I’m writing this post about how I’ve figured out how to get a good night’s sleep at 3 am. It’s because I didn’t follow my tips for the best night’s sleep and am paying the price. But heck, my mistake inspired me to write this post, so it’s not all bad, right? Here are some of the issues I’ve dealt with regarding falling asleep and staying asleep, and how I have resolved them.
My Sleep Struggles
I recently turned 46 and for the past few years, have struggled with sleep.
- I am exhausted but by the time I change and wash my face and brush my teeth, my mind is wide awake, and I struggle to go to sleep.
- I go to bed freezing, but later wake because I am overheated and sweating. I also deal with the occasional wake me in the middle of the night hot flash.
- I wake up at 3 am, almost by clockwork. It’s an instantaneous wake, as though an alarm went off and it’s nearly impossible to get back to sleep.
- I’m tense while I sleep. I wake with shoulder, neck, and upper back pain from hunching my shoulders or curling into a tight ball. That tight ball can also cause my arms to go numb, which will wake me up from a deep sleep.
- Sleep doesn’t feel restful. It seems I go to bed with my mind racing, thinking of my to-do list or replaying the day and next thing, the alarm is going off and I still have those same thoughts in my head. If it’s not a replay of the day, it’s a song (tonight it’s “Don’t Lose My Number” by Phil Collins).
Can you relate to any of these sleep issues? If so, keep reading. I hope what I found to solve my sleep issues may also help you!
My Tips for the Best Night's Sleep
Below I share categories of ways I have changed my routine, diet, and processes for going to sleep and staying comfortably asleep all night. I also share some products, apps, and other tips for the best night's sleep I've had in years.
Create a Bedtime Ritual
This is something that I have done for years, but with the ‘demic I sort of got out of habit. But by having the same bedtime every night, getting ready for bed at the same time, having a process, it really gets my mind in the sleep mindset.
At 9:30 it’s time for my kid to get ready for bed; while she gets ready, I get ready. I change into my pajamas, floss and brush, and I’ll wash my face and apply any treatment or serum. Then I meet my kid in her room where we may read for a bit or talk until it’s lights out.
I then head to my room where I apply moisturizer over whatever else I put on my face, and head to my nightstand where I apply the rest of my bedtime products (cuticle oil, hand cream, lip balm, and an oil to pat over my face and collarbone), and take my CBD. I can feel my mind winding down as I apply these products, my whole body is used to this ritual and knows what comes next – sleep.
Having this as a ritual means I am also kinder to my face and body by caring for it every night without fail. If I tell myself I am too tired to go through with it all, I end up having restless sleep. It’s worth it to stick to my bedtime ritual.
Control the Temperature
Temperature has been the hardest thing to figure out when trying to get a restful night’s sleep. I can be freezing when I get into bed, but by midnight I am kicking off the covers (and minutes later shivering). I also have started to experience the occasional hot flash. I have done a few things to control the temperature for a good night’s sleep:
Embr Wave: My husband saw an ad for this temperature-regulating bracelet and immediately purchased one for me. I now wear my Embr Wave every night at bed. If I am in bed reading for a bit and am cold, I set it for 10 minutes on the warm setting while wearing socks. This combination will warm up my body to a comfortable level. Then I take off my socks and set the Embr Wave for 8 hours of cool, which helps prevent the middle of the night wake up in a sweat experience I was sometimes having. Click here to read my Embr Wave review.
Bamboo Sheets: I’ve tried cooling mattress pads, cooling pillows, and sheets of eucalyptus, percale, Supima, and linen. And then I tried bamboo and I am a convert. I have these organic bamboo sheets from Ettitude and they’re awesome. I have the Cloud Pink color which is more like a peachy/blush/glow color. The fabric is super soft and silky, but not clingy and they do feel cool even after lying on them all night.
Soma Cool Nights Pajamas: Being so hot at night, I thought maybe I’d be more comfortable going commando. Nope, I found I was even hotter. Pajamas, if they are of the right fabric, can wick moisture from the body and with it, make your body feel cooler. Just like with sheets, I’ve tried almost every fabric that claims to regulate temperature and nothing does it for me as well as Soma Cool Nights Pajamas. Seriously, these pajamas determine whether or not I’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Good thing they’re cute as well as comfortable; I love the variety of prints and silhouettes. For sizing, I usually wear a size 14 and Soma's size large is quite comfortable.
