Monday, June 18, 2012

My Sleep Solution

One way that stress attacks me is by affecting my sleep patterns.  Most nights I am asleep literally seconds after my head hits the pillow (This is so annoying to my husband Jamison who will be talking away before realizing that I am already fast asleep!).   However, some nights I lay there unable to get my mind to stop.  Other nights I am suddenly wide awake my heart pounding and mind racing at 3:00AM unable to return to a peaceful slumber. 

Besides stress disturbing with my sleep pattern, my husband has a difficult time sleeping due to his chronic illness.  He is often up and down throughout the night.  I used to sleep through all of his noise and movement, but now the slightest thing can wake me up.  I may not fully come awake, but my deep sleep is still interrupted.

As a result of these interruptions, from stress or Jamison, I was exhausted.  This was impacting my mood, my decision making and overall enjoyment of life.  After reading several articles about sleep, talking with friends and trying out some options I discovered my sleep solution . . . a simple five-step ROUTINE!  I found that doing these five simple things as I crawl into bed helps me to relax and prepare my body and mind for a peaceful slumber.

STEP ONE: A hot cup of decaf tea.  Most often I enjoy a cup of Chamomile Tea with a touch of honey.  The herb chamomile is a well-known natural relaxer.  (There are many other kinds of tea.  It's important to make sure that whatever tea you drink is decaf.) 

STEP TWO: Lavender lotion applied just under my nose.  According to www.lavender-love.com, lavender calms the mind, eases stress and tension and relaxes the body.  Lavender comes in many different forms - oil, dried, lotion, powder or candles.  I've tried different forms and prefer to use it in a lotion.
STEP THREE: Sleeping Mask.  I received the BEST pair of pajamas for Christmas - thick soft flannel ones.  They came with a matching sleeping mask.  I dug it out from the bottom of my PJ drawer and gave it a try.  At first I felt really funny wearing it, but now I love it!  The mask blocks out any light from the TV, laptop or hallway.  I have quite a collection of masks now! 

STEP FOUR: Music!  I listen to Jim Brinkman or other instrumental piano music on my I-pod.  My son blasts his rock music so loud that I don't know how he sleeps through it.  I like my music quiet and calming.  Once I'm fast asleep Jamison will take my ear buds out for me or some nights I turn my I-Pod off on my own without even realizing it. 

STEP FIVE: Getting tucked in!  This may sound really silly, but it has become my favorite part of my Sleep Routine. Once I crawl into bed with my mask on and ear buds in place, Jamison pulls the covers up, tucks them in around me and kisses me on the forehead (We quickly discovered that a kiss on the lips leads to a mouthful of lavender lotion - not very pleasant!).  As a couple dealing with a chronic physical illness, this is a time of connection for us.  Jamison has struggled with feelings of not providing for his family or not being able to "take care" of me since he is unable to work and can't financially provide for us.  This is a way for him to "take care" of me and a time for me to feel taken care of.  It is very intimate and soothing.   

My routine is not always full-proof and I don't always follow all five steps every night, but I have found that even doing a couple of the steps helps me to sleep better.  There are many other things that I read about and tried that are said to help improve sleep such as a warm bath, Melatonin or a foot massage.  As with most other aspects of our health, what works for me may or may not work for you.  You have to find out what works best for you.  If you struggle with getting a good night's sleep for whatever reason, I encourage you to explore your options and find your Sleep Solution!  Getting enough sleep is an important part of leading a healthy life.

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