There is nothing better than the moment your head hits the pillow after a long day. Cozy and warm under your blankets and ready to fade into dreamland. Don’t you agree?
I love sleep and I know more than anything how important it is. Sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing and according to the National Sleep Foundation, millions of people don’t get enough of it or suffer from a lack of sleep. And that’s just sad! Sleep helps heal damaged cells, boosts your immune system, recharges your heart, and those are just a few of the important health benefits of a good nights rest. But only recently did I truly learn how important sleep really is…
After my trip to Morocco in November/December, I had a few bad nights of sleep, which is natural after traveling through different time zones. I was also sick when I got home, and with being in my best friends wedding out of town, and the chaos of Christmas, I was hardly home. It took forever for me to get over my flu and cold. On top of this, I wasn’t sleeping well either.
Maybe it was caused from jet lag, maybe from not sleeping in my bed or being home, I have no idea. But I obviously didn’t give myself a chance to get back into a normal routine and my sleep patterns were evidence of that. I’d go nights with only a few restful hours of sleep. I struggled to fall asleep even though I felt tired and it was painful to get through a day, especially at work, running on empty.
When it had been long enough to acknowledge this wasn’t short term, I headed to my doctor who told me exactly what an exhausted, grumpy me didn’t want to hear: “Eventually your internal clock will reset.” That answer wasn’t good enough to me. It had already been weeks! I was exhausted and my body was doing all sorts of weird things, including heart palpitations which scared the shit out of me. So I took the matter into my own hands because desperate times call for desperate measures.
I turned to my friend, Google and my network to see what on earth I could try and do to help me sleep. I’m not going to lie, it became an addiction because I was determined to sleep. I was so tired my body was screaming at me. Things needed to change ASAP!
Now let me put this out there, I strongly advise against “web md-ing” yourself and not seeing an actual professional when something is evidently wrong, but I do believe in researching natural ways to cure common things and educating yourself on what’s going on in your body. Through everything I read, what I really learned was that there wasn’t one thing that worked for everyone, well except for maybe sleeping pills or drugs, but that wasn’t an option for me. But here are some of the things I tried:
- Melatonin – something I’ve used for years and usually always works for me. It’s a natural supplement that can be bought in the vitamin aisle made to help you sleep or get over jet lag.
- Headspace – an app I bought a subscription to for my anxiety which is guided and unguided meditation sessions that target a variety of different issues like anxiety, stress, relationships and sleep.
- Dimming lights – dimming the lights in my apartment a few hours before bed to help relax me and stimulate tiredness.
- Limited tech usage – not using my phone constantly, not watching television, and staying off my computer to start to relax my body and brain before bed.
- Reading – instead of being on my phone.
- Bath or feet soak – usually with lavender oils or epson salts.
- Lavender oil – I love Saje products but regular essential oils work the same!
- Lush Sleepy cream – I don’t think this helped me sleep alone but it smells great & is relaxing.
- Socks – Sleeping with socks on is many peoples pet peeves but apparently it’s supposed to help!
- Heavy blankets – Weighted blankets are often used to calm people down but I found just having my apartment cool and sleeping with several heavier blankets helped.
- ASMR videos – You may find these super weird to listen too (you don’t need to watch them) but they can help relax your mind and help you sleep!
- Exercise – Physical exercise helps improve your sleep quality, even just 20 minutes three times a week! I also found doing some restorative yoga in my apartment helped.
- Routine – Waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends) and going to bed each night around the same time so your body gets in a natural rhythm.
- Acupuncture – Can be a fantastic treatment for insomnia among other things. I only went for one treatment and immediately saw results with my sleep!
- Vitamins – I read that adding magnesium and B-complex vitamins to your regular routine can help with sleep. I’m not sure if they helped specifically but there’s nothing wrong with taking vitamins!
- Only go to bed to sleep – Don’t lay in bed and watch TV or lay in bed on your computer, to do work, etc. Only use your bed for sleep.
- Getting out of bed – If you can’t sleep for 20 minutes or get back to sleep, get out of bed and do a low impact activity like reading and don’t get back into bed until you’re sleepy again.
You name it, I tried it, which makes it hard to pinpoint exactly I did that helped me finally sleep, but the things I found to be the most affective for me were:
- Using the Headspace app before bed
- Setting a good setting for bed by dimming the lights, relaxing, drinking tea, etc.
- Sleeping with multiple heavy blankets to calm me down
- Only going to bed when I was tired
- Adding vitamins to my diet – Iron, Magnesium & Vitamin B
- Essential oils
- Acupuncture – the first night I got this treatment for sleep, was the first night I slept!
One thing I really found helpful was letting go of the worry of not being able to sleep. I was putting so much pressure on it and when I woke up in the middle of the night, wide awake, I just accepted it. Sometimes that meant getting out of bed, or meditating again, etc. But as soon as I stopped thinking “OMG I need to be at work in X-amount of hours and I can’t sleep” I started having more success.
Not being able to sleep was painful. It made January even worse than January usually is. However, the lack of sleep I had for weeks really showed me how important it is to listen to my body and be more mindful. Trying this long list of healthy activities really made me realize that even what I thought I considered as self-care isn’t always what my body and mind needs. So I encourage you, no matter what it is you’re going through to take a hard look at your lifestyle. Take a look at the things you fill your days and nights with and listen to what your body and mind needs!
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