7 Guaranteed Steps To A Good Night’s Sleep

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels  

You’re exhausted. And you’re counting the minutes until you can just collapse into bed. But when you finally lay down your mind races and you can’t relax enough to go to sleep. 

Why is falling asleep so hard for many of us?

Heightened levels of stress and anxiety can make getting to sleep (and staying asleep) a challenge. But it’s not always about stress. You could just have a lot on your mind left over from the day or already prepping your to-do list for tomorrow. Your room is too warm or there’s too much noise. 

So many factors can play into having disrupted sleep. But there are simple steps you can take to transition into deep sleep quicker and easier. 

Here are seven guaranteed tactics to bridge the gap between you and a solid night’s sleep. 

1. Your Bedroom Should Feel Delicious. 

If you’ve had trouble sleeping a problem could be that your bedroom isn’t cutting it. For maximum somniferous effect you want to create a sleep cave of sorts full of linens and things (pun fully intended) that lull you to sleep. 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine the three things you want your bedroom to be are “quiet, dark, and a little bit cool.” 

The reason for the cooler temperature is that our body temperature naturally decreases during the night. “When you go to sleep,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, “your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down.”

So you want to create as cool of an atmosphere as makes you comfortable and helps you stay asleep. 

What’s comfortable for each person differs – thus the never ending battle of the sexes for setting the thermostat—but you want to shoot for a room temperature that hovers around 65 degrees

Along with adjusting your thermostat you’ll also want to choose linens, pillows, and a mattress that draw heat away from you. Because, even if you get the room temperature right, your linens and clothes can make you too warm, causing you to overheat during the night. If you naturally run hot, this can spell disaster for a sound sleep.

That means, as much as you may love your memory foam because of how it contours to you, it holds heat. So, buh-bye. Toss ‘em. And replace them with natural fibers that don’t trap heat. 

You’ll want to check out switching your mattress for a cooling model. And for natural sheets—a fantastic and little known natural option is bamboo. Bamboo sheets are deliciously soft and durable. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more luxurious, check out the cotton percale sheets that, because of their tight weave (percale describes the type of weave and not the type of cotton), are so luxuriously soft they earned a spot on our The Best list, which is the definitive repository for the greatest of the great. 

There’s also a new all-natural pillow made from organic cotton and buckwheat that will make giving up that memory foam pillow a painless transaction. Unlike foam or down filling, buckwheat doesn’t collapse under your weight. And you won’t have awake pulling your sweat soaked shirt away from you—the pillow stays cool. 

2: Filter Your Phone Light

We’ve all heard it dozens of times—the light from our phone is bad news as far as sleep is concerned. And we’re like ‘Yeah, uh-huh, scroll, scroll.’ But seriously, when it comes to falling asleep, the light from our phones is doing us more harm than good. 

The problem is that our screens emit short-wavelength blue light that sends signals to our brain that it’s still daylight. A study has shown that this blue light “damages the duration” and “quality of our sleep”. Could be a reason you find it hard to wind down enough to sleep. Just sayin. 

Lisa Ostrin, an assistant professor of Optometry at the University of Houston College, explains, “that blue light prevents special photoreceptor cells in the eye from triggering the release of a sleep hormone.” The hormone she’s talking about is melatonin. Without sufficient melatonin our bodies don’t know to become sleepy.  

Ostrin and a team of researchers conducted a study where they provided participants with special blue-blocking glasses to wear after sun-down. Two weeks after the study began, participants experienced an increase in melatonin production of 58 percent. Not surprisingly, they reported sleeping better. 

But if you can’t really see yourself sporting blue-blocking glasses around your house, then the next best thing is a blue-light filter for your screen.  

3. Be Picky With Screen Time 

Seeing as we’re all on our phones 24/7 telling people not to use their devices before bed is just impractical, lame, and unlikely.

If you’ve done your homework and dimmed your devices with a blue-light filter then the next important thing you can do is choose things to do or watch that you find calming, soothing, or mindless. 

Reason being, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep.” To mitigate the stimulation, choose things that are super chill. 

If playing Candy Crush or Pokémon Go are your wind down go-tos, so be it. Or if watching Brooklyn 99 or Parks and Recreation on repeat chills you out, do it. Just hold off on binging Ozark or Breaking Bad until the next day. And skip scrolling through your newsfeed, Facebook, or Twitter feeds which are gloom-and-doom anxiety-inducing mines waiting to explode right before you’re ready to go to sleep. 

Although experts say that watching TV before bed “makes it more difficult to fall asleep”, in my experience, falling asleep while watching a movie is like a no-brainer, it just happens and  it’s a deep sleep. So you do what works for you. 

