The search for better sleep and wake up habits
Hands up who always feels like they’re permanently in search of “a good night’s sleep”?
Hands up who also feels like they rarely give themselves a fighting chance at achieving said good night’s sleep?
Yep – that would be me, waving over here on both counts!
So far I’ve come across three main stages in my life that have impacted my sleep levels. The first is a no-brainer.
Become a parent and your sleep quota will never be the same again. Even once we reached that elusive sleeping through the night mode with H, I soon realised that I no longer slept as deeply as I did in the days before she came along.
W H O K N E W T H A T D O I N G A J O B
Y O U L O V E C O U L D K E E P Y O U A W A K E ?
Next up? Work. Who knew that doing a job you love would keep you awake? I guess it stands to reason that if your work is your passion project, even the positive thoughts, ideas and plans will send your brain into overdrive in the wee small hours of the morning.
And finally, and the most recent, there’s a stage I’m putting down to hormones and being pre-menopausal. First comes the inability to actually get to sleep and then comes the dreaded 4.00am wake up.
As I read more on the subject and talk to friends of a similar age, it appears that sleeplessness is a common side effect of this hormonal turn lurking just over the horizon. Ah joy!
So at the top (and I mean TOP) of the agenda for my own wellbeing goals is to give myself a fighting chance at getting more quality, restful sleep and developing healthier morning routines.
And I know that in order to get anywhere close, I need to establish better bedtime and wake up habits.
When Philips got in touch and asked if I’d like to try out their Somneo Sleep & Wake-Up Light and create some content based around my experiences, I took it as a sign that I should start my mission now as opposed to waiting for those inevitable New Year resolutions!
If you ask Mr OS about my relationship with alarm clocks, he’d have many a tale to tell you.
T H E Q U E S T F O R A N O N – A N N O Y I N G A L A R M C L O C K …
Including the one about the alarm clock he bought when I asked for “a non-annoying one please!” I honestly don’t think he could’ve picked one that had BIGGER or BRIGHTER clock numbers on it or have a louder wake up buzz. To say that it induced thoughts of smashing it against the wall on a regular basis would be an understatement!
Having sent that one back to the hell from whence it came, I defaulted to using my phone’s alarm function. And if you’re a blogger/social media user/habitual email checker then we all know how that one ends!
So it was with open (and sleep deprived arms) that I happily welcomed this new piece of kit into my life.
Designed to help you fall into a relaxed sleep and wake up feeling refreshed, the clever Philips Somneo is able to simulate both a sunrise and a sunset.
It has adjustable settings for both the time frame and brightness levels, meaning you can have a personalised light and sound spectrum sunrise wake up or a calming sunset send off to the land of sleep.
W A K I N G U P I N T H E M A N N E R O F C I N D E R E L L A …
I’ve been setting my own sunrise cycle for twenty minutes, at the end of which the sound of chirping forest birds fades in gradually to ensure I wake up. Now at this point you’d be forgiven for entertaining visions of me rising in the manner of Cinderella with tweety birds picking up the corners of my dressing gown.
Stop that right now! I don’t think any device except perhaps a time machine could help me achieve that level of #IWokeUpLikeThis serenity glow!
But this gentle method certainly feels a whole lot calmer and far more pleasant than any alarm clock I’ve ever possessed. On a few occasions, I’ve woken up before the bird sounds so the sleep to waking light change spectrum thing definitely works for me. Being a confirmed country and coastal girl, I might have to try out the ocean wave sound effect next!
For bedtime you can choose from seven different light or sound guided breathing programs followed by a gradually decreasing sunset, all set according to your own time preference for falling asleep.
And if the need to get up in the night arises (given we have one dog, one child and me prone to middle of the night bathroom visits, its pretty much a certainty at some point), the level of soft light that you can tap on is just enough to see. Without, as Mr OS succinctly puts it, “burning the retina off my eyes!”
In this crazy hectic life, enough sleep and a calm wake up is pretty crucial in feeling like I’m ready to face the demands of the day. Without it I am (and lets be truthful here), a grumpy, snappy and generally a highly over-emotional beast.
R E A D Y T O T A K E O N T H E D A Y !
With it I’m ready to take on the world. Or at the very least, Instagram, blogging, a pre-teen and an over-excited labrador!
