Quarter 2: Making impactful life changes to improve my sleep quality

Hello, friends. We are now well into April and I haven’t yet announced my 2nd quarter goals focused on improving my sleep quality and quantity. So here we go.

Last quarter, I set my end goal such that I could break it up into manageable daily or nearly daily chunks. This time, I’m going to try just jumping into trying to make it a daily habit. Some days I will miss the mark because life happens and I will forgive myself and try again the next day. I think the really hard part is to get to a place where I don’t make any excuses, but I think the key to success there is that if I find I’m consistently not meeting my goal, I need to scale back the goal and revisit my reasons for wanting to do it in the first place.

By the end of June, I want to build the following habits…

Limit caffeine intake after noon

By this I mean I will not consume any coffee or caffeinated tea. There are some other things (like chocolate) that are sneaky sources of caffeine, but they are much less and in the name of keeping my goals simple and easy, I’m only focusing on restricting coffee and tea. Herbal tea doesn’t have any caffeine and so if I need a hot beverage fix in the evenings, I can always turn to this.

I know it’s the middle of April, but I’ve already been trying to follow this goal for over a week now. I think I slipped up once and that was mostly because I purchased a coffee chain iced coffee at 11am and drank it so slowly that it was still afternoon when I finished it. (I’m definitely a beverage sipper. Getting one of those super insulated thermoses was such a good investment for me and I highly recommend it to any fellow beverage sippers).

Be in bed, ready to sleep by 10:30pm

I’ve been tracking my sleep throughout the month of March and one thing I’ve noticed is that between my toddler waking, my cat’s late night friskies, my husband going to bed in the wee hours, and my own insomnia that most often loves to visit when every else in the house is calm and peaceful, I pretty much never get the recommended 8 hours of sleep if I go to bed at 11pm or later. In February, I averaged just under 7 hours of sleep per night. In March I did a bit better with an average of almost 7 and a half hours of sleep. So far, in April, I’m averaging 7 hours and 36 minutes of sleep per night. So I’m doing better than the last two months, but there’s still room for improvement to bring that average to 8 hours. Right now, I’m certain being in bed and ready to sleep between 10-10:30pm is a key piece of the ticket, especially since I seem to have lost my ability to sleep past 7:00am (and yes, if you’re following along with math, being in bed from 10:30pm-7:00am should get me a solid 8.5 hours of sleep. Should.)

Get 15 minutes of daily sun exposure

This was so easy pre-pandemic. From my car to my office at work, I did so much walking. And during my lunch break, to get away from my desk and the office environment, I’d often go for another walk around the campus. Now, I sit on my couch with my laptop for most of the day and don’t go outside much at all. My biggest motivator for going outside most days? My son. My toddler loves going outside, so I’ve been thinking twice about saying “no” when I really didn’t feel like going out. Supposedly, several minutes of sun shortly after getting up as well as while the sun sets is great for setting our body’s natural circadian rhythm. Since my son has also struggled off and on with sleep issues, I’ve been trying to find lifestyle changes that can help us both and this one seems like win/win (as long as he’s actually in the mood to go outside and the weather is pleasant).

Stop using screens after 10pm

This is going to be a hard one, you all. I grew up with tv in my nightly wind down routine. I remember being 5 years old, sitting in a dark room at 10pm, and watching a Disney movie until either I fell asleep where I was or my mom came in to put me to bed. I still love getting in bed, grabbing my iPad, and putting on some silly sitcom until I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open. However, between the light emitting from the screen, and the general stimulation from the show itself, the jury is in that late night tv (and phone scrolling) affects our quality of sleep.

Knowing that this is going to be a difficult habit for me to break, I’ve decided not to try it right away. For the month of April, I’m focusing on limiting my caffeine and going to bed earlier so that I have some sort of habit already established there by the time I start looking to phase out my late night screen time.

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