You might have noticed that here at Sleepy People, we’re really passionate about getting a great night’s sleep. We know how much difference a great night’s sleep can make to the way we feel and we like nothing more than helping our customers to get a great night’s sleep too.
For this blog post, we’re handing over the editorial to one of our customers, Jon a website developer and self-confessed insomniac, from Kendal in Cumbria. Jon brings us his experience of getting a poor quality sleep on a regular basis and his month-long experiment to improve his sleep.
Hello, all. As it says in my intro I’m a veteran viewer of 24-hour news channels in the wee small hours of the morning. I even admit to watching some of the incredibly repetitive teleshopping adverts and will even go as far as to admit that I’m the proud owner of a steam mop. If you’re a poor sleeper too, I’m sure you’ll know the one I mean.
Whilst searching for the answers to my sleep problems online, I happened across the Sleepy People blog and found some really helpful articles. Many of the sleep issues resonated with me, but being something of a sceptic I thought the solutions wouldn’t really be as effective or as simple as they sounded.
Rather than put any of the sleep tips into practice I thought I’d visit my GP and ask his advice. After describing my sleep issues, my GP started reeling off advice that could have been taken straight from the blog. Things like “try a different pillow that suits the way you sleep” (on my side) and “keep a sleep diary”, noting down any thoughts feelings or experiences that were keeping me awake. If the problems persisted I was to return to see the GP in one month with my sleep diary.
Hearing the same advice from my GP made me determined to put the most relevant bits into practice. I decided upon a plan of action for the following month to cure my sleep issues. The remainder of this blog is how it all went.
The first week
I considered the sleep diary but decided against it. I’ve tried keeping diaries and journals over the years and rarely kept them going for more than a week. Being a web geek, I decided to use some tech to keep a record of my sleeping in the form of an app, namely Sleep Cycle, which I installed on my iPhone (it’s available on android too).
Sleep Cycle is primarily an alarm clock and a very smart alarm clock at that. After setting the time you wish to wake, you place your phone under your pillow or on your bed-side table if you prefer and it will monitor your sleep using the microphone on your mobile phone. If you have a sleep partner and they use sleep cycle too, the app is clever enough to distinguish which sleep sounds are yours and separate them out from those of your partner.
If you give Sleep Cycle a try, you’ll notice when setting the time that you wish to wake, that you’re setting a time period in which you’d like to wake. Sleep Cycle uses this time zone to monitor how deeply you are sleeping and to wake you in the lightest part of your 90-minute sleep cycle. The theory being that if you wake at the lightest period of your sleep cycle you’ll feel refreshed, as opposed to waking from a deep sleep which is a generally unpleasant experience and takes some minutes to shake off.
Sleep Cycle takes a few nights to get used to your sleeping patterns. After that, you get stats on how well you are sleeping and graphs that show your sleep cycles. Here’s two of mine; one from the start of the month and one from the end.
Being a bit geeky the graphs were really interesting and also meant that I could monitor how effective other changes to my sleep routine were.
Possibly the hardest thing for me being a work-a-holic web developer was to end my screen time at least 1 hour before bed. If I’m not at my laptop in the evening, I’m usually on my smartphone right up until bedtime.
The issue with using screens up close – such as laptops and mobile phones is that we get exposed to lots of the blue light emitted by them. To our brains, this is similar to the natural light of daylight and so this prevents our brains from generating the hormones that make us feel naturally sleepy at the end of the day.
Breaking the habit of using my phone and laptop late into the evening did prove tough and I have to confess, on some night’s it wasn’t possible due to work deadlines. However, a little persistence in staying off the phone saw a 5% improvement in my Sleep Quality score as given by Sleep Cycle.
An earlier bedtime. As above this one was really tough – mostly down to me feeling like I need to be doing some work on the computer. Simply going to bed one hour earlier boosted my sleep quality by another 5%, sometimes more.
Perhaps my stretching out bedtime mean that I was over-tired, so by the time I made it into bed, I was restless and beyond the point of going to sleep.
A book at bedtime. Given that I’d cut out my screen-time, I felt the need to be doing something in the evening. I’ve never been much of a movie fan or got into any of the tv box sets so I opted for a book.
It has been a couple of years since I read any fiction, so I chose a Clive Cussler novel that had been a long unread Christmas present on my bookshelf. Although it’s not possible to tell how much difference it made in terms of a percentage increase in sleep quality, I definitely felt more ready for sleep after reading for an hour at bedtime. The process of easing into sleep was far quicker and easier after I’d read for an hour.
New pillows. To my shame, I can’t say how old my last set of pillows were, which by all accounts makes them way too old. I like natural goose or duck down pillows but decided in this case to try some of the Silentnight Just Like Down Microfibre Pillows available here at Sleepy People.
Considering they’re 100% man-made, they do have a pretty good ‘like-down’ feel to them. The microfiber outer cover means that it’s a breeze putting on a pillow case and adds a smooth and soft feel to the pillow. The pillows are very supportive and suit my side-sleeping style by filling the gap between my neck and head.
The difference to my sleep was a whopping 10% increase in sleep quality, so well worth a small investment in some new pillows. I also discovered for the first time in years that it’s not necessary to wake up with a sore neck. Who knew?
At the outset of my month’s sleep improvement mission, I had no intentions of buying a new mattress. Partly spurred on by the huge difference my only other investment of £20 in some pillows had made I decided that now was the time for a new mattress.
I have to say sorry to Sleepy People here. I didn’t buy it from you guys! I did, however, follow your advice in getting the right mattress for me, which turned out to be a memory foam topped, pocket sprung mattress – the best of both worlds.
A little like the pillows, it is hard to describe the difference the new mattress made in terms of comfort – both during sleep and in the lack of aches and pains on waking. Oddly, and perhaps a little disappointingly, it didn’t appear to make much if any difference in my sleep quality scores. Though this is possibly due to my score having from a low 50 percent average to a high 70 to mid 80 percent score. Maybe it doesn’t get much better than that!
It’s now another month on from when I was trying out various sleep improvement techniques. Getting a good night’s sleep regularly makes a huge difference to my everyday life. My concentration and mood are so much better and that is helping me in almost every aspect of life.
I’d like to make it clear that I’m sharing my experience in the hope that it will encourage other people who, like me, are a little too stubborn and sceptical to give some of the sleep tips a try. I’m in no way suggesting that everyone rush out and buy a new mattress. In fact, some of the best improvements to my sleep quality cost nothing more than some will power.
If you haven’t read much of the Sleepy People blog I’d certainly recommend it. There’re lots of great tips for getting a better night’s sleep – far more than mentioned here in my article. If, like me, you’re thinking that it won’t work for you, go ahead and try them anyway. What do you have to lose?