Bearaby Tree Napper Blanket: My husband bought a weighted blanket several years ago and was instantly in love. I have tried his blanket but I got overheated, but loved how the weight helped me fall asleep faster and experience deeper sleep. Looking for something that would provide the weight without being a sleep sauna, I found Bearaby. Bearaby's Tree Napper is made from cooling eucalyptus and is a loose weave making it a summer-friendly weighted blanket. It’s small, like it will fit one body not rolling around a lot, but it’s just the right amount of weight and size to help me sleep soundly without overheating. It also helps me not be that sleeper rolling around a lot. I've been intrigued by Bearaby's Sleeper, which comes in three sizes and is also made from eucalyptus.
Quiet the Mind
The issue I deal with most is an overactive mind. I will wake with a start at 3 in the morning because I remembered something I forgot to put into a blog post, rehashing a conversation with a friend, or thinking about that coming day’s tasks. Going to bed, I can think of all the things I need to do, and I seem to find inspiration just as my head hits the pillow. I’ve tried a lot of different tactics, these are what work for me:
- Stay away from the phone: This is easier said than done when your phone is your business. But what I have started doing it stay off as much as possible from 8 pm until bedtime. I will reply to a text from my family or closest friends, and I will do a quick check of DMs and emails once an hour or so if I have a campaign that is time-sensitive, but that’s it. It's hard to do, but when I don't scroll through Twitter while brushing my teeth, I have a much better night's sleep.
- CBD: I started using CBD a few years ago to reduce inflammation and aches. It helped with my lower back, which has been problematic since a teen and also helped with workout recovery. I learned it also helped me with staying asleep. I started taking CBD drops at bedtime and it would help me fall asleep, but I was looking for something to help me stay asleep. When I switched to softgels, which are slower release, I found it helped me stay asleep and helped keep those middle of the night hot flashes at bay. I use Equilibria CBD; click here to read my Equilibria CBD review. If you'd prefer to smoke CBD (yes that's a thing, no it doesn't get you high, and yes it's legal), I shop Tweedle Farms.
- Guided Meditation: I took meditation classes, paid for apps, saved binaural beats playlists on YouTube and Spotify, but none really helped me sleep. Surprisingly, the one thing that has helped is guided meditations on the Peloton app. Voice matters to me, as well as security. It made me uncomfortable to listen to a guided meditation from someone I didn’t know as I found on YouTube, and a lot of the voices on the apps drove me bonkers. I think the practical and calm Peloton instructors are the vibe my brain likes, and I feel confident knowing these instructors are vetted and their content reviewed before it ends up on the app. My favorite instructor is Chelsea Jackson Roberts, but there are a variety of instructors and sleep/relaxation guided meditations available from 5 minutes to a half-hour in length.
- Noise-canceling earbuds: I bought this Bluetooth headband to comfortably listen to my phone while sleeping but I don’t love it. The discs the audio comes out of aren’t on the sides but more like on my temples, and there’s the big battery pack/power button thingie either in the middle of my forehead/over one’s third eye (if you believe in that) or else at my nape pressing in as I am on the pillow. My husband got me the Jaybird Vista waterproof earbuds as a birthday gift and I was surprised to also find them noise-canceling and comfortable enough to wear as I fall asleep (I end up pulling them out half-asleep at the end of my meditation or later in the evening). You can’t sleep on your side and be comfy in these, but the combo of the noise canceling/cocoon feeling of the ears plugged up and the guided meditation works well for me.
- Journaling: When I do get that idea for content, instead of emailing it to myself (my old method) or writing it in the Notes app on my phone, I now open up a journal and jot it down. I’ve learned to bring the journal with me in the bathroom while getting ready for bed because I often get ideas while brushing my teeth. I don’t write daily entries, but I do put the date on each page, even if it’s a bulleted list or random phrases because it’s still a diary of my mind at that time.
Adjust the Diet
This was by far the hardest change to improve my sleep, but after doing it, I can’t imagine going back. It really is hard to see the benefit unless you commit to it for six weeks. After that, you can decide if it makes a difference and if it’s worth it to you for a good night’s rest.
- Cut out alcohol: When the ‘demic started, I cut out alcohol. My husband didn’t drink so we didn’t have it in the house and I wasn’t going out. I didn’t notice, then I missed it very much, then I felt all self-righteous for being sober for so long, and then it just became life. And now I do have a glass or two of wine a month when I visit my mom, but the times when I do drink, I have a much more erratic night’s sleep and experience more hot flashes, busy mind, and waking up in the middle of the night.
