So this is an atypical post by me. I was not even sure under which of my categories it should go. So I put it under Inspirations – as it might provide some new ideas for those interested. Considering that SLEEP has been on my mind a lot lately, and that more the one friend told me about their sleep issues, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject and seek your feedback and insights…
I have always been a light, but generally good sleeper. I have always enjoyed sleep. Sleep and I had been good friends: I would take a shower and pamper myself a bit, slip into pajamas, get tucked in and, feeling cozy and relaxed, usually drift off pretty quickly to the land of dreams…and stay there for about 8 hours, waking up renewed and refreshed.
Then came the kids and for few years, the sleep slipped down my priority list, to say the least. A good night sleep, the way it was, became a distant memory. As most parents, I (or better to say, me and my husband), ploughed through many sleepless nights. Taking care of a child with a fever, a child that had an accident in bed, or the one who had a major nightmare (or was it night terrors) and wanted to get in our bed, the one who used to wake up every hour until he learned to sleep, at age two – you name it, we did it.
Then, two things happened: the kids grew up and I started approaching my mid-forties. Suddenly, nights were peaceful (mostly) and I could finally restore my old sleeping habits. But often – the more I strove to restore my sleep, the more elusive sleep got.
Let me tell you – when I don’t get enough sleep these days – I get cranky and irritable. And I get hungry, and need to eat all the time. Apparently, lack of sleep can contribute to premature aging and other bad things. So I have been on a quest to “cure” my sleep and get those 8 or even 9 hours of perfectly restoring shut-eye.
My realization about how little (uninterrupted, restorative) sleep I have been getting came after I read a NYT article about sleep and printed a downloadable sleep chart attached. The article advised that one logs sleep for a week at least. So I started logging time when I turned in, and woke up, noting any other nightly events. While I would spend the optimal 7-8 hours in bed, I realized that I got a good uninterrupted eight hours of sleep about once a week. The rest is pretty much pathetic. No wonder I sometimes felt very tired.
There are those nights when I feel wiped out and can’t keep my eyes open as we watch a TV series, but the minute I hit the sack, I become restless, tossing and turning for an hour before I eventually go to sleep. Then there are those nights when I drift off easily and comfortably, only to be wide awake three hours later. It is somehow always around 2 AM when I look at my bedside alarm clock. Sometimes my ever active thoughts and worries are to blame…but sometimes, I am not sure what it is. I concluded it must be “mid forties”.
I threw myself into a quality sleep project wholeheartedly. I implemented some small steps which I wanted to share with you. All of them have made at least a bit of a difference, getting me closer to the goal of sleep bliss. I will continue trying and maybe, if I am lucky enough, I will report soon about my success. In the meantime, for those who are facing the same challenge, here is my humble sleep advice:
- Pillow – I have had on and off neck stiffness/pain for some time now. A good pillow is essential for me. It has to be just right – not too soft and not too hard. I have tried many (shhh, don’t even mention it to my husband) and I have been happy with the latest one that you can check out here. The bead gear pillow provides that cloud sensation – the minute your head touches down, you feel as if you’re drifting on a soft, fluffy cloud and it feels great.
- Night lights – We have introduced night lights in both of our bathrooms. Kids have a Himalayan salt lamp (which they love) on for the night, while we have our small ceramic delicate lamp my husband got me as a present (and is too nice to be sitting in the bathroom, but it does an important task) in our en-suite bath. That way, no more glaring ceiling lights in case of mid night trips to the loo.
- Alcohol – I love my cocktail on Fridays and my wine with dinner. A cold beer on a hot summer day, anyone? You get the drift. However, my forty-something self does not play along anymore. I had to cut down on drinking in general and I noticed I slept better when I drank less or not at all.
- Supplements – I am a fan. I always prefer a natural version to any medication. I have tried melatonin and it does not do much for me. I take Magnesium in the evening. Those nights when I feel restless or wide awake at 2 AM, if I reach for anything, it is Valerian in pill form, which always lulls me back to sleep. Maybe more popular in Europe then in the U.S., Valerian is an ancient herb that has been used for relaxation and sleep for ages. It is quite gentle and does not ever make me feel groggy.
In case you are bothered by night leg cramps (yep, I have had those too) you may want to try this homeopathic medicine for night leg/foot cramps. I take one before going to sleep and have not had any leg or foot cramps since.
Finally, to balance my (sometimes) out of whack hormones, I have been taking these for three months now. I have felt more energy-steady and calm throughout the month.
- Tea – I am tea lover. I have my favorite caffeine-free variants. On most evenings – especially when it is cold outside – I have a cup of tea with some honey after dinner, before going to bed. Below are my favorites.
How has your sleep been?