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I tried The Sleep Doctor’s steps for a good night’s sleep. Here’s what I learned…

I tried The Sleep Doctor’s steps for a good night’s sleep. Here’s what I learned…
Penny Lafferty
Writer and expert2 years ago
View Penny Lafferty's profile

A good night’s sleep – sounds easy in theory, but for many, it’s much harder to come by. We know it’s important to get plenty of rest after a hectic day. Lowered focus, lowered attention and lowered mood are just some of the drawbacks of consistent, poor-quality sleep. But achieving successful shut-eye is quite tricky to master, even with the help of reliable sleep-supporting beauty products.

Like others out there, I regularly struggle to fall asleep. Whether that’s due to my disrupted body clock, an increase in screen time, or even internal issues is anyone’s guess. But it’s time I put my poor sleeping habits to bed, guided by the expert advice of sleep specialist, Dr Michael Breus.

“Sleep is a lot like love,” he theorises with a smile. “The more you worry about it, the less it shows up!” I guess that means calculating how many hours are left until I have to wake up every night is what’s making it more stressful than it needs to be.

To get started, Dr Breus recommended his 5 top tips for sound sleep.

How to get a good night's sleep:

  1. Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Apparently, Saturday lie-ins do our sleep cycle more harm than good.
  2. Stop drinking caffeine by 2pm. Caffeine stays in your body for 8 hours, meaning it’s better to start and stop drinking coffee earlier in the day. It needs chance to leave your body before bedtime.
  3. Limit alcohol intake to two drinks per night. Stop three hours before bed. Alcohol eliminates the “feel good” sleep your body needs. Make sure to include two glasses of water for hydration.
  4. Exercise daily. 20 minutes of light cardio four hours before bed should be enough, so your body temperature has time to cool before light’s out.
  5. In the morning, start by taking 15 deep breaths. Drink water to combat dehydration, then if you can, head outside to enjoy 15 minutes of sunshine.

Who said January was reserved as the month of fresh habits? This March it's new month, new me – and it starts with setting a strict bedtime and rise time. “Nobody should be getting less than, on average, 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep.” shares Dr Breus. But when I tell him I try to aim for 9+ hours a night, he lets me know that’s far too much, and indicative of 'low-quality sleep'. With that in mind, I vow to go to bed at 11pm and wakeup at 7am. Every. Single. Day.

So, here it is. I, a notorious night owl, am putting Dr Breus’s sleep advice to the ultimate test. I start my journey off right by setting the scene of (sweet) dreams. The Deep Sleep Heavenly Candle from this works is a real crowd-calmer, blending pure essential oils of lavender and roman chamomile to help soothe and settle the senses.

For those who aren’t too fond of lavender scents, NEOM’s Bedtime Hero 3 Wick Scented Candle unfurls relaxing notes of chamomile, ylang ylang and cedarwood to create a peaceful ambience, ready for some serious shut-eye.

Tuesday 1st March

When I wake this morning, I instinctively go to snooze my alarm. It hadn’t occurred to me that my body might have made it a subconscious habit – my fingers are scrambling for the reset button before I even have chance to come round.

I force myself to wake up and set down my phone. Snoozing on the first day won’t set a very good precedent for the rest of the month. Instead, I sit up and take 15 deep breaths, as Dr Breus suggests, and follow it up with a long gulp of water. Immediately I feel calmer and more in-tune with my surroundings, which is more than a pleasant surprise to my usual, disoriented self.

Before work, I take the time to do a full skincare routine, prepping my complexion for the day ahead. I start with the BYBI Beauty Milk Melt, a gentle, nourishing face wash to remove impurities without stripping my barrier. CosRX’s Hydrium Watery Toner is my go-to for soothed and supple skin, followed by Dermalogica’s Circular Hydration Serum and the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. A luxury skincare routine is the perfect reward for starting my sleep schedule the right way.

Wednesday 2nd March

It’s an office day today, which means I don’t have a lot of time to snooze my alarm anyway. I find it’s easier to get up this morning, and not going back to sleep for 10-minutes at a time definitely leaves me feeling more alert.

After my deep breaths (which I’m starting to enjoy), I head outside for a quick 5 minutes of semi-sunshine on the balcony. This is rapidly becoming my favourite part of the day – it’s a time to really centre my thoughts and take a mindful moment for myself before the bustle of the day begins.

I do feel a little sleepy driving into work but it quickly subsides after my morning cup of coffee. On Dr Breus’s advice, I make sure to finish my last cup before the morning passes. “Caffeine has a half-life, meaning that half of it will be in your system for 8 hours,” he explains. “So if having a cup of coffee is your thing, the guideline might be to have your coffee earlier in the day.” That way, it has time to leave your system before you wind down.

Friday 4th March

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a confession. I snooze my alarm for 20 minutes today. And I pay the price for it too. I feel so dazed and miserable when I properly wake that not even my balcony time can save me, and I sulk my way through the day until I finish work.