- Cut out dairy: When the ‘demic started, I also ended up going plant-based since my husband was plant-based and he’s the primary cook for the family. I was not thrilled about going plant-based, especially when it came to dairy. I love cheese, and no matter how much innovation happens, there is no vegan alternative that can replace a great cheese. But what I found was by cutting out dairy, I cut out a lot of my allergies. I thought they were seasonal; I had allergies all my life and got shots when I was a kid. But by cutting out dairy, I cut out my perma-stuffy nose, a lot of snoring, and erratic sleep from erratic breathing.
- No coffee after 1 pm: This is the reason why I am writing this before sunrise. My day ended up being so busy my cup of coffee was untouched at 3 pm so I grabbed it and drank it while driving to a location for a photoshoot. Bad move. I've been playing with the time, wanting to be able to justify an afternoon cup of joe, but really if I go beyond 1 pm, I will be up at 1 am. I don't drink any kind of caffeinated beverage after 1 pm for the best results.
- Drink a lot more water: I have a 32 oz water bottle (this one to be exact, and to be exact I have four of them). If I drink at a minimum, two of them on top of my morning coffee, afternoon La Croix, and evening tea, I sleep well. If I drink less than that, I find all sorts of side effects. The first one is I find I am colder before bed and more likely to wake up in the middle of the night hot. Staying very well hydrated during the day means I am not thirsty before bed, causing me to drink water and then having to get up to use the bathroom. My mouth doesn’t get so gummy feeling, and I seem to clench my jaw less when I am hydrated. It also makes my skin look fantastic!
Get the Body Ready for Rest
As soon as I turned 40, it was like a switch was flipped. Not only did I have trouble sleeping, I had all sorts of body aches and pains. I would wake up so stiff and uncomfortable, and sometimes my back, hips, and legs would wake me before my alarm.
- Stretch before sleep: Again, I need to rave about the Peloton app, which has a variety of stretching classes of all lengths, abilities, purposes, and body parts. As a family, we regularly do a Peloton stretch before heading upstairs for bed. A 10-minute full-body or lower-body stretch makes a major difference in how I sleep. It not only keeps my lower half comfortable all night, but I’ve found even if I do a lower body stretch, I am less likely to clench my jaw or curl up in a tight ball while sleeping, meaning I wake with less jaw, neck, and shoulder pain (and no arms that have fallen asleep in the middle of the night!).
- Use a neti pot: I've written before about the benefits of using a neti pot, but I need to share it here as well. Since changing my diet and using a neti pot every evening, the allergies that have plagued me since I was a toddler are no more. But the biggest benefit to my sleep is I no longer snore. While my snoring may not have woken me up, it disturbed my sleep and I wake up far more rested now that I dont snore. I bought this neti pot kit a year ago; I never used the drops but do like the shape of the pot and the jar of salt lasts for several months.
- Apply CBD: Part of my bedtime ritual is also applying CBD salve to any parts of the body that are achy or cranky. I swear by Equilibria’s CBD Relief Cream; I’ve tried at least a dozen CBD creams, lotions, and salves over the year and this one is the most effective with the best consistency. I apply it to my cuticles (also a great hydrator and skin healer), my lower back, and depending on how I am feeling and that day’s workout, my knees, and feet.
If I had a harder than normal Peloton ride or wanting to do a preventative measure before a tough workout, I like Lord Jones and Happy Dance for larger body parts. It is astounding how well a topical product can help with pain reduction, and can also prevent any aches that happen over the night from lying down or being in an odd position.
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Other Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
There are plenty of other things I do to help have a better night’s sleep. Using electrical tape to cover any light coming from chargers or outlets, having my phone away from me, regularly replacing the sheets (nothing better than slipping into a bed with fresh sheets), investing in a new pillow (I’ve tried many and Casper continues to be my favorite while my husband is a fan of Saatva)… I am constantly looking for ways to improve my sleep situation.
Over this past year, I have been able to take the time to analyze my sleep, track what I did and what was the result, and how I perform based upon what I did the night before. To find success even through a year of such stress is empowering.
This year, I also was able to see the benefits of investing in a good night's sleep. Better and more sleep means a sharper mind, means I am better able to handle stress, less likely to get sick, less likely to get angry or fly off the handle, makes me want to exercise more, and also has me desire different foods and have fewer cravings. A good night's sleep is also better than any fancy serum for improving the look of my skin!
What works for me may not work for you. But if you’re struggling with sleep, one of my tips for the best night's sleep may be just what you needed to get a good night’s rest. And if you have additional suggestions on how to get better sleep, do share them in the comments!