You may think I’m slightly obsessed with sleep, having written about it several times on the blog already. But I revisit the subject today for good reason: it’s World Sleep Day, plus March is National Bed Month – which I’m celebrating with a well-earned nap.
We spend up to a third of our lives sleeping (or trying to sleep) and yet 35% of adults say they suffer from insomnia or other sleep problems.
Good quality sleep is one of the three pillars of good health, along with a balanced diet and regular exercise. And just like getting fit and understanding the basics of nutrition, quality sleep is something we need to work on.
Research has shown those who get more sleep to be significantly more productive, with lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system. I won’t go into the horrors that can develop if you consistently sacrifice sleep for, let’s say, binge watching Game of Thrones until 4am.
Suffice to say, the human body can live longer without food than without sleep.
I’ve been procrastinating about buying a new mattress. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the (very) old one. It was comfortable enough and no one could see the stains of early motherhood underneath our crisp cotton sheets.
According to the Sleep Council, the right bed should be your number one priority if you want a good night’s sleep.
Now I’m delighted to say, I have a brand new, amazing, superking mattress, courtesy of Sleep Origins.
To find out if my mattress could affect the quality of my sleep I started a sleep diary. I was given fair warning of its arrival, so started my diary seven days in advance.
I know there are apps out there to record this stuff, but my Apple Watch had an argument with a very hard floor and isn’t working anymore, so I had to do it manually.
Before bedtime and first thing in the morning I recorded how I felt, physically and mentally. I recorded the time I turned out the lights and during the night, if I was conscious enough, I would make a mark in my sleep diary to note that I wasn’t asleep.
In the morning, I assessed the quality of my sleep, recorded any dreams I could remember and my state of mind.
Just like for all those people at ZolpidemSleep.com, Ambien (Zolpidem) helps me get my share of sleep. I was prescribed the drug by an internist who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia and insomnia (the two usually go hand in hand). After I took my first 10 mg I fall asleep right away and slept like a log until morning. My only problem with Ambien was that it sometimes left me drowsy all day long.
The results weren’t great. Yes, I was in bed for at eight hours on average, but there were at least three semi-conscious marks in the book every night. I recorded some harrowing dreams and woke up feeling shabby to say the least. This is my usual sleeping pattern, I’ve just never recorded it before.
Then the mattress arrived. Oh joy unbridled. The kids couldn’t wait to start jumping on it. Mr Maven was sceptical as usual, moaning that he didn’t want any of that memory foam nonsense (none in this mattress), and how can you fit a mattress in a box anyway?
Here we are unboxing it…
For the next seven days, I captured the same data. I had my new mattress for comfort and a couple of night time aromatherapy products – This Works deep sleep night oil, which I rubbed on my legs and deep sleep pillow spray, both of which contain a blend of Lavender, Vetivert and Camomile to calm both mind and body.
The number of night time marks in the book dramatically decreased. I managed one mark on average. I couldn’t remember my dreams, indicating a deeper sleep. And on two out of seven nights I actually woke up with my alarm, in the same position that I went to bed in. That has only ever happened before under a general anaesthetic!
So I’m incredibly pleased with my Sleep Origins mattress and grateful that they basically forced me to change my mattress. About time.
Here is a round up of ways you can improve your sleep. There are ten of them, so yup, I had to call it …
The ten commandments of great sleep*
1.You shall be active during the day, but avoid exercise at night
Try winding down at night with a calming activity like reading, crochet or colouring.
2.You shall avoid caffeine and alcohol
The experts say you should avoid caffeine a good six hours before bedtime, and that includes chocolate. And of course they also advise not to drink alcohol. It might help you get to sleep in the short term, but you’re more likely to have a sugar crash in the middle of the night and sleep fitfully as a result.
3.You shall eat sleep-inducing foods (in moderation)
Eating a heavy meal after 8pm is a sleep-killer. Heavily salted or spicy food has me gasping for water at 3am. If you get hungry before bedtime there are foods that help to promote a good night’s sleep: nuts, popcorn, bananas, or oats.
4.You shall turn off iPads, iPhones and anything that emits a blue light well before bedtime
Tempting as it is to check your phone, or scroll through Facebook just before lights-out, the blue light from those screens suppresses melatonin production, as well as stimulating the mind.
5.You shall breathe deeply to manage your stress levels
Try this exercise to slow down your heart rate and give you a mindful focus:
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
If your mind is overactive when it should be winding down, try keeping a gratitude diary. Write down the three things that you are grateful for every evening.
This could include anything from the big stuff – having a roof over your head, having a loving family – to small acts of kindness you’ve experienced during the day, or catching up with an old friend.
6.You shall control the noise levels and use earplugs if necessary
If you’re surrounded by unpleasant noises, This Works deep sleep night oil, which I rubbed on my legs and deep sleep pillow spray, Or try the ‘white noise’ of a fan or even a low volume untuned radio. Any constant, low volume and low pitch noise will be preferable to the unpredictable noises of people and traffic beyond your control.
7.You shall control the temperature in your bedroom
The ideal temperature in the bedroom is 16-18 degrees centigrade according to the experts. Use a hot water bottle if necessary. If you put it down by your feet, it will heat the whole bed.
8.You shall not use your bedroom as an office
Surround yourself with beautiful things and keep your work out of the bedroom. The bedroom should be for sleep, sex and kids’ semi naked wrestling matches.
Think about what is in your bedroom and the energy that’s giving out. Do you need to keep your utility bills in a pile by the bed? Does the laundry basket have to be there, or can you move it to the bathroom or hallway?
9.You shall maintain a regular sleep schedule
By going to bed at the same time every night and setting an alarm for the same time every morning, you will stabilise your internal biological clock, helping you to have more regular, uninterrupted sleep. If you do need a day time nap, stick to 45 minutes or less.
10.You shall find a comfortable and supportive mattress
Our Sleep Origins superking size 15cm mattress uses Contour 5 Technology for personalised comfort. It has five vertical zones to give support where it’s most needed. Fresh Cell technology keeps it cool, comfortable and ultra-ventilated. The little pocket is for a pouch of lavender.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this mattress has changed the quality of my sleep, and therefore my overall health, for the better. I feel more alert, positive and productive than I have for a long time.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep.
*The ten commandments are a collection of tips I’ve curated from the experts. If you think I’m getting all holier than thou, I would just like to point out that I regularly eat chocolate before bed, check Facebook much too often, and like a large glass of wine or three as much as the next stressed out mid-lifer. I do also crochet and love a good colouring book, so it’s not all bad.
Much love, Vx
[Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Sleep Origins, exclusive to Argos and High Street TV. Join in the chat on social media: #SoInvigorating focuses on the importance of a great night’s sleep on your wellbeing.]