Sleeping dog. Image courtesy of Eugene0126jp.
Sleepless, but not in Seattle
DEAR LADYBUG: I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately. I nod off pretty easily, but then I wake up halfway through the night and I can’t go back to sleep until nearly morning. I’m already taking Melatonin most nights, and I don’t want to take more pills, even if it’s natural. Can you recommend some magical or other tricks to either stay asleep all the way through the night or to quickly fall back asleep if I wake-up? — Sleepless in the Bay Area
DEAR SLEEPLESS: There’s nothing like sleeplessness to really interfere with everything else you’ve got going on in life. I feel for your situation; it’s a hard one. Here are some ideas to get you back into your snooze. Some of these you may already be aware of, but, hopefully, something will stand out as useful information that you can use right away.
Blue light (and white light) is your night time sleep enemy. Image courtesy of Justin Bishop. Please click on this image for more help and science around this topic.
Light, Light, Light. I cannot stress enough the importance of your relationship to light when it comes to regulating your circadian rhythm. I am actually a professional lighting consultant by day, so I’ve been learning about this topic for years. Your brain absolutely depends on the light your eyes collect 24/7 in order to regulate how you should be feeling, and whether or not it’s time to wake or sleep. We evolved for millions of years with no artificial light whatsoever, and its recent introduction to our lives has put us out of whack when it comes to our sleepy brain chemistry. Here’s how to fix this… In the morning, take yourself outside and give yourself access to bright sunlight. 15 minutes would be ideal, if you can swing it. This light will signal to your brain that your day has begun, and it’s time to be alert and active. After about 8 pm or so, stop looking at your screens, whether they be the TV, computer or even your phone. The reason is that the bluish cast of this artificial light is very similar to morning light. It confuses your brain, making it believe that night time has not actually happened and that it is now morning again. In the evening, keep your lights down low, and use only red or amber-colored light as much as possible. Your brain will interpret this warm light the way it would firelight, as a signal that it’s night time, and you should sleep soon. Pretend you live in a cave 10,000 years ago, and that will give you the right idea as to the lighting we are going for here. The worst thing to do is to wake up at night and look at something with blue or white colored light. Your brain will think it’s time to wake up, even though you are still tired. Even if you just saw the light briefly, your brain will put the kibosh on your sleep hormones for the rest of the night. So, if you wake up at 2 am, DO NOT look at your phone, for example. If your bedside clock has glowing blue digits, throw it out and replace it with one that has red digits. Try to keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Pitch black is ideal. If you must have some light, make it a red light. Red light will not disturb your sleep patterns. If you wake up needing to pee, do not turn on your bathroom light. Put a red night light in your bathroom and use only that. If you’d like to know more about this topic, watch this video about how scientists use this information to help astronauts sleep regularly:
Exercise. Are you getting a good 20 minutes or more of activity a day that gets you a bit out of breath, maybe a bit sweaty? I don’t know the science behind it, but I’ve read many times that getting some cardio in on the regular will help your body regulate its wake and sleep cycles, too.
Hypnosis. There are some really good self-hypnosis programs out there to help people with going to sleep and staying asleep. I have tried and recommend this one: Peaceful Sleep for All by Kerry Tuschoff. I used her Hypnobabies program to learn hypnosis for childbirth, and it totally worked. There are also tons of sleep suggestion videos on YouTube, as well, so you could look around there for some inspiration. Just remember… it’s very important that you are not fiddling around on the internet or looking at screens in the middle of the night. It won’t matter how good the YouTube video is if you expose yourself to the light from your device during what ought to be your sleeping hours.
This is the lavender oil that I use – NOW brand. Click on the picture to see it on Amazon.
Aromatherapy: Have you tried putting drops of essential oils on your pillow? Lavender is my favorite for this purpose, but other good ones include: chamomile, valerian and vetiver. There are sleep blends available on the market, but I have not tried any, so am not sure which to recommend.
Does anyone have anything to add to these suggestions? What has worked for you? Please feel free to comment down below.
That’s it for today. Have a great weekend, everyone!
♥ Mama Ladybug
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