4. Try Essential Oils. Seriously, They Are (Sometimes) Legit

Essential oils are fantastic for relaxation. Trouble is, certain purveyors of essential oils have been caught making totally unsubstantiated claims about the curative properties of essential oils, telling people to ingest them (please don’t) and claiming they can cure fatal disease (they don’t). DoTERRA, a huge purveyor of essential oils and a multi-level marketing company, was the biggest offender of this and since the crackdown by the FDA has backpedaled and is now training their sales reps not to tell customers that ingesting essential oils will cure their cancer (that’s progress, I guess?). 

Barring the bad name with which quackery sales gimmicks have smeared essential oils, there is ample evidence that scent affects our brains and that essential oils have proven psychological and physiological benefits, as has been shown in numerous studies. One study focused on Intensive Care Unit patients who weren’t sleeping well. After fifteen days of receiving lavender oil through an inhalator the intervention group reported significant improvement in sleep, whereas the control group didn’t.   

Northern California based dermatologist, Cynthia Bailey, MD  explains, “There is definitely credible science behind certain benefits for certain essential oils. But you have to choose wisely, and you cannot use them indiscriminately.”

So bring out all the smell goods—your yummiest candles and your essential oil diffusers—to help you relax into sleep. 

5. Choose The Right Sounds To Unwind 

Remember when people started listening to whale songs, falling rain, or chirping toads to fall asleep? Maybe you even still have that Sharper Image sound maker you got as a gift stored away somewhere, forever buried.  

The effect of sound on our sleep has led to the distinction of various color-coded noises. Stay with me. We all know of white noise—radio or TV static—an unobtrusive continuous hum. But there’s also pink noise, which is akin to those nature sounds mentioned earlier; brown noise—think waterfalls, roaring rivers, or thunder; and black noise—which, weirdly enough is just another word for silence. “Silence” wasn’t a good enough word, apparently. 

White and pink noise have both been shown to help you sleep better. It’s still too soon to say which is better, more research is needed. In the meantime there are plenty of sleep sound machines and apps to help you explore the spectrum of soothing noises. 

Those looking for new ways to wind down are discovering the soothing sounds of binaural beats. The music described as an “auditory illusion” is achieved by layering two different sound frequencies that are allegedly picked up separately through each ear (thus the bi- in binaural). 

Technical stuff aside, listening to binaural beats is utterly calming. There’s nothing there to distract or rile the mind. It’s just chill.  

Another wildly popular option is watching/listening to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos—those softly spoken words or actions, like hair brushing) are great for falling asleep. The effect is quasi-hypnotic. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Maybe a playlist of ASMR, wind rustling through leaves, and binaural beats will be your magic sleep cocktail. 

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention meditation apps that are also great for getting to sleep. We like Insight Timer—a meditation app perfect for those who aren’t really into meditation. They offer guided meditations of varying lengths. There’s also the Calm app for meditation and sleep. Fun thing about this app, if you’re not feeling meditation, and you’re of the opinion that you’re never too old for “bedtime stories ” or Sleep Stories, as they call them, and I will shamelessly profess that I am of that ilk, then Calm has gently narrated stories to lull you to sleep.  

6. Have Relaxing Night-Time Rituals

A big part of falling asleep easily is tricking the brain into slowing down and readying itself for sleep. Simple night time rituals—things that you probably already do—can flip the switch in your head so that your body detects sleep being near. 

Perhaps the most obvious night-time routine to cultivate is your skincare routine because, unless we’ve just given up completely, we will still wash our faces before bed. Long, tiring days that end in, “I can’t even” notwithstanding. Think of this as time to look forward to, where you get to pamper yourself with all your favorite skin care products like this, and this, and definitely this, and decompress. 

Once you’re all dewy and dulcetly scented drop deeper into relaxation with some gentle stretches. As little as ten minutes spent stretching before bed will ease tense muscles exponentially. 

7. Get The Feels From Sex Or Self-Pleasure

We can’t really do justice to talking about relaxing night time rituals without talking about sex and self-pleasure, the penultimate of relaxation rituals. Much has been written on the topic of how sex improves overall wellbeing. And you don’t need me telling you that reaching orgasm releases a cascade of feel-good hormones, like oxytocin.

But interestingly enough, there is another hormone responsible for that post-coital crash that many slip into and that’s prolactin. You can probably guess by the “lact” that it has to do with producing breastmilk. According to psychiatrist, Sheenie Ambardar, MD, “After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness”

Because prolactin is released after orgasm, any orgasm, you can feel the soporific effects with self-pleasure as well. So, keep your favorite toys nearby, ladies. 