When I finally get home, I have a long, soothing bath using the always-relaxing Frank Body In Your Dreams Bath Soak & Scrub. I light my favourite candle (the Saint Fragrance London Late Night Fig – a clean, luminous scent of bright bergamot, suede and crushed figs) and do a full pamper routine. I leave the Olaplex No.8 Moisture Mask to work its bond-building magic on my tresses, and give my skin a thorough cleanse with Molton Brown’s Rhubarb and Rose Shower Gel while I wait to rinse off.

Then I wriggle into my cosiest pyjamas and settle down for the night. Lesson learned, Dr Breus. Staggered sleep from snoozing your alarm only makes the day harder. Got it.

Saturday 5th March

Here it is. The ultimate test.

I always knew I’d find it difficult to rise and shine on a Saturday morning. I’m used to lazy weekends where I slumber away quite happily. But I’m waiting on an early delivery this morning, which means I have to get up anyway. And let me tell you – all the things you can achieve when you get up at 7am on the weekend!

I spend some time in bed thinking of things I’m grateful for while I do my deep breathing exercises. After slathering my face in the CosRX Aloe Soothing SPF50 PA+++ Sun Cream, I make the most of a rain-free interval and head off for a brisk walk along the canal. When I get back it’s only 10:30am and I’m not sure what to do with the rest of my day. Is this what it’s like to make the most of your weekends?! What a turn of events.

Monday 7th March

Following a wholesome Sunday yesterday, I accidentally missed my 11pm sleep curfew. It makes getting up much harder this Monday morning. Although I don’t snooze my alarm, there’s an internal battle going on – one I almost lose. But I drag myself out of bed, and feel better for doing so.

I’m exhausted by the end of the day though. To ensure a better night’s sleep later, I recruit the help of my most trusted sleep saviours. The OTO 1500mg Sleep Drops are my wind-down go-to, blending a 10% concentration of CBD with soothing botanicals to help promote a relaxing, restful slumber.

this works’ Deep Sleep Body Cocoon is also great for de-stressing before bedtime, working to nourish and replenish your skin while imparting an ultra-calming lavender, vetivert and chamomile fragrance. For a final touch, I mist a few sprays of the this works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray over my pillow for good measure.

After an indulgent evening of self-care, I manage to drift off quite peacefully…

Thursday 10th March

Waking up is becoming much easier now. I can’t believe I’ve adjusted so quickly, as someone who burns the midnight oil more often than not. I’m even starting to have less of those post-lunch slumps in the afternoon, which is working wonders for my productivity. Why didn't I start regulating my sleep cycle sooner?

Sunday 13th March

I spoke too soon. Full disclosure: sticking to my sleep regime did not go well this weekend. I went out on Saturday night. That means my chosen bedtime was pushed back by a significant number of hours, and Sunday has officially been reinstated as The Day of Rest.

I feel bad about disrupting my steady-ish cycle. I was just starting to see the benefits. But after feeling bad for most of the day, I realise it’s not fair to beat myself up for enjoying one night out with friends. What’s done is done; I’ll get right back on my regime tomorrow.

Monday 14th March

Well. Shock of the century. I do not want to get up this morning. Rising without snoozing my alarm is a monumental ask this morning. This is the most difficult it’s been. I can’t say I’m surprised though, given my complete lack of shut-eye over the weekend. Onwards and upward it is. I head out to the balcony to do my daily breathing exercises. And it helps, I have to admit.

No amount of inhaling can fix my under-eye circles though. I pop on the Peter Thomas Roth Potent C Power Brightening Eye Patches for 10 minutes to help boost and brighten my contour, followed by a heavy smear of UOMA Beauty’s Stay Woke Luminous Brightening Concealer. It works, for the most part. At least no one at work tells me I look knackered.

Wednesday 16th March

I think I’ve cracked the system. After a peaceful night’s kip on Monday and Tuesday night, I emerge a brand new woman on Wednesday. Whether it’s Dr Breus’ expert advice or a switch in my own perspective, getting up today is nowhere near as difficult as the previous weeks.

Thursday 17th March

Again, another easy start to the day. I really think snoozing my alarm was my biggest downfall. Once I start to trust myself to get up from that very first ring, it makes waking much less of a chore. I also realise that for the sake of an extra 10 minutes in bed, is it really worth feeling dazed until my first cup of caffeine? Probably not. Not sure why I’m so surprised that Dr Breus, an experienced sleep specialist and professional, knows better than I do when it comes to sleep cycles?

Friday 18th March

I made it! Today is World Sleep Day, and I rise from a truly lovely slumber on my first alarm. Am I happy it’s the last day of my sleep trial? Maybe. But the day-to-day results speak for themselves. I’ve learnt that getting a great night’s sleep starts with yourself. That means looking at internal and external factors that may be causing a lapse in your shut-eye, and modifying your lifestyle to switch up those bad habits.

Will I be continuing with my good sleep journey? That’s the plan! I can’t ignore the benefits of a consistent sleep schedule, and it’s clear Dr Breus knows what he’s talking about. But allowing for flexibility in your routine is important too. If I stay up past 11pm on a Saturday night, I’m not going to feel bad about it. I’ve found it’s all about balance. And if in doubt, a perfect wind-down routine can only aid the situation:

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Penny Lafferty
Writer and expert
View Penny Lafferty's profile