I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve taken sleep for granted. I do my part- ie, head is on pillow- so WTF sleep? Where are you? WHERE ARE YOU!?!?
“Taken for granted” is actually a nice way of putting it. After learning about sleep hygiene, I realized I straight up was abusing my body’s ability to sleep. As we learned in our last #SOS installment, “Sleep 101,” our ability to sleep is based on the function of our body’s circadian rhythms.
Help your Circadian Rhythm Help You.
Exposure to light and temperature are two big influencers of the circadian rhythm (CR). This totally makes sense- for thousands of years, humans lived much more closely to the elements then today’s world of electric lights and climate controlled houses. Imagine how confused poor CR is, “Ok so the room I’m in is totally bright, it’s warm…must be daytime? Still? Wait the clock says 10 pm…..what’s happening?!?”
Throw your CR a bone by dimming the lights the closer it gets to bedtime. Not only lamps, but dim (or limit) your gadgets! The “blue” light that screens emit are notorious for tricking CR into thinking it’s daytime. Apple products have a setting called “Night Shift.” Using your device’s clock and geolocation, it automatically shifts the color on your screen to the warmer end of the spectrum at sunset, then resets it to blue after sunrise. Genius! (go to “Settings” then “Display & Brightness” to turn this function on ). Android phones also have a “Night Mode” built in (go to “Settings” then “Display” then “Night Light” to activate.)
Try to make your bedroom as dark as possible. I have started wearing this eye mask to block out the annoying ambient lighting that creeps into the bedroom. I chose this one because it works nicely when you lie on your side. Something about it’s soft satiny pressure on my face tells my CR “it’s go time” and I am able to fall asleep a lot easier. If I’m really pampering myself, I’ll even add a drop or two of lavender essential oil to it.
Temperature also influences our CR, and the cooler our room is, the easier for sleep. Consider lowering the temp in your house at nighttime and sleeping with a fan on (bonus white noise!). I recently caved and purchased this bladeless model, figuring it would be less expensive than continuing to buy a cheaper, dust magnet version, trying to clean it, getting frustrated and then kicking it to the curb before buying a new one.
Unfortunately, hot flashes can really interfere with the whole “cool room at night” thing. We’ve spoken about some daytime strategies for dealing with them , but what about when you’re trying to sleep? Consider changing your bedding to something sweat wicking and breathable, like Sheex. Sheex is a combo of Polyester (87%) and Spandex (13%)* and is very similar in feel and function to high performance sweat wicking athletic gear. If you happen to sweat in your sleep like a high level athlete completing a triathlon, check out their pajamas as well. In addition to sweat wicking pj’s, also wear loose styles. I’ve read that it’s a good idea to sleep in layers but that doesn’t make sense to me. What does make sense is keeping a spare pair next to your bed in case you wake all sweaty. *If the idea of Polyester and Spandex freaks you out, bamboo is an eco friendly, breathable and surprisingly antibacterial alternative.
Whenever I think about Peppermint essential oil, I’m reminded of a York Peppermint Patty commercial:
Applying the oil to your pulse points (side of neck, elbow crease, wrists, behind your knees…) can help keep you cool. I’ve tried using it in a diffuser at nighttime but find the direct application to the skin to be more effective. If you have very sensitive skin you may want to dilute the peppermint in a carrier oil like coconut, but personally I’ve never had a problem with it.
Finally, I cannot speak to the virtue of white noise enough for creating a relaxing, quiet environment. There are tons of white noise/nature sound apps available on the iTunes App store, and most are free. The down side is that requires sleeping next to your phone, which can be disrupting for other reasons (looking at you, Blue Light). If you would like a non phone option, there are a variety of models on Amazon, such as this one.
I personally like to listen to podcasts (more on podcasts for sleep in upcoming #SOS post) but unfortunately my husband doesn’t. I found these sleep headphones helpful, and stylish in an 80’s kinda way.
Ok, the room is set, your CR is happy, but your mind just won’t turn off! Sound familiar? Stay tuned for next #SOS post where we tackle this frustrating yet common occurrence.
Do you have any specific questions about sleep? Join our Private Facebook Group and share thoughts, questions and comments. We’d love to have you in #OurTribe!