Hi guys! 10 Sleep Tips That Really Work is a longer blog post than normal, but I want to share the struggles I had with insomnia. After consulting with a doctor and an acupuncturist, I took a systematic approach to overcome the issues I had with sleeping. It worked – and surprising quickly! If you are experiencing issues with getting a decent night’s sleep, I hope that you’ll find some ideas and inspiration that will work for you.
A year or so after I graduated from college, I went to spend the weekend with a girlfriend who I went to Penn State with. She lived in a single bedroom apartment and after a night of light partying we both crashed in her bed. I remember waking up in the morning and seeing this incredulous look on her face as she said “You went to sleep and woke up in the exact same position. You literally didn’t move all night!”
It’s true, I slept like a rock and always had. However, my decades of blissful sleep abruptly changed when I was pregnant with my first child. It started with being rudely woken from muscle cramps in my legs (very common in the second and third trimesters). The pain was so sharp and intense that even after it subsided, the shock lingered and kept me awake. On the nights that I wasn’t leaping out of bed from muscle cramps, it was to make several trips to the bathroom because the baby was using my bladder as a trampoline (I know, too much information).
Then, when I was about 8 months pregnant, I was so huge that I couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep in. If I did fall asleep from sheer exhaustion due to the aforementioned pregnant lady afflictions, I’d be woken by my husband’s arm or leg being inelegantly plopped on me. Kerry’s nighttime “cuddling” was so bad that I told him we needed to upgrade to a king-size bed or get a divorce. A brand-new mattress was delivered that afternoon.
Then the baby arrives and there are months of interrupted sleep for breast-feeding and diaper changing. And the next thing you know, you realize that between waking up while being pregnant and waking up to take care of the baby – you haven’t been able to sleep through the night FOR. A. YEAR!
I got to the point where I accepted the fact that my sleep cycle was permanently corrupted. Even when the kiddos got older, I struggled with being able to get a solid 8 hours of sleep. I would either not be able to fall asleep at all, or I found myself waking up frequently and not feeling rested. One morning, I broke down. I started sobbing because I was so tired of being tired. It was time to find a solution.
10 Sleep Tips That Really Work
I tried several different things, and I am going to share them all with you. What eventually worked for me was a combination of many things – some big and some small. I made sure that my environment, my body and my mind were all in harmony to achieve the same goal. If getting a good night’s sleep if something that you struggle with, I suspect that you will have to try all these techniques and tweak them until you find what works for you.
I’m not a sleep therapist, but I’ve done a fair amount of research on the topic. I did find a solution that worked wonders for me in a relatively short period of time. Most of these tips, are common sense ones that you’ve probably already heard of. The key to success is to invest time into following them. Once I got everything aligned, it took me 4-5 days until I saw the results. Try not to get frustrated if it is not working for you right away. When you are having trouble sleeping, ask yourself what you’re conscious of:
Is it too noisy or too quiet? Is the room hot? Are your pjs comfy? Are your feet cold? Are your lips dry? Can you effortlessly breathe in through your nose or are you congested? What are you thinking about? Do you feel anxious or worried? Worrying doesn’t take away your problems, it takes away your peace.
To get started, I’m going to take an outside in approach. You have to cast a wide net and eliminate anything, no matter how small it is, that could be preventing you from sleeping. The absolute first thing you should do is examine your sleeping environment. I am not just talking about your bedroom, I am referring to the environment in your bedroom. I started treating our bedroom as a nest. I thought about everything I wanted that would make me feel cozy and peaceful.
- Noise – Your bedroom should be as quiet as possible. I installed roman shades and drapes on the windows to muffle outside noises. I used a white-noise machine in the beginning, and even though this is noise it is “consistent noise” and was very soothing. Before we go to bed, I shut our bedroom door. I’m still hyper-sensitive to any sounds that my children might make while they are sleeping and the quiet has helped tremendously. Ear plugs are an effective and inexpensive solution.
- Light – When I am getting ready for bed, I turn off the recessed lights and turn on the bedside table lamps. I use 40 watt light bulbs in the lamps because I don’t want them too bright. You want to minimize the intensity of light because it helps calm the brain. Make sure that all your windows have window treatments that block outside light from neighbor’s front porch lights or car lights. Our window treatments have blackout lining which is great for blocking the morning sun and helps extend your sleep. Many people swear by sleep masks.
