New Challenge: Improve the Quality of My Sleep

Sleeping more soundly. Sounds great, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but I loooove sleep. However despite spending a lot of time in bed, I don't wake up refreshed, ready to hop out of bed and tackle the day, and that's how I'd like to feel. So I've been doing some research on what I can do to improve the quality of my sleep.

A lot of things can affect how we sleep, from the physical conditions of the room and bed to what we eat or drink to when we exercise. Here's where things stand now for me, good and bad.

Someone could probably take a good picture of a black room - not me - but this should give you a decent idea of what we've got. Small, dark and cave-like. 

Someone could probably take a good picture of a black room - not me - but this should give you a decent idea of what we've got. Small, dark and cave-like. 

Things I think I'm already doing okay with:

  • I track my sleep with my Fitbit and a a couple weeks ago, I switched from a One, which tracks arm movement only, to an Alta HR, which tracks heart rate and uses that information to (presumably) track sleep stages more accurately (or at least generate more data!). 
  • Our bed is comfortable, with a good mattress, pillows and sheets. 
  • The bedroom is dark (black walls and blackout drapes at the windows) and cool (window AC unit set to 62 degrees).
  • We use this "noise machine" to generate white noise while we sleep, which minimizes sounds that would wake me up. 
  • I sleep with an eye mask, so I can't tell if Eric is looking at his phone. 
  • We never let the dog sleep in the bed, and usually ban the cats as well, except for Alfie, who is a champion sleeper and doesn't move at all once he's settled in. 
  • I exercise 4-6 days a week and my job is physically active, so I'm usually tired when I go to bed. 


Things that don't help, but that I can't or won't change:

  • I work evenings and don't get home until 11:30 pm, so I am rarely or never in bed before midnight.
  • I sleep in as late as I feel the need, since I'd rather not use an alarm clock, so the time I get up varies. 
  • I would point out that my husband sleeps flat on his back in the middle of the bed, but he'll only get irritated and deny it, and I don't have photographic proof, so forget I said anything. 
  • I drink caffeinated tea and sometimes coffee, always in the morning and sometimes into early afternoon.
Guess who never has any trouble sleeping? These fuckers. 

Guess who never has any trouble sleeping? These fuckers. 

Here's what I can improve on:

  • Stop looking at my phone before I go to sleep. 
  • Eat less right before I go to sleep.
  • Cut back on alcohol. 

I tend to average around 8 hours of sleep. Some weeks the average is just over; others just under. But I'm in bed between 9 and 10 hours when I don't have to set an alarm. I spend over an hour of my time in bed awake, which, according to Fitbit, is less than the average user my age (44), but that average certainly includes people with children, no noise machine, sleep apnea, chronic pain, dogs in bed, etc. I can't help but think I should be doing better than the average there. 

I spend more than the average in the light sleep stage, and way less than the average in both deep and REM sleep. 

My goal is increase the amount of deep sleep I get. Googling that netted me a few sales pitches for sleep devices, supplements and drugs (that I don't want to try) and lots of articles essentially repeating the same advice about dark rooms, cool temperatures and comfortable beds, as well as warnings about taking too seriously the data provided by fitness trackers (which I am choosing to ignore). However, I will say that if I felt great when I woke up every morning, I wouldn't be looking into what I can do to change how I sleep, regardless of what my sleep record said.

Starting tonight, I'm going to make this my routine: 

  1. Plug my phone and set any necessary alarms as soon as I get home from work, and don't look at my phone again until morning.
  2. Eat a banana (two if I'm really hungry?), drink a glass of water, and take calcium (long story, but I have to take supplemental calcium twice a day or my extremities go numb and sometimes I get muscle cramps).
  3. Brush teeth, wash face, change clothes.
  4. Get in bed and read anything that's not on the phone. I usually read on my Kindle Paperwhite and at this point I refuse to even look into whether or not the light it emits could be disturbing my sleep. 

And I'll report back in a week or two. Hopefully better rested.