Without adequate sleep, our mental and physical health deteriorates rapidly, impacting our daily functioning and sometimes putting ourselves and others at danger. And the problem, is that with poor sleep hygiene, many of us have been living for so long with chronically poor sleep, we don't even realize the impact it is having on our daily lives. For this and so many other reasons, I have invested a lot of personal and professional time in learning about sleep and ways to improve our sleep hygiene! See some of the products that help me and the people I work with.
Oh and if you want to learn more about why sleep is important (and why you should get the hell off of your phones at night), check out this article from Johns Hopkins.
Sleep Master Sleep Mask
I am the type of person that HATES feeling things on my face - I even have to gear up when I wash my face! So when my husband suggested I get a sleep mask to help me manage my weird sleep schedule and when I have to sleep places other than my home, I was like, "Yeah, NO!" Needless to say, when his arrived in the mail, I was not too anxious to try. But, as is life, I had to go on a trip for work one weekend and the hotel had the WORST curtains on the planet, plus a blaring parking lot light that came right into the room. I was so annoyed! But as I went to get my stuff out of my bag, I saw Jordan had packed the mask in the bag, just in case I wanted to use it. And at this point, my annoyance for the lights far outweighed my dislike of stuff on my face. I went to put it on and it was SO SOFT! I mean, I am not going to lie and say I didn't notice it at all, like some people say. But the feeling wasn't uncomfortable. I laid down and noticed immediately how much better my night's sleep could be with the light blocking and comfortable mask on my face. And it did not disappoint! I definitely don't use it every night, but man, it is awesome for when I am places where there is a ton of light, especially blue light, as we all know that light is one of the main disrupters of sleep. Plus, when you put it on, it also helps you manage any urges to check your phone or do anything that would, in it of itself be bad for your sleep!
Excess light in a bedroom is never a good thing! Many of us have "gotten used to it" or, essentially, tolerate it. But the truth is, that light effects your body. It can throw off your normal sleep/wake rhythms and body's daily processing. When we first move out to Portland, we were beyond excited about having a space with over a dozen windows - our last place had 3...TOTAL...in the ENTIRE house! But what we did not anticipate was that, with our bedroom having 4 of those windows, there would be a lot of excess light to manage, especially since my husband often works nights and has to sleep during daylight hours. And so, my mission began: find the ultimate blackout curtains! I scoured the internet. I read blogs, consumer reports...everything I could to best make some choices about curtains. And after 6 Amazon returns and the end of hope in site, we finally found ones that were truly blackout.
Now, here are a couple of things to consider:
The way the curtain hangs on the rod has a big impact on how light enters the room. Grommets or hanging loops will cause light to peak through and will make even the best curtains seem see-through. And the ones with rod pockets, though they allow less light to enter, bunch up and tend to, in my opinion, lay less flat, which also impacts your overall curtain quality. Instead, I recommend getting curtains with back loops, meaning that the curtain strings through various loops but there is fabric sewn on the front so that there are no holes for light to escape through. Plus, as compared to the rod pocket, you can hang the curtain past the rod hanging point which, when you allow the curtain to extend past the window, removes more opportunity for light to come through.
The color you choose has an impact on the light. Even though you can buy white, pink, yellow, black...or whatever color you are looking for...blackout curtains, the color itself will change the products effectiveness. We tried light brown and beige as compared to the darker colors (black and chocolate brown) and the effectiveness was vastly different. The darker colors simply seemed to do better in eliminating light.
Length matters when it comes to curtains. Make sure that the curtains hang a little longer than the window - in our case, we have them hanging about 6 inches longer. This allows helps eliminate extra light entering the room.
For us, we boiled it down to 2 brands that we found most effective - Pony Dance & Deconovo (links to each below). And a final note, no curtain will be absolutely perfect, but if you dont start with the right product, any improvements you make will still only allow for mediocre sleep conditions so it is important to get the best fit for you. In our case, we also bought Velcro adhesives to secure inside the window panel and to the curtains so we could eliminate that remaining little bit of light that comes in (especially when the window may be open and a breeze comes through).
