(this article and giveaway are sponsored by Brentwood Home)
For 20 years before becoming a mom and the first few years of motherhood, I worked outside the home as a registered nurse. For many of those years, I worked the overnight shift. I have always been a bit of a night owl, and am for sure (even now) not a morning person, so staying up all night was easy for me to get used to. I often flip-flopped back and forth, working 12-hours shifts, so that I could have a more “normal” life when the rest of the world was awake, but even then, I was usually awake until at least 3am.
Fast forward a few years, and even after leaving the nursing profession to become a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, who also lives with auto-immune diseases (read: chronic pain), I still find myself often having trouble going to bed and sleeping through the night.
It has become a goal of mine to remedy this extreme damage to my circadian rhythm. And while I’m not 100% there, I have come a long way, and now I am in bed and asleep by midnight most nights of the week (my goal is 11pm, so I’m still working on this!).
I wanted to share a few of my tips, just in case you are also suffering with insomnia and need some help. It’s just not always as simple as “going to bed earlier.”
5 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep for Chronic Insomniacs
An odd sleep schedule (working nights, sleeping days and flip-flopping my sleep schedule) is what I believe got me into this bad sleep mess. So it only makes sense that a healthy sleep schedule will help turn it around. This was not easy for me. I couldn’t just start going to bed at 11pm when I was used to staying up until 3am. So I began backing my bedtime by 30 minutes to an hour each night, eventually getting to midnight most nights. I haven’t been able to get to 11pm yet (I’m just not sleepy!), but I’m hopeful, that some of the other changes I’m making will help me get there.
It’s also important to know how much sleep your body requires and at what time you need to arise most mornings, so while 11pm is my goal, your goal maybe to earlier (or even later). My body needs about 8-9 hours of sleep per night, so I set an alarm every morning for 8am. Even if I stay up later, my alarm goes off at 8.
Discontinue Screen Time
This is one of the most challenging tasks for me, and likely the reason I haven’t been able to make my bedtime earlier. The later hours of the evening are when my house is finally quiet so that I can work. But I have found that shutting down even an hour before I want to bed is helpful. I try to use this time for my Bible quiet time, listening to relaxing music, praying, reading, or just closing my eyes. Screen time includes TV, computer, surfing Facebook on your phone, etc.
For a long time, I used Melatonin supplements to help me sleep. The problem with using it was that I would awaken after only a few hours and struggle to get back to sleep. About a year ago, I switched from Melatonin to diffusing essential oils intermittently throughout the night, and it has made a huge difference for me. My favorite essential oils to diffuse include lavender, Roman chamomile, and sandalwood.
I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but I do enjoy tea and other caffeinated drinks (ie: Starbucks Refreshers). For a long time, I didn’t believe that drinking caffeine was affecting my sleep, but recently I began following the Whole30 diet plan, which eliminates caffeine, and I’ve noticed that I’m getting sleepier, earlier (I’ve even managed that 11pm bedtime now and then). So if you are drinking a lot of caffeine, I would begin now reducing, if not eliminating it. And if you can’t go without your morning coffee, just be sure to keep it to mornings.
This is something I underestimated for a long time. But recently I discovered that a comfortable bed and pillows can make all the difference in the world, as can room temperature and how I’m dressed (ie: I like the thermostat turned down to 60, leggings with a long-sleeved t-shirt, socks on my feet, and 2 quilts over my flannel sheets in the winter).
Our bed is a comfortable King-sized bed, so it’s plenty roomy enough (I don’t really like being touched while I’m sleeping), but I have always struggled with finding the right pillows. I’ve spent so much money replacing my pillows every few months because it doesn’t take long for them to begin breaking down, getting lumpy and bumpy and flat. Truth be told, I wasn’t even that crazy about them when they were new. I kept thinking there has to a better pillow out there, but there was no way I was paying $100 for that pillow they keep showing on TV.
Then I was recently introduced to a company called Brentwood Home. Brentwood Home is a California company, manufacturing and selling environmentally-conscious hand-crafted mattresses, pillows, and bedding at affordable prices. I chose to give the Sleep Wellness Bundle of pillows a try, and I am so happy I did.
The bundle comes with 4 pillows — (2) Helena Latex/Kapok Pillows and (2) Carmel Latex Molded Pillows. I’ve been sleeping on them for about 3 weeks now, and I simply cannot imagine buying the department store pillows of my past ever again. Here’s what I love about each of these pillows:
The Carmel pillow is a firmer pillow, very supportive, but not hard and flat. I place one under my head, and one behind my back (I’m mostly a side sleeper). The Helena is a softer pillow that I put on top of the the Carmel under my head. I generally sleep snuggling the other one. These pillows make me feel like I’m sleeping in a 5-star hotel with the most luxurious bed linens. But more importantly, I’m not waking up several times during the night to “fluff” my pillows, I don’t have to fold a pillow over to make it comfortable, and these pillows will not lose their shape or fluff.
Here’s what their website says about each pillow:
- Combines the smoothness of silk and fluffiness of cotton
- Filled with all-natural latex ribbons that have a responsive feel, providing uplifting support, and silky-smooth kapok
- Perfect fit for people who switch between multiple sleeping positions, because it molds to your neck and head
- The cover is made of organic cotton, grown without toxic pesticides or fertilizers, so you can sleep safe and sound.
- Made with healthy materials for your sleep like a 100% organic cotton cover, and certified free of synthetic materials by the Eco-institut
- All natural latex is molded to perfectly contour your head and neck, providing essential support through the night.
- Resilient and supportive latex never requires fluffing
I never knew there were pillows made with latex, or “healthy” pillows. My knowledge of latex is limited to balloons and hospital gloves and it never occurred to me to wonder how they were made. So I did a little research and discovered that natural latex is a material sourced from rubber trees, usually found in tropical regions. The trees are tapped for their rubber polymer sap, which is then mixed with a small amount of organic compound to reach a gel-like state, then poured into a mold.
I never would have imagined such comfort from these pillows. I think I must smile falling asleep and waking up. My husband has also noticed that I am snoring <ahem> less (I still don’t believe him that I snore, but whatever). So now I’m fighting my husband and my son for the pillows (which means I’ll be buying a set to split between them for Christmas).
It may be a coincidence, but I also have not had a migraine since I began sleeping on these pillows, and my other headaches are mostly gone as well. Only time will tell if that remains, but I will say that I have much less neck pain and stiffness than before, and I have to think that the pillows have a lot to do with that. It’s very possible that the two are related.
So these are my main suggestions for helping with sleep issues. They have proven helpful for me, and I hope they help you, too. There are, of course, other great ideas that may be helpful for you as well, such as:
- increase exercise
- decrease stress
- limit napping
- use room-darkening shades
- limit fluids close to bedtime
Are you a troubled sleeper? What methods have you tried to improve your sleep?
Brentwood Home Giveaway
To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S., age 18 and older only. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours of notification, or prize will be forfeited to a new winner.