How to sleep like a baby, every night

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In my last post, I talked about 5 ways I’m taking care of myself these days, and the first one I referenced was SLEEP.

A few months ago, I wasn’t sleeping well and it was having pretty bad affects on my lifestyle. I was far less productive than I needed to be, I was cranky and irritable, I had really low patience, and my food cravings were all over the place.

On a day when I DID get a great night sleep, I was like a different person than on days when I didn’t get a good night sleep the night prior. There was such a drastic difference.

It made me realize how incredibly crucial getting good sleep is to my health and happiness in my life. I knew that if I wanted to have the output in my business and personal life that I desired, I really needed to nurture my sleep.

So, for the first time, I decided to really take the importance of my sleep into my own hands and put it high on my priority list. I was determined to figure out how to get consistent better sleep every night.

After reading about sleep and a lot of trial and error, my sleep has drastically improved. I can pretty much count on the fact that I’ll sleep really well every night and wake up feeling refreshed.  I can’t even tell you how big of a game changer this has been for me!

I have so much more energy, I’m way calmer, my food cravings have balanced out (as in, I crave vegetables sometimes too! not just sugar and carbs), and I’m able to handle whatever comes my way much easier.

So, here are a few things I’ve been doing for better sleep. Below, in the comments, I’d love to hear what you do to ensure a good night sleep!

  1. I shut down technology way earlier: This is probably something you’ve heard before, but it really does work. I know, I was also reluctant to do this, but the truth it, it takes my brain a while to calm down. Shutting down technology about an hour before I’m trying to fall asleep has been helping me SO much. That means I shut off my TV, phone, and computer and move to journaling, reading, or some other mellow non-tech activity before bed. I’ve come to love this ritual – it is so calming!
  2. I don’t work at night: I’ve never really been a nighttime worker, but sometimes I find myself saying “oh just answer these emails now, so you don’t have to wake up to them” and then a few emails turns into a few more, and with that, more stress, and more things firing off in my brain. When I finally get to bed, my brain is fully revved up, and I find it really hard to all asleep. So, I’ve had to be really firm with myself: NO working at night. Of course I can’t always get around this, but I try as hard as I can.
  3. I plug my phone in across my apartment (not next to the bed): As you can see, I’ve noticed that better sleep is highly correlated with less technology! Putting my phone physically on the other end of the apartment (I live in a Studio, otherwise, I’d probably put it in another room) helps me create not just physical distance, but mental distance from my phone and everything that’s on it. It’s one more way I signal to myself that it’s time for bed and for the “constantly connected” time of my day to come to and end. I move from focusing on the outside world to focusing on myself. Obviously, it keeps me off my phone, too!
  4. I breathe in Lavender Essential Oil: I had an idea to have a certain scent that signaled to my brain that it was bed time, so I use a Lavender Essential Oil. I keep it on my nightstand, and when I’m all cozied up in bed, I drip a little onto my hands and wrists, rub them together, and then holding my hands up to my face, take a few deep inhales. It instantly relaxes me and who knows, maybe it is signaling to my brain that it’s time for bed. Sometimes I also put a little oil on my pillow and my upper lip (right below my nose) so that I keep smelling it a bit longer. For anyone interested, I use this oil. 
  5. I wear an eye mask (and occasionally ear plugs): I had never worn an eye mask or ear plugs before, but in an effort to seriously improve my sleep, I decided to go all in. I ordered an eye mask and ear plugs off amazon, and started using them every night. Living in NYC in a street-facing apartment, it’s incredibly loud. Plus, my blinds are decent but with all this summer light, my apartment was never really dark. Wearing an eye mask and ear plugs took some getting used to, and to be honest, I try not to wear the ear plugs unless I really need to (these can’t be good for your ears if you wear them every day can they?), but I feel really comfortable wearing both now and they’ve been a huge help.
  6. I keep Melatonin in my nightstand just in case (but try not to use it that often): I don’t really like using any supplements (I am really stubborn with that stuff!), but I would rather take Melatonin, which is natural, every now and then if I absolutely need it than not get a good night sleep. I use Melatonin if my mind is particularly active. This could be if I have a major high-stress work function the next day or if I am going through something particularly stressful. I try all of my other steps first, but if I just know that I’m going to have a particularly hard time falling asleep, I’ll take a low dose of Melatonin. It’s nice to know I have something to fall back on if I absolutely need it, but thankfully I rarely need to use it.
  7. I protect my sleep with my schedule: This has also been a HUGE game changer. Even though I’m constantly tempted to go out or stay out late, my sleep right now has become a non negotiable. I have SO much going on with work, and I can’t afford to not have a good night sleep these days. So I’m still having a ton of fun in my life and doing something social most nights, but I’m keeping an eye on the clock and ensuring that I’m home in time to get a solid 8 hours. Of course this doesn’t alwwwayyys happen (you also gotta live a little!) but I try really hard to get 8 hours most nights and make less “exceptions” than I used to.

All of these little steps combined have really helped me get solid sleep almost every night. Not only has the sleep itself helped me, but also the peace of mind that I pretty much KNOW I’ll get a good night sleep every night. I used to have so much anxiety not knowing if I would sleep well, and that’s just not a fun feeling to have.

I’m so curious about this one… do you sleep well? What do you do in order to ensure a good night sleep? If you’re not sleeping well, what do you think is getting in your way? Let’s discuss!

