Last week I shared with a number of you that I was having a rough time sleeping. It took hours instead of minutes to fall asleep, I wasn’t sleeping soundly and my mind was racing throughout the night.
There is no way that I can balance the challenges of managing my many roles – mom, wife, team leader, friend, daughter, sister and blogger without getting sleep. Especially now that Katie is sleeping through the night and doesn’t need me for those midnight cuddles and feeding sessions. I swear there were special endorphins that powered me through those months of sleep deprivation.
After three nights of bad sleep and venting to friends on Instagram, I took your advice and made some changes that have miraculously led to four straight nights of solid sleep. In fact, I’ve slept more than nine hours each night since making these changes! While none of these are necessarily revolutionary ideas, I wanted to share them here as reminders and support for anyone else who may be struggling to get quality sleep.
- Decrease caffeine and increase water. This one was a bit of a no-brainer but still one that I’m having to remind myself to do each day. Instead of drinking multiple cups of coffee per day, I’m down to 1.5 – 2 cups in the morning and then I sip on water or decaf tea during the day. As the stress of jury duty and work were mounting, I found myself reaching for that late afternoon coffee which was certainly not helping my sleep.
- Take a shower or bath. Most days, I shower in the morning but, I’ve found that after stressful days it is very helpful to take a shower or bath. Even if the shower is a quick one, I find that the steam and water helps calm my mind and relax my body. I’m not doing this every night but I definitely enjoyed one this evening after an extra-long work day.
- Aromatherapy. As part of my evening ritual, I am lighting a calming candle, massaging my hands and feet with hydrating lotion and spraying this lavender and chamomile infused spray on our pillow and sheets.
- Dress for the temperature. I realized that while my flannel pajamas were cozy, they were making me sweat since our temperatures have recently increased in New York and are no longer dipping down in the single digits. These soft pajamas are just the right weight for the transitional weather we are having and feel like silk against my skin even though they are a modal blend. I just ordered a second pair since I’ve been wearing them non-stop the past few days. As an FYI, they run large so I actually ordered a medium which is smaller than my normal pajama size.
- Sip tea. Who knows whether it is a placebo, calming ritual or the ingredients actually work but I’ve reintroduced Lipton’s Bedtime Bliss into my routine the past few nights and am really enjoying it. Tonight, I’m sipping it while I type this post but this weekend I brought it upstairs and sipped it while reading.
- Turn on Night Shift I have scheduled my phone to shift the colors of my phone display, using the Night Shift mode each night from sunset to sunrise to ensure that when I’m using my phone before bedtime, it isn’t getting in the way of my sleep. If you’re wondering how the phone screen can get in the way of your sleep, here are a few tidbits I found online regarding the impact phone screens can have on our brain and sleep.
Almost all gadgets with a display give off blue light, and while it’s perfectly healthy to absorb as much as you like during the day, it’s not something you want to take in at night. Using phones and tablets close to bedtime can make falling and staying asleep more difficult.
That’s because blue light tricks our circadian rhythm, or natural body clock, into thinking that it’s daytime. It also boosts attention and reaction times, and interferes with our bodies’ production of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep, making it difficult to nod off.
It’s not just your sleep that suffers, either; multiple studies have linked exposure to blue light and disrupted circadian rhythms to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. Harvard researchers were able to increase blood sugar levels and lower the level of leptin, a hormone that causes people to feel full after a meal, in 10 people simply by changing their circadian rhythms.
- Read. I’ve made it a goal to read at least five pages every night before going to bed. I love reading but sometimes tend to get intimidated and even stressed out by the number of books on my bedside table or “To Read” list. By carving out this nightly time, I’m making more progress in my books and often find myself reading for 20-30 minutes instead of five.
- Meditate When I’ve finished reading and am ready to go to sleep, I open the Headspace app and enjoy 3 minutes of guided meditation. As I type that, it seems ridiculous to see that I only meditate three minutes but as a new mediator, I made it my goal to do 3 minutes for 10 consistent days before increasing the time. It’s amazing what listening to the narrators soothing voice can do in such a short period of time. As I assess my body and relax my limbs, jaw and focus on the sounds around me I can feel the stress leave my body. The app is free to use thus far and I have been recommending it to anyone who will listen. Never meditated? Don’t get the hype? Download the app and try it for yourself!
Your Turn – What are your tricks for improving sleep?
Photo credit Michelle Rose Photography