Today I'm welcoming my oldest daughter Lauren to the blog as a guest contributor! Lauren is a creative (graphic and web) designer, besides being a wife and a mom to two of my darling granddaughters named Ivy and Hazel. :) I've asked her to write several posts on sleep for us, as this is an area I know many of us sometimes struggle in, and it's one she knows quite well. First, she'll tell us a bit about her story, then share two unique tips for getting better sleep.
My sleep problems began the year I became a mother. And no, it wasn’t because of the precious little girl needing to be fed a few times throughout the night. While my daughter, Ivy, and sweet husband, Robert, slept soundly through the night, I would lie awake for hours trying to go to sleep.
What began as the typical new-mom response when a baby wakes up (you know the kind - “Quick! Get the baby!” and associated adrenaline rush) turned into a challenging way of life for years.
Insomnia has been something I have struggled with for almost four years. At it’s worst, I’d get less than four hours of sleep most nights for a month or more. There were days when the thought of the impending night would loom over me, making me sick with worry as the evening came to a close.
The nights never seemed to end and I’d finally greet the day - sometimes, without even an hour of sleep - only to face the next 12 hours of caring for Ivy and as well as my second daughter, Hazel. It was extremely frustrating not being able to fall asleep or have a reason for this problem. I wasn’t ever particularly worried or stressed about anything specific. My mind would not “shut off” while the hours ticked by.
The main concern, then, became sleep itself. The anxiety stacked up like a wall that I could never seem to climb over into restful sleep.
I’ve tried many remedies and my quest for better sleep is still ongoing. I recently emerged from a months-long bout of insomnia that peaked around Thanksgiving and recently is showing signs of retreating again.
Since I've had to become a student of sleep issues, I want to pass a long some things that I've learned. You’ve probably heard of many common remedies like taking a warm bath or drinking chamomile tea. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve that you may have not considered trying. In this series of blog posts, I’ll be sharing some tips to help you get better sleep.
Today, I want to talk to you about light and darkness.
Dim the lights and device screens in the evening.
Did you know that humans are extremely sensitive to light? In fact, various wavelengths of light (remember learning about that in school?) affect the level of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles. When you are exposed to light - especially blue light wavelengths - melatonin levels are low. As the day gets darker and the sun goes down, melatonin rises to help you fall asleep, get deeper rest, and wake with alertness. However, artificial light hinders your body's ability to produce more melatonin before you go to bed. That’s why looking at screens in the evening or in bed is so bad for sleep.
Start by dimming all the lights in your home a few hours before bed. I usually just keep one or two lamps on in the living room. If you need to turn on a light during the night, use very low watt lightbulbs and avoid looking at your phone. And if you like to read in bed, use a dim reading light.
You can also take charge of your devices by dimming the blue light emitted from their screens.
- Did you know there’s a handy setting for this on the iPhone and iPad? It’s called Night Shift and it will automatically dim your screen at a set time in the evening.
- I even found another iPhone/iPad hack called Zoom that can dim your screen even more.
- If you use your computer after dark, download a free app called f.lux which also dims your screen to a more orange color.
But what about the TV screen? There’s an accessory that will help.
And by accessory, I mean eyeglasses. Because most flat screen TVs are very bright and don’t have the ability to dim the blue light, you can wear orange-tinted glasses to offset the blue. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a little extreme.” And yes, the pair of glasses I own are not cool-looking by any means!
But out of all the remedies I have tried, wearing the glasses in the evenings have made the biggest difference!
I wear these dorky lenses in the evenings beginning a few hours before bed. They are the deepest orange lenses you can get and they block all blue light, even from standard light bulbs. You can find much more attractive lenses online, but these were less than $10 and were a cheap experiment to see if it helped. When I wear the glasses, I can feel my eyes and brain relax, and I’m actually more sleepy by the time I go to bed. I believe that by incorporating these glasses into my evening routine I was able to finally get relief from weeks of sleeplessness.
I've got many more tips to share with you in the coming weeks.
I'll share things like my favorite things to listen to to promote relaxation before bed, other natural remedies, and my experience in getting professional help for my health and sleep issues.
Have you ever experienced a series of sleepless nights? I'd love to hear about it. I really look forward to talking about this important issue.