Possibly the number one topic of conversation for parents.
I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve discussed sleep outside the school gates. How the babies slept the night before. How the boys slept. And how we slept.
More often than not we’ll be talking about how badly we feel we slept.
Every now and then you’ll get the comment of, “I actually slept really quite well”, said in an incredulous tone.
And we then try and work out what was special about the previous night that resulted in a good night’s sleep!
The main factor at the moment is, pretty obviously, how well the children slept.
Well, it’s almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep when your toddler is shouting at random intervals and your 5 year old is up to go to the toilet at silly-o’clock in the morning.
But, there are other factors that can affect the quality of our sleep. And these things are often within our control.
So, to try and help us all wake up feeling a bit more refreshed, here are 4 things that affect the quality of sleep.
1. The room temperature.
The temperature of your bedroom can have a huge impact on how well you sleep.
Our bodies natually start to cool down in the evenings, and ideally our bedrooms will be on the cool side for us to sleep well.
Studies have found that a room temperature of between 18 and 20 degrees celsius is ideal for most people.
So if you find you’re tossing and turning in the night and feeling too warm, then think about sleeping with the window open a bit, or switching to a lower tog duvet to get a better night’s sleep.
Parents know better than anyone how much noise can affect our sleep! We’ve all had those moments when the baby has just gone down for a nap and the postman comes and rings the doorbell and ruins everything!
But I think sometimes we don’t think so much about how different noises can affect our own sleep.
All sorts of things can disturb our sleep, especially when we’re in light, stage 2 sleep. At this point things like our partner snoring, the neighbour’s tv being on super loud, or noise from passing traffic can really interfere with our sleep.
It’s often the sudden, unexpected noises that wake us up. Like our partner talking in their sleep all of a sudden. So playing white noise can often really help as it tends to block out these other, more random noises.
What is interesting though is that it’s been found that sounds that are meaningful are more likely to wake us up. So we can play our white noise, safe in the knowledge that we will still wake up when our children need us, as we’re emotionally tuned in to the sound of their cries.
3. Light levels.
There’s a reason why so many parents would have black-out blinds on their list of essential baby products. Dark rooms are so much more conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Too much light in the room when we’re trying to get to sleep can interfere with our production of melatonin. This is the hormone that signals our bodies to start preparing for sleep. So we need to do what we can to keep light levels as low as possible when we’re trying to get to sleep.
So, consider blackout blinds to block out street lights that might shine in through your window. Turn off the tv. And consider covering up any little lights from chargers or sockets that might be glowing away and disturbing you.
It’s also interesting to know that red lights don’t interfere with our sleep quite so much, so you might want to think about using a night light with a red tint if you need to light the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
4. Sleep cycles.
Waking up at the wrong point in a sleep cycle can really affect how refreshed you feel the next day.
Have you ever been woken up from a dream? It happens to me a lot and it sucks.
It leaves me feeling groggy and like I’ve barely slept at all. And that feeling often sticks with me for the whole day.
This is because dreams occur when we’re in REM sleep, which is a deep-sleep stage of our sleep cycle. What we ideally need to do is wake up at the end of a complete sleep cycle, or during the start of the light sleep of stage 1 sleep.
I’ve been sent an S+ sleep tracking system to test out and review and I’m really excited to try it. It monitors the various factors that affect our sleep and feeds back information about what we can do to improve the quality of our sleep.
One of the things it can do is set an alarm for you to wake up at the right stage in your sleep cycle, so you feel refreshed rather than groggy. I think this is what I’m most looking forward to trying out.
I’ve always resisted the idea of waking up before my children. It just feels wrong somehow! But, if waking up 10 or 20 minutes before they start shouting means that I wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, then it has to be worth it! It has to be better than being jolted out of a dream.
And my dreams are so random, it’s so disorientating being woken up from them with a start!
I’d love to know what you think about these factors.
Do you try and set up your bedroom to get the best possible night’s sleep? Do you ever wake up actually feeling refreshed? Or have you given up on that idea while your children are still young?!
Please do leave me a comment and let me know.