How to sleep better – and banning phones from the bedroom

If sleep were a person I think she would be one of those people who drifts in and out of your life; bringing joy and fulfillment and then disappearing again without warning. A wily, elusive mistress – important and rewarding company and yet difficult to pin down at times. No sooner do you think she’s sticking around for good than you find yourself in a scenario where she has bolted again, seemingly without warning. Sleep has been eluding me for some weeks now and I can’t deny that it is wearing me down. I don’t know what’s worse – lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, willing sleep to arrive, or spending the following day like a zombie; distracted and exhausted, confused and completely worn out.

Since I’ve been endeavouring to welcome restful sleep back into my life again, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been trying to tempt her back into my life (I’m dreaming of 10pm bedtimes and waking feeling refreshed at 7am – wouldn’t that be the life?) I’ve also been chatting to the lovely people at Time4Sleep to find out their suggestions for sleeping better – which include banishing phones from the bedroom, eek!

Bedroom in my last house – what a cosy space that was!

My bedroom at the moment is quite light and bright, with blinds that don’t entirely block out the daylight. On days when I’m up at 05.30 for personal training this isn’t an issue, however on days when I’d like to sleep beyond 6am it is not particularly ideal. I’ve been sleeping with an eye mask and spritzing it with Neom Perfect Night’s Sleep Pillow Mist to try and help me drift off to sleep as well as blocking out that pesky morning light.

I’m a real fan of aromatherapy at the moment and I have an aromatherapy diffuser that I use to diffuse oils in before bedtime. I’m a big fan of the Tisserand Sweet Dreams Oil as it fills the room with such a dreamy, restful scent (there’s something about the steam puffing out that’s also really calming!) I also have a night-time magnesium spray I spritz all over my body before bed – magnesium is great for calming and relaxing tired muscles. 

The other thing I’ve been doing is using a sleep app before bed. I use the Pzizz app when I’m ready for bed and it guides you to sleep using ‘psychoacoustic’ principles – a mix of voiceovers and sounds. 

Despite all of my best efforts, none of these are really working for me, and my Garmin watch reliably informs me that I’m averaging about four hours’ sleep a night (yep, I’m basically hell to be around right now). So when Time4Sleep challenged me to try a tech detox before bed, it was definitely something I was willing to try. One of the ways I did this was to use the Moment app to enforce a scheduled screen-free time from 9pm every day. What happens then is that if you try and use it after 9pm it comes up with lots of notifications and sounds that make it almost impossible to use! I found using this app really helpful as it forced me to switch off at a certain time and made me more disciplined with it. I kept my bedtime routine the same as before, I just locked my phone at 9pm and then set the alarm and plugged it in outside my door. 

The only difficulty with this is that I’ve realised how many different ways I use my phone before bedtime. I found myself locking my phone at 9pm, but then I would get into the bath just before bed and want to listen to a podcast or an audiobook on Audible whilst I had a soak. I also had to go without my Pzizz app, which I was really enjoying using. Of course the eternal issue of the tech detox is… how do you set your alarm? I don’t have a bedside table in my current bedroom so I don’t have anywhere to put my alarm clock (I previously had a Lumie alarm clock, which I loved) so I rely on my phone to wake me up. Placing my phone outside my room just made me a bit anxious – would I hear my alarm? Had I even set it at all (cue having to get out of bed and check). This actually inhibited my sleep as I was so worried about my alarm all of the time! 

The other thing I realised is how many people I chat to on Whatsapp just before bed. Locking my phone at 9pm made me feel rude if I hadn’t finished a conversation with someone, or I woke up to a few messages from people who I’d normally be up chatting to in bed until much later. This also made me reflect on times when I’ve probably compromised my ability to sleep based on not wanting to finish a conversation abruptly, or appear unavailable. I’m sure people would understand if I didn’t reply right away or explained that I was having an early night, and this is something I’m definitely going to work on in future.

One of the huge benefits I have found from switching my phone off at 9pm is that I’ve been reading much more than I did before. I’ve noticed that pre-tech detox I would open up my book and then end up flitting back to Twitter or Whatsapp and scrolling for 45 minutes before realising it was bedtime and I’d barely read a single page (but I’d instead seen lots of puppy gifs and people outraged about politics). Forcing myself to put down my phone has meant I’ve been reading so much more as well as making more time for things like journaling, bedtime yoga and tarot cards that I often intended to do before bed and managed to miss out on due to my scrolling habits!

Overall I’ve decided I’ll definitely be keeping some of the habits from my tech detox. Whilst I probably won’t be putting my phone outside the room (due to alarm anxiety) I’m going to keep up with locking my phone via Moment or putting it on airplane mode to stop me doing the mindless scrolling. I can still use my Pzizz app on airplane mode but I can’t get 8 conversations deep on Twitter so I feel this could be a good solution!

What are your tips for sleeping better? Would you detox technology from the bedroom?

*Post in collaboration with Time4Sleep