health

'I've always been a bad sleeper. Here's how turning it around changed my life.'

Snooze
Thanks to our brand partner, Snooze

From as early as I can remember, I've been a terrible sleeper. 

I've always put off going to bed (a tendency I now know as revenge bedtime procrastination), and once I try to go to sleep, all the thoughts come flooding in.

How long has it been since you've done your tax?

Why are you so profoundly embarrassing?

Remember that one time you got a blood test and you were low in... something? Probably time to follow that up. 

I then go through phases where I wake up throughout the night. Never early in the morning, at a time where it might be appropriate to start the day and pretend to just be a smug early riser. 

Oh no. 

I'm talking about 2am. Waking from a nightmare. And spending hours being irrationally terrified of snakes in my inner-city bedroom. 

In an ideal world, I'd keep sleeping well into the morning to compensate (and yeah, maybe I do on weekends). But as the Editor in Chief at Mamamia, I'm up at 7am to start the day. After a bad night, that might only be leaving me with five or six hours of sleep. 

Of course, all these issues are compounded by the fact that I'm acutely aware of how important sleep is. 

Matthew Walker, the director of UC Berkeley’s Centre for Human Sleep Science and the author of Why We Sleep, writes it quite simply, "the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life".

"The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations—diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer—all have recognised causal links to a lack of sleep."

Neglecting sleep has also been shown to impair your creativity, problem solving, decision making, learning, memory, mental health, emotional well-being and immune system.

ADVERTISEMENT

But how are there so many people who claim to be fine on very little sleep?  We all know that someone who gets five hours of sleep and feels perfectly well.

According to Dr Thomas Roth, Director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Centre at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, those people do exist. But there's hardly any of them. 

"The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number, is zero," he says.

So, sleep, and plenty of it, is crucial. I know when I get less than eight hours of sleep, I feel it. My mood changes, my appetite changes, my attention span becomes shorter and I make more mistakes. That's not ideal for any job - let alone one where you're managing a team and making executive decisions all day.

That's why this year, I've decided to prioritise sleep. After extensive reading, I chose to focus on four factors I could tangibly change.

1. A consistent bedtime

Yes, I'm 30. And yes, I gave myself an official bedtime. With no restrictions in place, I can be scrolling through my phone at midnight, so I set myself a rule. In bed at 10pm. Every night. No exceptions. 

2. No phone

But it's so fun. 

Again, given free rein, I won't put it down. So, I set a rule for my phone to be plugged in on the other side of my bedroom. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I have to physically walk a few steps to turn it off, which makes it far harder to go back to bed. 

3. A comfy bed

This sounds... obvious, but I've never prioritised my bed. The right mattress can decrease stress levels, increase sleep quality and decrease pain. 

ADVERTISEMENT

That is why it's important to invest in a mattress that works for you, like those at Snooze. The staff at Snooze, along with the help of their Snooze Profiler® technology can help you find a mattress that suits you. After all, the key to a great day starts with a good night's sleep. 

I overhauled my bed - mattress, sheets, doona, everything - to turn it into my own little peaceful oasis. 

4. Temperature

Your body's temperature drops during sleep, so sleeping in a cool (but not cold) room helps you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. 

My bedroom gets particularly warm from the sunshine throughout the day, so I put a fan at the end of my bed to cool down my sleeping area.

Implementing these four new rules was bloody hard. I'll admit straight up that quite a few times I've found myself scrolling through my phone at 11pm, only to remember that I'm meant to be a changed woman.

At first, I really struggled to get to sleep. Going to bed at 10pm gave me potential hours of 'worrying' time, and there have been nights where I've laid there for a very, very long time.

But after a few weeks, I found myself looking forward to bedtime. No phone meant that I had one job come 10pm: to lay there, perfectly still, and relax. I also love getting into bed because it's absurdly comfortable and inviting. My mattress is firm (but not too firm) and I'm finding that I have less back and neck pain in the morning. It’s the mattress that suits me.

Now, when I find myself worrying, I try to meditate or do some deep breathing exercises, and more often than not, they put me to sleep. 

Not having the light of my phone in that period just before sleep also means that I'm not as 'hyped' up when my head hits the pillow. 

I've felt the biggest impact, however, in the mornings. Waking up is always a shock (WHAT DAY IS IT AND WHO AM I), but as soon as I'm up and in the shower, I'm bright and ready for the day. I'm motivated. And determined. And when I come into work, I'm friendly and chatty. 

I feel better able to prioritise my workday and more confident in the decisions I have to make minute to minute, hour to hour. I also notice that I don't have that 3pm 'slump' I used to feel. I can get through to 5.30pm with energy and focus and look forward to winding down again by the end of day.

My sleep is by no means perfect. I still wake up every now and then after a nightmare (there's a bear in my bedroom, and it's important I wake my partner up to warn him), and I still struggle to shut my brain down after a busy day. 

But prioritising sleep has had a noticeable impact on my day-to-day life. As much as we talk about focusing on what we eat and how much we exercise, we need to be emphasising the importance of sleep. 

It's the crucial bedrock of our health and wellbeing.  

Snooze
We spend every waking hour trying to be healthier versions of ourselves. But we forget it is a good night’s sleep that let us do those things in the first place. At Snooze, we have been giving Australians a good night's sleep for more than 45 years - and with more than 80 stores Australia wide it has most bedrooms covered. From mattresses and linen to locally made, customisable bed frames and bedroom furniture, our friendly and knowledgeable bedroom specialists are here to help create a bedroom you love. It’s amazing what a little Snooze can do.
00:00 / ???