New mom Ali shares how making #GoodNights a priority helped get her (and her family) through those all important first months in this exclusive Q&A!
Each month, the National Sleep Foundation is partnering with select bloggers and digital influencers for a new iteration of the #GoodNights challenge. We’ll explore new ways to get a good night’s rest by showcasing real life examples of how a good night’s sleep can positively impact your body, mind and spirit. We know that many of our readers want real life tips for sleeping better, so follow along and share your own #GoodNights stories by using hashtag across social media channels like Twitter and Instagram.
April’s Sleep Challenge
It took a bit longer than usual this year, but it appears that spring has finally sprung throughout the country. As a result, we’re going full throttle into spring cleaning mode, throwing open the windows, wiping away those dust bunnies and re-evaluating the most important room in our home … the bedroom.
We asked Alison, the blogger behind popular lifestyle site Long Distance Loving, to utilize the National Sleep Foundation’s healthy bedroom tips to help craft the perfect sleep environment, with a focus on refreshing their room for increased aesthetic pleasure, better productivity and of course, a good old fashioned dose of spring cleaning for better overall health.
We also gave her a bit of a boost – a large packet of goodies including pillow and mattress protectors and in-room aromatherapy from our licensed product partner PureCare, as well as gorgeous houseplants from Exotic Angel.
For nearly a week, our Ali, husband Chris and baby James lived by the National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines in their newly-updated bedrooms … and here’s what they had to say in our exclusive Q&A:
Describe your sleeping habits, both before and after taking the #GoodNights challenge. Would you say you are/were a “good sleeper”? Are you a better sleeper now?
Before embarking on this #GoodNights challenge (and before I became a mother), I slept like a champ. I didn’t struggle to fall asleep and I slept soundly. Pregnancy prepares you for the challenges of sleep as a new parent with those pesky (and frequent) bathroom visits. Until I gave birth to James in early December, I never truly understood what it meant to have subpar sleep. When our son arrived, my sleeping world was rocked. As most mothers do, I pushed hard for the finish line daily and completely crashed by bedtime. Though I was tired to the bone, I was not getting the restorative sleep I needed to get moving the next morning. This challenge forced me re-evaluate my sleeping habits because exhaustion is not sustainable. While working to understand our son’s sleep cycle, my husband and I both overlooked our own. We still have a long way to go, but I can absolutely say the #GoodNights challenge encouraged me to take better control of my own bedtime routine. Though I’m not back to my pre-motherhood sleeping habits, I am prioritizing my pillow time again and it is making a huge difference!
How did the tips and products offered from the National Sleep Foundation and partners change your sleep routine? Describe any noticeable differences, such as sounder sleep, increased sleep duration, or a change in bedtime routine?
We moved in our home late last fall, only a few weeks before our son arrived. Installing blackout curtains was one of the best investments we made in our sleep. Sticking to a schedule in those early days with a newborn is tough, but with each passing day, we are all getting into a better rhythm. I loved the tips from the National Sleep Foundation on how to get on a sleep schedule. Good sleep doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen over the course of a few weeks. As our little one’s bedtime shifts earlier, I noticed (both consciously and subconsciously) that ours was too. No snooze button exists in our house anymore, which takes away the empty reward of a few minutes of sleep. Much like the nighttime routine we developed for our son, we got in a habit of eating earlier and turning off the TV at a reasonable time. Putting down our phones after 10:00pm was also key. With spring cleaning in mind, we made a concerted effort to keep our nightstands clear. I purchased a longer cord for my iPhone, so it wasn’t in close reach in the middle of the night. Making it a habit to (properly!) make the bed every morning was a big step for me. Crawling into a made bed is so much more inviting!
I also appreciated the sleep tips for new moms, especially the suggestion of getting help. Though I am still breastfeeding, my husband now takes charge of those middle-of-the-night wake-ups from James in the next room. This small shift has helped immensely in the quality and duration of my sleep. Last but certainly not least, the PureCare Pillow and Mattress Protectors have been a dream – literally! The subtle scents of lavender and eucalyptus were our favorite, providing a calming and soothing environment for our sleep. (The eucalyptus especially helped when my allergies kicked into high gear this spring!) I wear a Jawbone UP24 on a daily basis, which tracks my movement and my sleep. Though it may not be 100% accurate, it does paint a picture of my previous night’s sleep. After this challenge was complete, I certainly saw a positive shift in my light sleep vs. sound sleep ratio.
How did this sleep refresh fit into your overall spring cleaning routine?
After an incredibly long New England winter, this reset button on sleep couldn’t have come at a better time. Paying attention to the ways we were missing the mark is paying dividends now in the best of ways: more sleep!
Did you have any problems with the challenge? For example, did you find it tough to avoid electronics before bed, or did you have trouble cutting out caffeine in the afternoons?
Working on a sleep routine with our young son definitely threw a wrench in some of the restfulness of this challenge. Cutting out caffeine wasn’t an issue for me, but cutting down on nighttime snacking was. As a breastfeeding mother, I am hungry (almost) constantly. We shifted our dinnertime slightly earlier, so I found I was waking up a bit hungrier than before. I learned to keep an energy bar on my nightstand for those emergency hunger situations.
Did you feel that your sleep improved throughout the challenge? Did your partner’s sleep change, or that of your family?
After you have a child, the first question everyone seems to ask involves how much you are sleeping. If you have a good night, there is an enthusiastic discussion about how well it went. If you have a bad night, there is always conjecture about what made that night different than the night before. Thanks to the #GoodNights challenge, we paid more attention to our sleep. With so much focus on our little one, it is easy to forget that we need good ZZZs to be functional as well. By making a few small changes, we are both on the path to better sleep!
Did you notice any overall health changes, such as increased energy, better skin, or decreased cravings?
The #GoodNights challenge opened my eyes to how important it is to prioritize the quality of your sleep. Previously, I focused solely on the number of hours of shut-eye. I now focus on creating an environment which promotes restful sleep, so even when James has other plans, the sleep we are getting will help us face the next day with a smile.
During spring cleaning, Ali made a concerted effort to keep clutter out of her bedroom, which meant making sure nightstands were free of extraneous cords and distractions.
The Exotic Angel plant gave off a pleasing eucalyptus scent -- unfortunately, Ali's curious cats also enjoyed the plant a bit too much. It's now in a safe location where it can't be knocked over and disturb her sleep!
"I never thought to introduce scents in the bedroom using the pillows or the mattress, so the PureCare products really pushed me to look outside the box," said Alison.
Ali's cat loved the smell of her new aromatherapy products.
Keeping nightstands free of clutter helps encourage relaxation.
A close up of PureCare's pillow protectors and aromatherapy sachets.