As a matter of fact, everyone has to do it.
Some, mostly the very young, are far better at it than others. Those others, which are in the camp where I now
belong, have discovered that it becomes more elusive with each passing birthday.
Yup, evening after maddening evening, getting a good night’s sleep continues to be a game of chance.
I’m hardly alone.
Indeed, a 2013 Gallup poll concluded that Americans typically get only about 6.8 hours of sleep every night, down more than an hour from 1942. That’s an important number because scientists who study nocturnal patterns say we need seven to nine hours every night; growing teens need more. (I’m actually my best self with a full 10 hours.)
This is A Very Big Deal, since sleep deprivation can cause major cognitive impairment (just ask the parents of a newborn), and other significant health issues including diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Perhaps closer to home for more of us, a CNN story earlier this month made a direct link between increased junk food cravings and the lack of sleep (check out the full report here, at www.cnn.com/2016/03/01/health/sleep-deprivation-linked-to-unhealthy-eating/).
I really do try my best.
This means that while I won’t take sleeping pills, I do allow myself one Benadryl tablet, once per week, always on the nights that I know there’s no waiting alarm clock the next morning. The advantage is that I sleep well; the not-so-good part is that I wake up groggy, and stay that way for several hours.
So for every other evening, I’ve dipped my toes in just about every holistic sleep remedy that comes along.
First, that means warm baths most evenings, often boosted with organic Epsom salts, baking soda and lavender. This routine, in fact, is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
The same is true for drinking a cup of tea, either brewed from a grocery store bag, or chosen from loose teas that I make sure are always around. Every single one is supposed to lead to the land of magical slumber, and, trust me, I’ve probably sipped nearly every variety. We’re talking lemon balm, mint, chamomile, ginger, lemon ginger, lavender, poppy, herbal sugar cookie and too many more to remember.
Or sometimes it’s warm milk; warm milk with sugar, or warm milk with crushed almonds.
There are the physical props, too.
Granted, it probably sounds nuts to those who have no problem getting their ZZZs, but I’ve found that the right apparel—specifically, thick fluffy socks—helps me bed down. Too, I do better with the correct blankets, which distribute the perfect amount of weight on top of me. A down comforter, folded over double, seems to do the trick. A colder room helps as well. And, a certain weight of flannel sheet in the wintertime also provides a great assist.
Sometimes this all works, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Frankly, I also know that any added stress and anxiety to my already busy life—can you say stubborn, college, and a moody teenage daughter?—make mincemeat out of all of these good efforts.
At the same time, I’m hyper aware that even without those extra worries keeping me awake, I can do better when it comes to my routine.
After all, I’m a news junkie, and when I see something I want to share, I can’t help but post articles and photos and random musings on social media. Also, given that I no longer have cable television, but do have access to programming on my laptop, sometimes I’ll just have to watch a show (or binge watch a series of shows) that has caught my fancy.
And, unless you’ve lived in a cave the last few years, most folks know that electronic devices in any form are not conductive to slumber.
In fact, a recent study funded by the National Institute of Health has backed up this theory, which has been kicking around for about five years. These latest findings had participants reading an iPad for four hours each night before hitting the hay, for five nights in the row. Others read printed books in dim light. After one week, the groups switched.
Here’s the conclusion.
Those who used iPads displayed reduced levels of melatonin, the hormone that, in its natural state, helps induce sleepiness in the evening. Consequently, these participants not only took longer to fall asleep, they spent less time in rapid-eye movement (REM), the most restorative, and most necessary, element for a great night’s sleep. (More details are here, at www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/23/reading-before-bed_n_6372828.html.)
This wasn’t surprising to me, because I know that my best horizontal times come when I switch off all electronics—phone included—at least two hours before bedtime, and instead, cozy up on the couch with a book.
Well, it’s that time, and I’ve promised myself that this is exactly what I’ll be doing tonight.
I’m padding off to my kitchen now to make a cup of tea, which I will slowly drink with my lavender bath. Then I’ll settle down with a book.
Let’s hope that tonight will be one that brings peaceful slumber—filled with sweet and blissful dreams.
What about you? How do you get a good night's sleep?
I’m open to every idea out there, so comments are most welcomed!