Love,
Jamie

P.S. My friends at Casper, a start-up that has been committed to sleep by creating a great mattress sent me these cute little sleep cards that I thought were nifty and wanted to pass along:

Casper_sleep_problem_card_ALT_sunday_v01 Casper_sleep_problem_card_ALT_noise_v01 Casper_sleep_problem_card_ALT_nottired_v01
Casper_sleep_problem_card_ALT_busy_v01Casper_sleep_problem_card_ALT_anxiety_v01
Casper_sleep_problem_card_ALT_hunger_v01

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  1. These are great tips!

    One of my favorite ways to fall asleep if I’m struggling is to a guided meditation. I have an app on my phone called “insite timer” (which actually goes against the idea of putting your phone away from your bed)…but these are great for “emergency” when I really can’t fall asleep. Once I put on the meditation, I fall right asleep.

    Another way to do this without technology is just to focus on the breath…deep breath in, and on the breath out, say “one” (or any word of your choice) in your mind. Continue that cycle of focusing on the breath and that one word, and before you know it you’ll be passed out :)

    • Love these tips Lauren! I haven’t heard of that app, but I will check it out. I really love the breathing exercise, I need more of that!

  2. I have terrible insomnia, always have. (In fact I’m writing a blog post on it now!) Ambien works, but I’m scared to take it on a regular basis, it’s so strong. Melatonin does nothing for me, and Unisom or other over the counters leave me groggy in the morning so I feel worse than if I don’t sleep at all. I’ve tried the bedtime ritual but I just get so wired and anxious at night–I worry about things, which is silly bc I have a great life! (But I have three kids–hence, worries.) :)

    I really appreciate this article. I’ve seen sleep specialists, cut caffeine, etc.–does anyone have advice for a hard-core insomniac like me? :) If not that’s ok–I enjoy your posts, Jamie!

    • Hey Jennifer,
      Hmmm….I wonder if there are things you can do to reduce worry in general. I know, SO much easier said than done, but it sounds like that’s really the root cause you’d need to go to. This may sound cliche, but have you tried meditating or journaling on a regular basis in order to get a lot of your thoughts out and to calm down? I also have a really overactive brain, and I need LOTs of ways to get all the thoughts out of my head. This includes coaching, therapy, talking to friends, journaling, meditating, writing, etc. Let me know what you thinK! xo.

  3. I took a course in school last year called Sleep and Dreams, which is dedicated to teaching us about the importance of sleep. Something I learned in this course is that you can cure insomnia (which is defined as any one instance when you can’t fall asleep – it doesn’t have to be on a regular basis) by forcing yourself to wake up at your desired wake-up time every morning and adjust your bedtime and take naps accordingly. Even though we try to schedule a set bedtime, if you can’t fall asleep, you just can’t fall asleep – however, you can, to a certain extent, force yourself to stay awake even if you are sleep-deprived. If you wake up at your desired wake-up time every morning, you might feel a bit off for a few days, but take a few naps, and your sleep habits will adjust accordingly, and you will eventually be able to fall asleep and wake up naturally at your desired times every night and morning.

    I agree with Jamie in that sleep is so important, and too often we sacrifice sleep in order to fulfill work and personal obligations in our lives, or we would rather receive instant gratification from late-night self-indulging activities instead of taking care of our bodies’ needs to rest and sleep. However, when I do not get enough sleep, not only do I feel extremely sleep-deprived the next day, but I also put the safety of myself and others on the line when I bike or drive while sleep-deprived. For me, it is all about recognizing that I physically do not feel good when I do not obtain enough sleep, and I would much rather be wide awake and alert in my classes and when hanging out with my friends. In the end, my body deserves better, and I deserve to take better care of myself in order to enjoy life to the fullest.

    • Sunny, I love this. thank you for sharing your knowledge and perspective. I like how you said you are looking out not only for yourself but for others too — I know that I am a MUCH better person all around when I have sleep. That course you took sounds awesome. Where did you take that?

  4. Oh, gosh, my sleep has been way, way off this year; I love this article. I used to put chamomile or lavender on my pillow (it’s so luxurious and comforting) but it ran out so this is a good reminder to get some more! I’ve been on my laptop and my phone much too late this year, it’s throwing off my sleep and schedule, so exercising some discipline around that will help me get into a better routine I know. Because I’m a much better worker in the morning/daytime anyway, have always been an early bird. All the points I was nodding along. Thank you for this! :) <3 xx

  5. Hi, Jamie! Love following your work after Emory! I used to feel bad leaving a party or dinner at 9:30 in order to prioritize my sleep, but now that people like Ariana Huffington have spoken out about the importance of sleep, I feel more confident saying this. It doesn’t matter if the group says “one minute/drink/dance” more. Without a solid sleep schedule, I wouldn’t have been able to show up to that dinner in the first place!

    • Hey Bridget. So great to hear from you! I totally agree. It’s hard sometimes to say no in those environments, but we have to take care of ourselves first. Some people aren’t as affected by a lack of sleep, but I’m certainly not one of them :) Glad to hear you’re getting more comfortable with prioritizing yourself, keep it up! xo.

  6. I recently became aware of Hush earplugs which will play white and other noises to increase its decibel effectiveness threshold. I often get awoken by sounds and I can’t wear regular ear plugs because of tinnitus. I have worn the Hush earplugs and think they or others like them could do a lot for people partnered with snorers or living in a noisy area.

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