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Sleep: 10 Strategies for Getting the Rest You Need and 1 for Waking Up Well

Let’s talk about Sleep! With the onset of cozy Fall days and nights—not to mention this weekend’s daylight savings shift, sleep is in our minds these days. Along with nutrition, exercise, and mental wellness, getting quality sleep is known to be one of the main pillars of leading a healthy lifestyle. I personally need a lot of sleep to feel high functioning, typically between 8-9 hours, so getting a good night’s rest is something I take very seriously; particularly after having a child that didn’t sleep through the night until age two!

Over the years, I have honed-in on several strategies to ensure a restful evening slumber that I’d love to share:

  1. Splurge on Mattresses, Sheets, and Pillows. We arguably spend more times in our beds than anywhere else, so why not make the experience as lovely as possible, right? Proper bedding can make all the difference in getting a good night’s sleep. You, of course, want to be cozy, but also not too hot or cold. Firm, plush, pillow-top, foam, what matters is what is comfortable to you. And while we all rely on online shopping more and more these days, there is really no substitute for a brick and mortar experience when shopping for mattresses and pillows. Yes, it can be a little embarrassing, but you simply must go lay on all the mattresses before you can determine your preference. Mattress are expensive; why leave this purchase up to chance? I like really plush and fluffy down-pillows, while my husband prefers a firmer version. It just makes sense for us to both pick out a set based on our own preferences. Good sheets are equally important part of the sleep equation. While ultra-high thread count was all the rage years back, I learned after putting a fancy set on my wedding registry that it doesn’t always lead to soft sheets. These days I go with my favorite Pinzon cotton-flannel set in the winter, which are cozy to a fault, as it takes all my willpower to leave them each morning. My go-to summer sheets are Brooklinen’s Classic Core Sheet Set that stay cool and crisp, yet still cozy on hot summer nights. I always stick to natural materials, such as 100% cotton or linen, as they don’t tend to trap heat like the synthetic materials found in other fabrics.
  2. Keep It Kid Free. I am a parent of two young children, which means I will never assume that your little dears will not end up in your bed from time-to-time. But I also think it’s important to establish early on that the adult’s bedroom is their personal space, not to be taken over by toys, playdates, or other kid-centric activities and paraphernalia that often absorb the rest of a family home. I actually don’t even have pictures of my kids in our master, just two of me and my husband, reinforcing that this is our personal space. The current generation of parents are known to be cautious of setting firm boundaries with their kids, but if establishing some personal space means I’ll have a more restful sleep, and alone time when needed, sign me up! Because both of these make me a better, happier parent in the end.
  3. Just Say No (to the TV). Sleep is important to me, so I set very clear boundaries about what is allowed in our master bedroom. While I love the splurge that is cozying up in bed and watching a movie in a hotel, you will never find a television in my room. In part, I don’t trust myself to not stay up way past my bedtime bingeing on Netflix while in the comfort of my cozy bed. Further, I don’t like the technology reliant message it sends to my kids. And, there is a definite order that descends on family life when the rooms in one’s home are used for the purposes they are intended. Living/family rooms for family time, dining rooms for meals, and bedrooms for sleep, rest, and time alone or with your partner.
  4. Have an Internet Curfew. Just as it’s become routine for parents of teens and tweens to have a nightly check-in for phones and computers, it is also a good idea for parents to give their devises a curfew. I allow myself to check my phone or computer right after dinner wraps up, then it’s off for the rest of the evening. I learned this approach the hard way after many a sleepless night agonizing over something that popped up in my inbox. And I’m not alone here. Anxiety is proven to spike as the evening progresses. We tend to be much better equipped emotionally to handle stress in the morning, especially if you’ve had a good night’s rest. And, the blue light that is emitted from our screens has also been proven to actually delay the body’s release of melatonin, the hormone associated with the onset of sleep.
