In early 2016, 55 year old Lamorna decided she was tired of being tired. With a busy working schedule and 5 years of sleeping problems dominating her day to day life, Lamorna joined the Six Week Sleep Challenge with nothing to lose and the simple wish for more restful nights and brighter days. This is the story of how Lamorna improved her sleep (and her life) in just six weeks.
Over a period of 5 years I have let work, life, poor habits and other stressors intrude on my down-time to the extent that six weeks ago I would have been lucky to be getting any more than two hours sleep a night. As you can imagine this left me a walking zombie with a serious caffeine addiction, and unable to complete most days at full throttle. I joined the Six Week Sleep Challenge with nothing to lose. Poor sleep had become a serious health issue for me and any improvement was welcome.
Dr Carmel suggested giving up caffeine after 1pm. Done… but not easily. On top of that there was the wider challenge of not using a cellphone or tablet an hour or so before bedtime. This proved to be another serious challenge because as an emergency manager I am almost always on call. Most nights I avoided them both after 8pm, going back to watching television and not reading work emails or Facebooking. Dr Carmel also recommended using a sleep app to track my sleep. Eventually found one I could use quite easily on my android device, and it proved invaluable over the following weeks.
This week’s challenge was all about setting up the bedroom to be a comfy and relaxed place – a place of sanctuary with no outside light. New darker, heavier curtains, cosy tiffany lamps and fluffy throws on the Swedish easy chair were added. This ambience was enhanced with an oil burner with lavender oil half an hour before bed. Additionally my cellphone was placed on silent for texts, messages, alerts, while phone calls would still come through. Knowing they would only ever be seriously urgent calls was okay by me.
This week was about exercise and liquid intake. In the mornings I got out with the dogs and I was able to do some gardening after work. As well as that, limiting liquid intake after 7pm. No more vodka and soda to wash down all those after dinner mints. That wasn’t too much of a problem.
This week tackled a massive issue for me. Animals in the bedroom. I do not have a partner, so this was about canine and feline companions. The dogs were no longer able to jump on the bed through the night. I had to retrain them to sleep on their beds in the lounge. It took a while but they ended up liking their own space, occasionally popping in to check I was still in the house, but did not disturb me all night. The cat on the other hand was a nightmare. A Siamese with a big mouth was evicted from the bedroom. He howled for 3 hours the first night. Not even ear plugs worked. So I made him his own bed that was way more alluring and cosy than mine. It took a while but now he prefers that to climbing in and out and in and out of my bed.
We’d reached the home stretch. This week I struggled with all of the triggers. It was a bad week, but by letting myself slide it proved that each trigger did actually have an effect. I took a closer look at what I ate in my dinner and whether snacks after dinner were wrong as well (I must remember to not eat too many fresh figs in preference to chips and dip as they tend to keep me too mobile the next day). By the end of the week I was noticing longer sleep cycles, higher percentages of actual sleep and a lack of mid-afternoon yawning.
This was when I really started noticing a difference. I started feeling a greater ability to cope with stress and had a better understanding of why reading a good book at night is so relaxing. I recognised that the small changes had removed many of the triggers keeping me awake. It was no longer taking me hours to get to sleep, but only 10 minutes. I also saw actual sleep cycles of 2 or more hours regularly appearing in the logs, and total sleep of around 5 hours a night. Still not huge for some people, but remember, I was only getting about 2 hours total at the start.
The final week of the challenge culminated in a seriously heavy workload and a really stressful event. I didn’t cave in but took control and ended the last week with two nights in a row where I was asleep in 10 minutes. I also had one 3–4 hour sleep cycle, an overall sleep tally of 74% of the night asleep and 5:30 hours in total. Instead of the week ending as a zombie, my energy levels increased and I spent a whole Sunday working outside in the garden.
Thanks to A.H. Beard’s sponsorship and encouragement, combined with Dr Carmel’s invaluable advice I now control my sleep. I am no longer afraid to go to bed or need the comfort of an on-demand TV channel. It contributes in a positive manner to my work, my life and my interactions with others. And even the cat is happy.”
Do you struggle with getting to sleep or waking up during the night? Join the Six Week Sleep Challenge to find out how you can improve your life through better sleep too!