- Temperature – Everyone sleeps better in a cool room. I usually have the thermostat set at 65 degrees for sleeping. I also don’t wear anything loose or bulky to bed. I’ve recently realized that I much prefer snug fitting items like leggings over traditional PJ bottoms. PJ bottoms ride up my leg and make me cold at night. Socks are always a huge debate among people. My husband can’t stand wearing them to bed and I can’t sleep unless they’re on! I have always make sure that my kiddos wear socks to bed because I am convinced that warm feet make for a better night’s sleep.
- Bed – Obviously make sure you have a mattress that is comfortable for you. Everyone’s idea of comfort is different, I like some give in a mattress, but I don’t like the feeling of sinking in that you get with a foam-top. I use a 100% cotton fitted sheet and stopped using flat sheets years ago. I’ve found that flat sheets bunch up and are really unnecessary when using a comforter. Eliminating the flat sheet also makes it a lot faster to make the bed. In the fall and winter months, I add an “instant warm” plush blanket as a layer between me and the comforter. I also use a heating pad on really cold nights. I turn it on while I am taking off my makeup and our bed is nice and toasty when we climb in.
- Moisturize – I keep a few beauty items on my bedside table that I find essential to help me get a restful night’s sleep. I know that it may seem trivial, but it’s not. You should cross off any little thing that will get in the way of catching some zzz’s. I make sure that my face, eyes, lips and hands are moisturized. This is especially important in dry winter months. As soon as I get into bed, I apply a night-time face moisturizer, eye drops, chapstick and hand cream. Having them at arm’s length keeps your body quiet and prevents you from getting up.
- Aromatherapy – Your bedroom should have a pleasant smell. As a habit, I keep the doors to all our bedrooms closed when we are cooking. Even though we use a vent, the odors from cooking still find their way upstairs. I’m very sensitive to smell and it can make a big difference. In addition to your favorite laundry detergent, you can also add lavender room spray on your pillows. You could also consider rubbing lavender oil on your wrists. Lavender has been long known for its subtle, calming fragrance.
- Melatonin – When I earnestly began to find a solution for my sleep issues, I started taking a melatonin tablet at night. Trader Joe’s sells a mint flavored chewable tablet that does the trick. I don’t take one on a nightly basis anymore because I am sleeping so well. However, if I don’t fall asleep in the normal time, I will take one. Camomile tea is another natural sleep aid that has worked for me.
- Read – Looking through a magazine or reading a book is extremely relaxing and helps prepare your mind for sleep. The process of reading helps distract the brain from thinking about the things that you didn’t get done that day. I would choose something lighthearted (no Stephen King please) that allows your imagination to wander. If you are going through a stressful time, reading motivational books are very helpful. I recently stumbled across a new Canadian TV Series called Anne with an E via Netflix, I’m obsessed! The show has promoted me to read this book for the first time. I may be the only woman I know who didn’t read it as a little girl. Despite that fact that this book was written for Young Adults, I enjoyed it.
- Oxygen – Getting a good supply of oxygen is absolutely critical for a restful sleep. I have issues with my sinus and have found that using an over-the-counter nasal spray really helps. Alternatively, you could try nasal strips. I don’t like the way they feel, but I have used them in the past and they are amazing. I have seen athletes wear them to help improve the intake of oxygen during games. Lastly, while I don’t have a lot of information of this, I do know that people who snore and/or have sleep apnea don’t get the best night’s sleep possible. If you suspect that this is a factor, please consult your doctor.
- Chill – After you have put down your book and turned out the bedside light take three very slow and deep breaths. Breathe in and out your nose, not your mouth. Think about something pleasant, like a vacation you took or simply visualize yourself somewhere that you’d like to be. If you start thinking about something that’s concerning you, push it out and replace it with something else. If it comes creeping back, immediately replace it by visualizing something that you enjoy doing.
| just recently stumbled across a Netflix series based on this book |
| I love using a heating pad to warm my bed at night |
| great little white noise machine DOHM $49.99 via Target |
| instant warm blankets are a great buffer on cold winter nights |
| roll on lavender oil aromatherapy helps promote restful sleep |
| a group of bedside table supplies to help me sleep |
| I layer the sheet, heating pad, instant warm blanket and comforter |
A few other things you can try to promote a good night’s sleep are:
- Avoid sugar and caffeine drinks (especially after 2pm)
- If you want a drink with dinner, beer is better than wine (lower in sugar)
- Remove the TV in your bedroom (get into the habit of reading instead)
- Take a warm shower or bath
- Do yoga stretches (HERE is a link to a night-time stretch sequence)
I hope that this post has provided you with some strategies. If you have any tips that you’d like to share, please feel free to leave then in the comment section. Thank you!
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