This has been substantiated by a study out of the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science in Australia, reported that while “orgasms with a partner appear to have the most benefit in terms of sleep outcomes, orgasms achieved through self-stimulation can also aid sleep quality and latency.” 

And, as if you needed more reason to pounce on your partner, another study showed that prolactin production after an orgasm reached with a partner was 400% greater than from self-pleasuring. 400%! Numbers don’t lie. 

So if sound sleep has been eluding you, by taking an intentional approach to ending your day and cultivating habits that will promote better sleep, you create an atmosphere of rest all around you. Sounds dreamy, right? Now go try out that whole prolactin business. 

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

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Be Well!

Myth: Men fear intimacy. Truth: Some women do, too. This is one woman’s story.

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They sat on their over-stuffed L-shaped couch with him on his side and her on hers. This scene was now commonplace. For the last two hours, they had been embroiled in an argument that had played out many times before.

The problem with their fighting style, as she saw it, was that they were too much alike: they were both stubborn, bossy, wanted things their own way, wanted the last word, saw compromise as a stalemate, and when feeling particularly hurt, could be very vindictive. Neither person would yield. That is, not until they were both over it and ultimately yielded at the same time.

LET’S STAY TOGETHER

Problems didn’t always get resolved so much as the two of them resolved to just get over it, hug it out, and go on about their lives together with a promise to try to do better.

But on this day, after having this same argument for the umpteenth time, and after already coming up with her exit strategy, there was a lull in the conversation; a hopeful lull that signified the worst was over and they were on the road to reconciliation. At that moment a strangely dismayed yet optimistic voice in her head chirped up and said,‘F — k! We’re gonna make it.’ She realized then that there was a part of her that had already called it quits, packed her bags, and headed out the door. And that part of her — that part that ran from intimacy any chance it got — was in a state of bitter disbelief.

Having read John Gottman’s book on what makes a marriage work, she remembered what he wrote about the likelihood of a couple making it. All couple’s fight, he wrote. But what sets a lasting couple apart from those who do not last, is how quickly they can recover from their fight and re-establish a connection.

After being here a few times now and seeing once again how they always manage to talk things through and end up back in each other’s arms, she knew that they were going to make it as they always had.

But what about that part of her that was already on the other side of the door? She knew that they hadn’t seen the last of it and that at some point when she was feeling particularly vulnerable, or just overly hungry that voice would pop up again and say, ‘I want out of here.’

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GETTING TO KNOW HER DEMONS

By then she knew this voice well because it always came up at the least opportune time with self-defeating and relationship-annihilating messages. It’s something that many people have — the inner naysayer, who will do its best to undermine any good thing that comes into one’s life. She was well aware of all her inner demons: the saboteur, the naysayer, the victim, the abandoned child, and the runner.

The runner was that part of her that instinctually fled anytime it smelled emotional danger. This was her inner protection and just like an armadillo that senses a threat will curl up in its shell and roll away, it was primed and set to protect her from danger by putting up a full suit of armor and fleeing. In the case of “fight or flight”, she always chose flight first. interracial COUPLE

 

THE LOVE LIFE OF AN INTIMACY AVOIDANT PERSON

The biggest fear of the intimacy avoidant person is being emotionally suffocated. The fear of enmeshment or losing one’s self is so strong that a person will consciously or unconsciously distance themselves from their romantic partner as soon as they feel that the person is getting too close.

For many years she found one way after another to push people away. Afterward, she would think about what she had done with regret. It was so easy for her to find reasons to distance herself — she could blame it on spirituality or distance or her own nitpickiness.

But in the end, she always knew that she was pushing people away to avoid being hurt. She would abandon before someone could abandon her. Because of this, she could go months or years without romantic involvement as many intimacy avoidant people do.

FIGURING OUT WHY SHE WANTED TO RUN AWAY

In trying to understand where this impulse to high-tail it out of relationships came from, she did some research on intimacy avoidance. What she read struck not just one cord but all the cords. Much of it comes down to things that happened in childhood.

This is just a short list of commonalities for intimacy avoidant people:

  • They were raised by a smothering or narcissistic parent whose emotional needs were put before the emotional needs of the child — CHECK
  • They suffered emotional, psychological and/or sexual abuse by a primary caregiver or sibling — CHECK
  • They were physically, emotionally, and/or socially neglected or abandoned — CHECK
  • They were treated as a parent’s confidant, companion, or proxy spouse — CHECK
  • They had to fulfill an adult role in the family such as looking after the house and taking care of one’s self in the absence of adult supervision or care — CHECK
  • They felt responsible for caring for an overly burdened parent — CHECK

This is not a full list but it is comprised of all that is related to her upbringing. Taking that all in, is it any wonder that a person would run from intimacy in adulthood?

