The holidays are upon us, and for many this means traveling and sleeping in the family guest room or a hotel room. Or it might mean many more things to think about, late nights and disrupted schedules. With that in mind, I thought I would share some of the things I do to nurture a good night’s sleep.
1. Black out. Make your room as dark as possible. Sometimes just hanging an extra pair of drapes at the window will help. (I used a holiday gift card to buy blackout drapes last year, and they have been worth every penny. Plus, they have the added benefit of adding extra insulation to the windows.) Turn off all extra lights, set your clock on its lowest light setting and do everything you can to make your room dark. If you’re staying in a hotel room with a gap under the door, stuff a towel in the gap to eliminate the light and muffle the sounds. Which leads us to tip #2…
2. Say what? Do everything you can to make the space quiet. One product I’ve discovered that has revolutionized my sleep life is Hearos ear plugs. These are ultra-soft foam earplugs that you compact and slip into your ear. As they slowly expand, they drown out all the noise. They’re lifesavers when you’re staying in a hotel that has those loud slamming doors, or when your room is situated near the ice machine or the elevator. (By the way, this is not plug, ha ha – pun intended, for Hearos earplugs and I do not get any kickbacks or affiliate income for recommending them – they are just a product that I use and enjoy. I buy mine at Walgreen’s.)
3. Create space. Make your bedroom as restful and tidy as possible. Something about mess and clutter makes it hard to feel peaceful when we’re turning in. Take a few minutes to pick up before bedtime, and awaken to a nice, clean space. Ahhh…
4. Breathe easy. Make the air in your bedroom as healthy as possible. Don’t spray hairspray or heavy cologne in the room. Use organic sheets on your bed, if possible. (Even a pair of organic cotton pillowcases will lower your exposure to the insecticides and pesticides that are used to grow conventional cotton.) Wash your bed linens with unscented, eco-friendly detergent, and hang your sheets in the sunshine to dry if you can. The next time you repaint, choose a low-VOC paint.
5. Put it on paper. It’s funny how in the middle of the night a problem can seem so big, and in the morning it seems much smaller – have you experienced that? When I’m tossing and turning and my mind seems to be going over and over something, sometimes I’ll turn on the light, take out the little notebook I keep in the nightstand, and make a list of everything that is on my mind or all the tasks that I need to do the following day. This can really help to get those pesky thoughts out of my mind and onto paper so that I can let it be and sleep. Sometimes I also say a prayer to that very effect. If the thoughts creep back in, I say to my brain, “No. We’ve got a plan, and we’ll deal with everything tomorrow. Now go to sleep.”
6. Meditate. Think of a two syllable word, or a two-word phrase that you associate with restfulness. It could be “comfort,” “deep sleep,” “holy,” “good rest” or any word or phrase that works for you. Get very comfortable in your bed, lay your head on your pillow, inhale deeply and say the first syllable or part of the word in your mind. As you breathe out, say the second syllable or word. Try to do this twenty consecutive times. If some unpleasant thought comes into your mind, just acknowledge it and then let it float away. I rarely can get through twenty repetitions of this exercise before I’m conked out.
7. Put your brain to work. Finally, if you absolutely can’t sleep, then engage your brain in something useful. Use the time to work out a work issue, or plan an event, or solve a problem. Since I’m a writer, if I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night sometimes I’ll imagine a scene from one of my stories. I think about the characters and what they’re doing, and what they might do next in the book. Inevitably I don’t get very far before I have drifted off to sleep, but if I don’t then at least the time is spent productively working through some new ideas.
What techniques have you discovered to help you sleep well? We’d all love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Meanwhile, are your holidays unfolding the way you’d like? Be sure to take some time for yourself in the coming days, even if it’s just five minutes in your favorite chair to admire the Christmas tree or a break to sip a cup of warm tea. And if at all possible, take it easy on spending. The last couple of shopping days are notoriously bad for crazy impulse buys and crowds. Avoid the mall if you possibly can, and be good to yourself.
Sleep in heavenly peace, my friends –