We know it’s important to get enough sleep for our health and well being, yet many of us struggle to sleep well. I’ve read about sleep, talked with my doctor, taken medication, and monitored my sleep with apps on my phone. These are the keys I’ve found for good sleep – maybe they will help you too.
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine
I start preparing for a good night of sleep just about the time we finish cleaning up dinner. We set up the coffee maker and tidy the house. I put my computer and any books I need in my quiet spot in our living room where I spend the early hours of the morning.
I resist the urge to watch a show or work on my computer, because even when I’m very tired, I’m tempted to stay awake much later than when I read a book.
Most of all, I’m very conscious of the time. At 9:15 an alarm on my phone goes off (with the sound of crickets) telling me it’s nearly time for bed. My goal is to be ready for bed, or even already in bed reading when the alarm goes off.
2. Minimize Noise
Those of us who struggle with sleep know how easily it is to be woken by noise. Whether it’s one of my older kids coming home late, or my neighbor’s very loud diesel truck, noise disturbs my sleep. My doctor recommended two things.
First, I bought a Marpac Dohm Sound Machine from Amazon; it’s not an electronic sound machine, but actually has a fan inside which creates the sound of rushing air. I love this thing and even take it when I travel. It’s such an important part of my sleep routine that just turning it on as I prepare for bed helps me begin to relax.
Eby has trouble sleeping too, but doesn’t like a fan in the room, so we got a second sound machine for the boys’ room and they love it too. Last summer we got one for the girls, and I’m convinced that not only does it help them sleep, but Claire’s puppy sleeps better too.
Second, I also sleep with soft ear plugs, which may seem like overkill, but I’m desperate for sleep, so it’s worth it.
3. Block Light
Research shows that light, even very small amounts, disturbs our sleep. My doctor recommended I sleep with an eye mask. Russ had an old airline one from overseas travel, so I gave that a try, but it slid around and didn’t block the light very well. I searched Amazon and found a sleep mask that works well. It doesn’t rest against my eyes and is more comfortable than standard eye masks. It also comes with ear plugs, which are the ones I use.
Second, I bought inexpensive room-darkening curtains. Our house sits on top of a hill and the sun shines very brightly early in the morning. Years ago I put room-darkening curtains in the boys’ room which helped them sleep later than 4:30 AM.
I resisted putting them in my room until this summer when I finally realized that I would sleep better if our room was darker. I put the curtains on tension rods so I can take them down during the day, which means I only need one panel per window. Now that the sun is rising a little later, I’ve been sleeping without my eye mask and the rooms seems to be staying dark enough.
4. Essential Oils and Other Tips
Each evening I spray lavender aromatherapy mist on our pillows which smells good and helps me relax. I use essential oils on my feet sometimes, but I really love having a simple essential oil diffuser to diffuse the oil into the room. There are many to choose from; my all-time favorites are lavender and Serenity blend.
Many people take Melatonin to help them sleep. I don’t use it, but it helps Russ, especially when he is adjusting to a time change after travel.
Obviously, drinking caffeine too late in the day can disturb sleep, but many people don’t realize that alcohol can cause sleep to be disrupted. I’m not much of a drinker, but I love my coffee. I don’t make coffee later in the day, but if I go out for coffee with a friend, I order decaf.
I have more thoughts on sleep that I’ll cover in another post. For now, I would love to hear from you. Do you struggle with sleep? What helps you go to sleep and stay asleep?