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HOW SELF-SABOTAGE PLAYS A PART

The problem with growing up under such conditions is that it leads to a low sense of self-worth. People who lack a sense of self-worth often do not see themselves as worthy of happiness. When goodness does find them, it is often met with suspicion and distrust, as if it can’t be real, or if it is real, it is too good to last.

This leads to all sorts of self-sabotaging behavior such as –

  • fault finding
  • picking fights
  • paranoid thinking
  • irrational jealousy
  • over-thinking
  • rejecting loving or caring gestures
  • pursuing emotionally unavailable people

She could see how she had done many of these things throughout her romantic life and how some of them were still showing up in her current relationship. Add together any number of these and it spells disaster for a relationship. After years of self-sabotaging, she became aware of what she was doing and the toll it was taking on her happiness and her ability to build a lasting bond with someone.

HOW TRANSFERENCE PLAYS A PART

Another issue feeding into her instinct to flee had to do with transference or the human tendency to transfer characteristics from one person onto another person. Usually, transference in a romantic relationship looks like a person transferring traits from one or both of their parents onto their romantic partner.

With both abuse and neglect in her background, it wasn’t too long before she started seeing these traits in her partner. It was as if she were looking through a pair of glasses with the word “abuse” on one lens and “neglect” on the other. She was unable to see her partner as he really was because she was blinded by the lenses she was looking through.

Transference harms relationships.

Because she was seeing him through the lens of abuse and neglect she began to treat him and respond to him as if he were being abusive or neglectful.

Imagine that someone is treating you like you are a thief when you’ve never stolen a thing in your life. They treat you with suspicion and distrust and you’re left feeling angry and confused.

This is what she was doing in her relationship and it was choking the life out of both of them. And because she lived with this fear of abuse or neglect, her inner protection (the runner) would kick into gear and start making plans to get out of there. When in actuality, she wasn’t in any danger.

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HOW SHE LEARNED TO OVERCOME HER INTIMACY AVOIDANCE

Overcoming these issues began with becoming aware of what was going on both consciously and subconsciously. She couldn’t begin to heal before she knew what needed to be healed.

After awareness came the task of identifying the traits of avoidance and becoming intimate with those parts of herself that sought protection and distance rather than vulnerability and connection.

How did she avoid?

What were her tactics?

What were the things that triggered her instinct to self-protect?

She wrote these things out and studied them so that when they arose, she saw them. Gradually, with enough time she became quicker at seeing her triggers and the following reactions.

At that point, she had the power to choose a different response. When she saw herself slipping into fault-finding and the subsequent impulse to run, she would say to herself, ‘This is your avoidance talking.’

She took small steps at behavioral changes. For instance, if she became upset with him, instead of grabbing her keys and leaving the house for a few hours she would just go to another room and read or do something to help her calm down and clear her mind, like meditating.

It became a practice of “doing the opposite”. Whatever her fear-based instinct was, her rational mind would take over and do the opposite. Rather than avoid, she would engage. Rather than find fault, she would express appreciation. Rather than withdraw, she would keep talking, even if what came out was just a rage of jumbled emotions. She knew that it was better to be a mess in front of him than to be a mess on her own.

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HOW SHE FOUND HAPPINESS IN HER LONG-TERM COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP

Most issues, when given sufficient time and attention, resolve themselves. Over the course of her relationship, she became more comfortable with being uncomfortable. She saw her difficulties around intimacy for what they were and treated herself and her partner with greater kindness and compassion.

Whenever she came up against that knee-jerk response to flee, she would settle even deeper into her commitment to her relationship. Since running was always the first and easiest option, she would ask herself, ‘What if you take leaving off the table? What new ideas, solutions, and options might present themselves?’ And if she gave herself enough time, a creative solution would reveal itself.

As she was able to withdraw the transference she had put on her partner and put it in its proper place, she was able to see him for what he was: a good man who was working on his own shortcomings and demons, who loved her tremendously, and was always willing to sit down with her and talk things through.

She realized that in spite of all of her self-sabotaging and avoidant shenanigans, the two of them had created a strong and loving relationship.

And she felt tremendously happy knowing that, although there are no guarantees in life, all the signs showed that they were going to make it.

___________________

References: Weiss, R., https://www.robertweissmsw.com/about-sex-addiction/intimacy-avoidance/, Accessed 1/28/19.

© 2019 Tamara Jefferies