  5. Keep It Cool. People often think I’m a little crazy when I tell them this, but I sleep with my bedroom windows open year-round. I crave the cool breeze of fresh Pacific Northwest air in the evening, making my soft and snuggly sheets feel all the better. Turns out my propensity for a cool room can actually be beneficial to sleep. Specifically, studies indicate that temperatures between 60-67 are linked with deeper sleep, once again stimulating the sleep God, melatonin. Waking up hot in the middle of the night? Might be time to reassess your sheet situation for a lighter or more breathable material.
  6. Let in the Darkness. Speaking of melatonin, there is a reason it’s known as the “darkness hormone.” No, it will not lead you, Young Skywalker, down the wrong path, but rather this guiding force begins to rise early evening, increasing drowsiness in our bodies, and peaks early morning. We can inadvertently thwart the natural sleep progression by adding light, including light from our screens as noted above, which stimulates alertness and energy. Light exposure while sleeping is also known to lead to frequent bouts of wakefulness through the night. I discovered blackout shades and curtains as a sleep-deprived young mother, and now they are not only found in my children’s rooms, but also my own. Not only do blackout curtains and blinds keep our rooms dark and dreamy, they also keep out the heat in warmer months.
  7. Say KEEP OUT to Clutter. Our homes should always be a nurturing space, especially bedrooms where we rest and recover from our busy days. Ever wonder why a nice hotel feels like such a decadent and restful respite? That’s because the interior decorators responsible for the rooms go to great lengths to make it so. And one thing you won’t find in a hotel room is clutter.  Because the primary goal of a master bedroom should be rest and relaxation, try to keep one’s room paired down to only the essentials that support these purposes. A cozy chair for reading, a beautiful plant to filter the air, some plush pillows and throws; lovely. Baskets of laundry, computers or other electronics, even piles of books or pictures on the other hand, might need to be kicked out in lieu of a more calming environment.
  8. Read! I know this is not a new or “novel” idea, but establishing a nightly ritual of reading before bed can put you on the path to a great night’s sleep. This is because the brain comprehension required, combined with our eye muscles actually getting tired, tends to make us feel very sleepy. The ritual of reading before bed each night can also send a signal to our routine-loving bodies that sleep is on its way. I try to block out an hour for reading at the end of the night, ensuring a solid gap between the effects of any prior screen time. I also loved the feeling I get of being lost in a story, someone else’s story to be specific. If I’m contemplating the plights of Scarlet O’Hara or Elizabeth Bennet, I’m much less likely to be fixated on my own.
  9. Keep the Nightstand Stocked. One can obviously never control the way many a thing plays out in life, but it never hurts to be prepared. When it comes to sleep, that means keeping my nightstand well stocked with any evening essentials that might thwart my rest. Some basics you will always find in my drawer include chap stick to keep the pout moisturized, allergy eye drops for breezy spring nights, throat spray for a sore throat, coughing fit, or dreaded tickle, and lavender essential oil, which of course smells lovely, but also has been shown to relax muscles and calm our hearts. And, of course, I also always have a very tall glass of water. Is something waking you up, or causing nighttime discomfort? It’s time to get in front of it, my friends.
  10. Curb Afternoon Caffeine Intake. What is it about the late-afternoon weekday window that is such an energy suck? I know it’s when I start to reach for both the caffeine and the snack drawer. I’ve noticed that nights I am unable to fall asleep at my normal bedtime can often be traced back to late afternoon caffeine intake. So, I do my best to put a cap on caffeine consumption at 3 pm. Studies have indeed shown that ideally, we all should curb the caffeine at least 6-hours before bedtime, otherwise we risk losing significant amounts of sleep.

So now that you’ll leave those restless nights to the wicked, and embrace sleep by following my 10 tips to getting the rest you need, what’s the best way to wake up bright eyed and ready to go?

Try using the vibrate only alarm on your Fitbit or iWatch! Or get one of the Natural Light Waking Clock. I’ve been known to be a heavy sleeper so I tend to set 2-3 in rapid succession just to be sure I’ll fully wake up. A gentle start to the day will seriously improve your mood! That and having your coffee maker set to brew about 5 minutes before you roll into the kitchen 😉

Shifting to better sleep and wake habits feels so good, and makes you feel so good. What do you have to lose? I promise, your inbox, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will be there tomorrow.

Photo by Why Frame Shot

Feature photo by DeepValley.

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