If aiming to build better sleep and wake up habits is one of your wellbeing goals, feel free to try some of my tips below:
Being a creature of habit, I’ve come to realise the value in creating good nightly wind down habits and practicing them on repeat. They then begin to form my own sleep cues.
Lighting candles, not returning to anything work related, reading a book or magazine, turning off the TV at a given point, listening to music or having a long bath all help to act as my night-time prompts.
Keep your devices out of the bedroom. We’ve never had a TV and there’s now a ban on laptops and phones. Mr OS is able to read via his iPad and then drop off to sleep in a heartbeat but I can’t do this.
Realising your own fall downs and acting accordingly is half the battle.
You know I love a list! But one of the biggest game changers to help my brain switch off has been to make a last, urgent To Do list for the morning as I finish work for the day.
That way I feel I have the priorities covered and my brain can shut off from Online Stylist mode. Online Stylist can go offline!
Between The Sheets
Invest in great bed linen – the best quality cotton you can afford. Bed is where you spend a LOT of time so why wouldn’t you make it the best, most comfy place to reside?
Hydration Cut Off
I’ve come to realise that I have to limit my fluid intake after 9.00pm in order to avoid those 2.00am bathroom visits.
And whilst we’re on the subject of fluid intake, the red wine kind (my favourite indulgence!) still needs work. Alcohol does not make for a good nights sleep whichever way you look at it. Nights off the wine are a necessity for restful sleep.
Wake Up Time
Once I’m awake, I’ve found that taking things at a slower pace is more productive.
When you’re out of bed, take time to stretch – slowly if you’re me!
I keep a 50ml bottle of water by my bed so that I can drink it first thing – slowly is fine – no fast gulping required. I’ve tried to get into the hot water and lemon thing but it’s not for me so I figured water was just as good.
Take two minutes for you in amongst the crazy – for me this is a simple thing. I get out of the shower; wrap myself in a big warm towel and perch on the side of the bath to sip my cup of tea. And appreciate it.
It gives me a head start on all the morning craziness to come and feels satisfyingly selfish!
Dr Guy Meadows – The Sleep School
In writing this post, I was also able to pose a couple of questions to Dr Guy Meadows, Co-Founder of The Sleep School and so thought I’d share his answers with you.
The first was what to do when the 4.00am wake up hits and how to handle it
Firstly understand that wakefulness is perfectly normal due to our sleep cycles and try not to feel irritated or cross about it. Annoyed = alert.
How you behave determines how awake you become. DO NOT reach for the phone as a distraction (although by now I’m hoping you’ve banished yours from the bedroom too!)
Even 0.2 seconds of blue light can inhibit melatonin and activate your cortisol levels
Remember that you gain a lot of benefit from lying in bed awake resting and try using it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness to create a sense of distance between you and your thoughts.
Notice them and let them go; instead paying attention to physical sensations such as where the duvet touches on your toes or where you head is sinking into the pillow.
For this I might try and employ some of the techniques I learnt at yoga whilst lying in Savasana.
My second question was about how the effects of being pre-menopausal can impact your sleep.
This is something I’m only just beginning to get a handle on myself but I do keep reading and hearing that it’s all about the level and balance between our progesterone and oestrogen hormones.
Both of these are important for good sleep so it makes total sense to me that sleep can be impacted at this stage of life.
Dr Meadows again says that choosing how you respond in terms of a mind set is crucial – the level at which attempt to try and fight against the symptoms can go a long way to waking you up as much as the symptoms themselves.
Again, mindfulness techniques could be helpful here.
He also suggests visiting a naturopathic Dr to help recommend supplements or you may consider a visit to your GP to talk about HRT.
As I go further on through this process, my mind is open to a number of options so I’ll keep you posted on progress as and when.
Over To You
As you go through different life stages, does your sleep suffer? And what’s your preferred method of waking up calmly in the morning?
Inquiring (and sometimes sleep deprived) minds need to know!
Please feel free to share any of your tried and tested good night’s sleep tips in the comments below.
This post was created in collaboration with and sponsored by Philips. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help to maintain Online Stylist’s space in the blogosphere!
Philips is so confident that the Somneo Sleep and Wake-Up Light will help you feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead, that if you don’t have a grump free wake up, they’ll give you your money back. That’s their Grump Free Guarantee.
Images and video: Heidi Bawden Videography