Plus – win a pillow from Sleep Innovations.
It snowed yesterday! Henry was SO excited to see snow, which isn’t super common in Charlotte. It snowed last year, but he was far too little to appreciate it. This year, I had to force him to come back inside because I knew his hands must’ve been hurting so much, despite the mittens. He spent fifteen minutes reaching desperately for the the door knob, insisting, “Henry outside. Snowing! Henry outside. Snowing!”
I finally figured out what he’d be happy playing inside if I scooped a bit of snow into a Tupperware for him to inspect! And thanks to all that snow activity, Henry slept well last night. But this morning, he was back at it…
I slept well last night, too, but but it wasn’t from romping in the snow. I’ve declared 2014 The Year That I Get Better Sleep and have been implementing and testing out all these sleep tricks and tips.
My sleep is not horrible, it’s just not satisfying or long enough. Said every adult ever, right? Hah. But you know what I mean – I go to bed exhausted, I wake up groggy, and I usually get hit hard by the 3 PM sleepies. This is still a huge improvement over my sleep about four or five years ago, when I would always wake up with muscle aches and pains. We got a memory foam mattress topper (which I lovingly refer to as The Cloud because it’s so soft), and now, I don’t have sore shoulders or stiff hips when I wake up.
So, upgrading our mattress to memory foam was a big one, but like I said, there are a few other tricks that I’m implementing to help with sleep.
In bed by 10:30 MAX. I aim for 10:00, but that’s challenging.
I’ve been consistently using an eye mask to block out any extra light.
I go to bed and wake up at the same times, regardless of whether it’s the week or weekend (I hate this rule, but it definitely helps).
I use a humidifier.
I rub sleep-inducing essential oils onto my wrists and spray the scent onto my pillow.
I’ve gotten *really* into essential oils after writing a freelance article on the chemical and biological powers of aromatherapy. I interviewed an expert in molecular aromatherapy named Dr. Christian Moretti; he believes that “smells possess an incredible power.” The chemical properties of certain scents send signals to your brain, influencing behavior and mood.
According to Dr. Moretti, the right aroma can help you to think more clearly, eat slower, or even fall into a deep, satisfying slumber. He recommended scents like mandarin oil for bedtime, as the deeply rich scent assists in calming nerves and promotion relaxation. Jasmine is also a popular sleep smell. Personally, lavender is my favorite. (I wrote a little more about using essential oils in this Bath Time post.)
So – the comfy memory foam mattress and pillows, eye mask, and essentials oils have certainly HELPED things. If anything, they made me feel more relaxed when I get in bed, which chases away the day’s anxieties so I end up falling asleep faster. But I’ve still got that groggy feeling more often than not.
Tom Rath is the New York Times bestselling author of the book “Eat, Move, Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes.” I shot Tom an e-mail interview and was so pleasantly surprised when he took the time to write back. I asked Tom, “Why do I always feel groggy? I’m getting enough sleep, right? And maybe if I’m not getting enough-enough, shouldn’t I just be able to power through during the day?”
The short answer: No.
One of the most common mistakes that adults make is believing that truly tough and successful people just don’t need as much sleep. You hear all the time about Mrs. Famous CEO only sleep four hours a night, and how Mr. Powerful Politician goes to bed at midnight and wakes up at 5:00 AM. ‘Getting by’ on less sleep in order to spend more time doing more stuff isn’t tough – it’s actually ineffective. “The problem is that one less hour of sleep is not equal to an extra hour of achievement. In many cases, the opposite occurs,” wrote Tom in this WSJ article about sleep.
Quality sleep means that you can be a better worker, parent, and athlete. Without decent sleep, you’re fighting an uphill battle in quicksand. Your thoughts are slower, your logic is faulty, and simple tasks like math may confound you. “You can’t afford to show up to work on four or five hours of sleep,” Tom told me. “The research that I have read indicates that this may be as bad as showing up for work drunk.” Tom pointed to this study, which found that a loss of four hours of sleep is roughly equal to drinking six beers!
The average American gets 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep.
Research shows that “top performers” sleep an average of 8 hours and 36 minutes each night.
Lack of sleep costs the American economy $63 billion a year in lost productivity alone.
People suffering from sleep deprivation are more likely to make poor dietary choices and skip workouts.
Studies show that regular runners fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply than people who don’t exercise.
Tom says that most of us should aim to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. While nine hours may be challenging, Tom points out that even an extra 15 minutes could make a big difference in the way you feel. If you’re currently training for a big event, like a marathon, sleep is even more important, as you need increased time asleep to help recover and repair your body.
Okay – so what’s the #1 sleep mistake that you’re probably making every single night?
"The hour before bed, it is very important that you eliminate sources of bright light,” said Tom. More than 90% of Americans admit to using electronic devices like iPhones in the hour before bed. The problem is that the light emitted from these devices interferes with your production of melatonin, suppressing your production of this important sleep-triggering hormone by as much as 20% (Source). If you’re going to use a device like a Kindle, Tom suggests setting the backlight as low as possible. Reading from an actual book with a small lamp is better than sitting in bed with the full overhead light on.
Tom points out that it’s not just the light emitted from your iPhone that’s the issue. If you’re checking work emails at 11 PM, your mind is going to be in work mode, not sleep mode. “Things can probably wait until the next day instead of interrupting your final hour of thought,” says Tom.
I am working REALLY hard to implement this tip. I love to browse my phone before bed, but if I think about, sometimes the light gives me a headache, and I stay up much later than I would’ve otherwise. Putting down the phone is a small change that can make a big difference.
I’m very excited to give away a memory foam pillow from Sleep Innovations. This pillow is especially designed for side sleepers and is perfect for those who like thicker, firmer pillows with more neck support.
The pillow is made with something called “Cool Vent” technology, which helps keep the gel pillow from feeling too hot. I’ve been test-driving this pillow for a week or so and really love it. I think you will, too!
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