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.
This month, we asked Julia, the blogger behind the lifestyle blog Lemon Stripes, to take the #GoodNights challenge for 30 days. The challenge included powering down electronics and avoiding alcohol before bed. Here, Julia shares how taking the challenge affected her sleep after struggling with sleep issues for most of her life.
Describe your sleeping habits, both before and after taking the #GoodNights challenge. Would you say you are/were a “good sleeper”?
Before I started making some serious changes around my lifestyle for a better sleep, I was a horrible insomniac. It would take me 1-2 hours to fall asleep at night and I’d wake up for hours at 3am. I was constantly exhausted and stressed out.
Are you a better sleeper now?
I still struggle with a perfect sleep but it’s much improved! It usually takes me under an hour to fall asleep and when I wake up in the middle of the night, I have techniques to calm myself down. I will say that when I don’t follow the #GoodNights rules, my sleep deteriorates in a big way!
Were you surprised to learn any of these facts about sleep health – for example, that exercising at night can keep you up later?
Because I’ve struggled with sleep issues for so long, I have been working on most of these facts for years. However, it’s easy to let them slip and ignore them so it was a great reminder! One that was an especially good reminder for me is that I should stick to the same sleep schedule, even on weekends. It’s easy for me to go to sleep and wake up much later on weekends but it actually harms me in the long run.
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?
I love having a glass of wine with dinner but I’ve found that even one big glass affects my sleep so if I really want a drink, I’ll stick to half a glass on weeknights. I allow myself more on the weekends and special occasions but most of the time it’s just not worth it!
Winding down without electronics was tough as well because I blog after work and then will want to wind down with TV or a movie. Now I know that TV right before bed might seem like a wind down but in fact hurts me more than it helps!
What was the easiest part about the challenge for you?
Creating a calming bedtime routine was a fun challenge for me. I’ve stuck to it for almost 6 years and it really works! I start by taking a shower or bath. I’ve learned about myself that when I feel clean, I sleep better. Weird, I know. Then I do a few yoga poses followed by reading in bed with my yoga toes on. Right before I try to fall asleep I practice a series of deep breaths: 4 seconds in, hold for 7 seconds, 8 seconds out. I do this 10-20 times and it calms me down no matter how stressed out I feel.
Did your “time of the month” interfere with your sleep in any way? How so? What did you do to relieve the symptoms and help yourself sleep?
Yes, on the first day of my period I have trouble sleeping. I usually have cramps that night so I wake up and have to take an Advil which throws me off a bit. I try not to take it too often but on nights like that, when I can plan ahead for a bump in the road, I’ll take melatonin (a natural sleeping aid).
Do you use any products, such as sound conditioners, aromatherapy or special pillows, to help you sleep at night? If so, what are they and how do they help you? If not, why don’t you?
I use Tata Harper’s Aromatic Bedtime Treatment on my temples for aromatherapy. Just the ritual and placebo effect of it help but I like to believe that the scents are doing their job too! I am a super light sleeper so we always turn on the ceiling fan for a little white noise and I wear ear plugs. Ear plugs help me a lot because I wake up so easily. Without them, it’s a disaster!
Do you think you will be able to maintain these sleep habits after the 30 day challenge? Why or why not?
It’s been 6 years so I think I’m good to go.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know, either about you, your publication, or the challenge?
In this day and age, it’s really hard to turn off electronics at anytime of day or night, but that is the single thing that has helped me the most in improving my sleep.
I like to documents my tips for insomnia and other wellness tips on my blog, Lemon Stripes.