'I asked a sleep expert what was wrong with my bedroom. They instantly told me 5 major things.'

Sleep is a confusing beast.

Whilst a majority of us are capable of sleeping well, sleeping in and perhaps even sleeping consistently — it's still important to consider if we're actually getting the best sleep possible. 

Because a good night's rest is a fundamental pillar of health, says sleep expert Rachel Beard.

"If you don't get a good night's rest, you're not motivated to exercise, you're not motivated to eat the right foods," Beard tells Mamamia. "Sleep drives how we look, how we feel, how we perform at work and the quality of our relationships."

Watch: How long should I nap for? Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

As someone who has always struggled to maintain not only a consistent sleeping routine (I work odd hours as a writer for Mamamia) and has a slightly disturbing relationship with my phone, I was determined to figure out how to sleep better and for longer. 

"We can get a better sleep when we prioritise it," Beard explains. "But it is a real issue if you don't implement healthy sleeping habits."

Her role at the A.H. Beard Sleep Wellness Centre focuses on encouraging people to not only sleep better but helps others find ways to implement healthy routines through micro changes. Overall, these changes — big and small — make a huge difference in the long run. 


And she shared with me the five mistakes I've been making for far too long in my bedroom, and how to remedy them all for a solid snooze. 

1. My pillow was completely... wrong. 

My pillows are around 18 centimetres height-wise. Considering my neck doesn't need that much support, Beard says there actually is such a thing as too tall of a pillow.

"Pillows play a really essential role when it comes to sleep," she explains. "Their main goal is just for your head, neck and shoulders, which is overall for your sleeping comfort, right? It's the most important part of your body for sleep."

Beard says picking a pillow is just as important as choosing a mattress. 

The overall goal is to have your head, neck, shoulders and your spine aligned during sleep. 

"If you have a really high pillow and your neck is not aligned then that's not good," Beard says. "If you have a really soft mattress and your pillow is big, it's important that you don't feel like your head is too high."

2. I should definitely not be looking at my phone before bedtime.

Beard says she's a pretty decent sleeper, but in the evenings when she hasn't gotten a night of good sleep, it usually comes down to being on her phone. 

"Our whole life is in our hand in a mobile phone," she acknowledges. "So actually taking the effort to put it down is difficult. But perhaps people don't realise how detrimental it is to the quality of our sleep."

Beard says that checking our emails in bed or scrolling on Instagram can prevent us from allowing our body to slip into sleep mode.


"You're riling yourself up," she explains. "You're not actually giving your body the best chance at actually winding down and preparing the sleep."

Ideally, Beard suggests putting the phone down at least an hour or two before bed and using a notepad to write ideas or reminders, and dealing with tomorrow. 

...I guess that means I'm banning TikTok scrolling for the foreseeable...

3. I've been paying attention to the wrong type of sleep hygiene.

When we think of sleep hygiene, Beard says people typically think about keeping our bedrooms clean and our sheets washed. While we'd be correct, sleep hygiene also asks people to focus on sleeping better instead of just for longer. 

"Of course we should treat our bedroom like a sanctuary," she notes. "But then when we talk sleep hygiene in terms of sleep habits, people sometimes don't get it. Sleep hygiene asks things like: 'What are you doing to make sure that you're setting yourself up for good quality sleep? Are you putting away your phone? Are you winding down?"

Beard says they're both important but we're only worrying about one type of sleep hygiene.

"Yes, change your sheets and vacuum constantly, but also think about the ways to improve how you're sleeping," she says.

We can focus on getting a better sleep hygiene by asking ourselves: 

What distractions are surrounding us? 

How can we mitigate these distractions? 

Is it possible to keep our phones in a different room or use a sleep machine that drowns out loud noises? 


Instead of a phone alarm can we use one that is specifically formulated to wake us up out of our sleep gently and effectively? 

Beard recommends the Orb Smart Sleep Light that helps you fall asleep easily and wake up naturally. It implements a red light to increase melatonin (our body's natural sleep hormone) and stimulates the sunrise when we want to wake up using an app we can configure with.

After two weeks of using the Orb Smart Sleep Light, I loved how user-friendly it was. As someone who sleeps through multiple alarms (to the point where my housemates have to stomp into my room and turn each one off), I was surprised when this sleep light managed to pull me out of my slumber without any hassle. 

It’s made my mornings easier and also made my housemates happier because now they're not on Shannen-snooze alert.

Image: Supplied.


4. I should not be sipping on caffeine after 2pm.

Ah. The dreaded caffeine situation. 

When asked what habits we can try to rid ourselves of slowly, Beard says not drinking coffee in the afternoon can improve our quality of sleep drastically.

"We can overindulge in caffeine because it's delicious and great to drink but the problem is when we are drinking it," she explains. "That caffeine is generally one thing that many people overindulge in. So sleep experts recommend avoiding it after 2pm."

I'm not a serious coffee drinker – as in, I don't need one in the morning to properly wake me up – but I do have a habit of running down to the cafe at work and buying a latte before it closes in the afternoons for a pick-me-up.

Now, I'll have to find some other way to suffice. 

Experts recommend drinking it in the morning only as caffeine can stay in the body for six to eight hours. 

"It can still be running through your system," Beard says. "So if someone's having a coffee at three or four o'clock in the afternoon, six to eight hours later is they're about to go to bed and wind down, they've still got all of that still running through their system."

Beard says keep it to the morning or at least make our last cup of the day one we drink about ten hours before bed. 


Listen to 8 Minutes To Change Your Life: Three Steps To Improve Your Sleep. Post continues after audio.

5. I haven't been implementing the "Five Second" rule.

One of Beard's favourite tips comes from author Mel Robbins and it's the "Five Second" rule. 

"It works perfectly for a morning routine," she says. "If you're not a big morning person, it can be tricky to manage getting up but giving yourself five seconds to do something makes it easier to get up and get on with the day."

Beard says jumping out of bed within five seconds almost guarantees we won't jump back in again and go straight back to sleep.

She says once we do this, we should expose ourselves to sunlight straight away. 

"Getting outside and exposing yourself to the outside and sunlight where possible is potentially the most beneficial thing you can do," she explains. "Particularly in the first hour."

Whilst I'm not exactly an expert yet in sleeping, I've managed to find a good routine that I hope will bring me a solid sleep schedule in the coming months. But already I've found my brain feels faster, my eyes look less sunken in and I feel a lot less foggier throughout the day. 

Overall, it can be difficult to make huge changes all at once, but Beard says starting with one small goal — like sleeping with our phone in a different room or using a red light to induce melatonin — can help us massively in the long run. 

So go forth and sleep well, friends. I sure will. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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