make massive changes to my lifestyle.
Many mums and dads experience trouble sleeping for a variety of reasons. It’s not just an issue that affects people with newborn infants. If you are among them and want to try improving your sleep, take a look at Bed Guru’s guide which can be found online and try the experiment for yourself.
Disclosure: This commissioned article was produced in association with Bed Guru.