Basic - Foam Earplugs
If you are like me, excess noise, other than white noise, makes sleeping unbearable. Neighbors talking, dogs barking, cars driving by, hotel guests partying way too hard for 1AM on a Tuesday...it all sucks! Like wearing a sleep mask, though, I hated the idea of wearing anything in my ears - I worried that somehow it would get lodged too far in and I would never be able to get it out. But after about a year of encouragement and practice with my husband - you would think I would trust him, he's a doctor, but in my head, I kept thinking, what did he know? - I finally decided to try it. About 50% of it was the desperation I had to get some sleep while sharing a hotel room with Jordan, my mom (who snores like a Banshee) and my niece (who had a cold that made her become part of the Banshee choir for the weekend). And after surviving a night with the earbuds in - and to my surprise being able to get them out the next morning - I realized what a wonder these cheap little foam buds can be. I had slept all through the night only minimally able to hear anything else in the room. And this has rung true, now, in the worst situations - sleeping in shit hotels with paper thin walls, sleeping during the day when garbage trucks seem to come through every 6 minutes, sleeping on planes during the torture of a red-eye flight with screaming babies. The Mack's brand are just one of many I found to work well, but in reality, buy whatever is cheapest and has decent ratings...it's hard to mess up foam inserts.
Level Up - BOSE Sleepbuds
Now, for me, I am content with my foam inserts and some Amazon Sleep Sounds from Alexa on my Echo Dot. But for some, especially my husband with having the ridiculous schedule of doctor in emergency medicine or for many of you who have, perhaps, ears more sensitive to sound or who need a little more support to focus on sleep, the newly developed BOSE Sleepbuds are an amazing option. They are a bit pricey (typically around $250) but, like much of BOSE products, you are definitely paying for the quality and longevity. They are a brand with longstanding consumer support and trust and even though I have not seen how these hold up for years on end at this point, I know that the impact they have had on people who use them for sleep, is astronomical. But to be safe, and to be sure you really need them and they aren't simply a glorified foam insert, start with the earplugs and some white noise. If that doesn't work, then start looking to level up!
Calm - Magnesium Powder
This stuff is magic! It's not a sleep agent, per se, but it helps me relax and slow my brain down enough to allow the sleep process to begin. I take one small dose every night in warm water, like I would drink tea and then work through my sleep routine/virtual and mental shut down.
But the most important thing is to make sure that you take this in recommended doses and to be sure you consult your doctor about starting this. Too much can have an impact on dreams (for some people) and your GI system so your medical provider will be the best to work with you in making sure this is the best choice.
Gunnar Optiks Glasses
These glasses work similar to the app below - "f.lux" - in that they are meant to help protect your eyes by blocking blue light, reducing eye strain and help you sleep better. If you are like me, you like to read at night. Haha, just kidding, we all know this is not me! But a lot of people I know, do. And with the influx of people with tablets, iPads, smartphones, etc, more and more people are reading on their devices, which, while convenient for space, etc, is not the best on your eyes. These glasses help reduce blue light emitted from your device and reduce any eye strain. They are super comfortable (I have worn them when staying up late working on a presentation) and have no negative impact on my vision. Whats more, I have laid them directly over my regular glasses and even though I feel a bit weird with 2 pairs of lasses on, it is not uncomfortable.
And BONUS, some of the models even have magnification on them for people who need readers!
"f.lux" - Computer Application
I love this application! It is meant to help make your computer model the changes from daytime to nighttime sun/light, removing the harshness of the screen display as the sun is "setting". You are always able to disable this should you need to, but in reality, it is a gradual change that does wonders on helping your eyes not stare at such intense light as you are entering evening hours and does not effect my work on my computer. The only thing I think may be impacted is that the screen becomes warmer in colors so if you are working on something color specific, you may need to turn off the app for the evening or, if you are not on a tight deadline, perhaps give your eyes the break and pick it back up tomorrow!
White Noise Cellphone Apps
If you find yourself having to sleep in places other than your home even once every few months, I think it is imperative you have a white noise app on your phone or computer! After all, you never know what noise disruptions there will be around you (or the opposite, as all have been in that room too quiet for comfort). Here is a list with some of the top rated apps you can add to your phone. I personally use "White Noise" for iPhone, but again, what works well for one, may not work for everyone so I suggest getting a few and trying them out!
"Sleep Cycle" - Cellphone App
Tracking my sleep, though something I resisted for a long time, has proven to be really helpful for me. I can see the level of sleep I am able to get to. I can look at trends of how long it takes to fall asleep or when I tend to wake up in the middle of the night. I can also correlate that to my mood and activities (like working out, drinking, etc) to help me better understand how my body is impacted by various things. Every data point helped me know where and what changes to make for me, including learning that if I work out too late in the day, my sleep is negatively affected. The app I use, "Sleep Cycle", has worked best for me but there are tons of other apps to look into. Check out some of them here.
Found your own apps and products to help you sleep? Send me your secrets so we can keep growing this list together! After all, what works for one, may not work for everyone :)