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It's mid-January. How are those cliché resolutions going? Have you resolved to adopt a new diet or exercise routine?
Looking for a less challenging way to meaningfully improve your health? Try getting more sleep!
We take for granted the importance of sleeping well; improving your sleep can do wonders for your physical and mental health.
Inadequate sleep has been shown to increase the risk of many serious health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and depression.
There are basic things you can do to improve your sleep (as listed in the infographic below from 'No Sleepless Nights').
As an MD (and someone who gets spectacularly cranky when she doesn't get enough), I take my sleep very seriously. I also happen to be a light sleeper married to a very loud snorer (we're talking world-record-worthy!). Needless to say, I go above and beyond the basics to protect my slumber.
In addition to optimizing my sleep hygiene as outlined above, I've discovered six material things that have drastically improved my quality of sleep over the years.
If you're in the middle of your no-spend month, you may want to revisit this post at a later date...
Essentials for A Solid Night's Sleep
1. A Sleep Mask
We get our best sleep in complete darkness, since we make more melatonin (the hormone that tells your body it's time to sleep) when it's dark; exposure to light suppresses melatonin production. Thus, darker sleeping environments are associated with less frequent wakings and deeper, more restorative sleep.
We have 'blackout' blinds in the bedroom, but even those let a little light in around the edges. And, don't even get me started on why every freakin' electrical gadget is adorned with an unnecessarily intense, little blue or green light! As if we need visible proof the humidifier's plugged in???. (My husband says my eyelids must be paper thin, as none of this bothers him.)
I use a sleep mask to block out every. little. bit. of light. Without one, I can't sleep past sunrise (though it's a rare occurrence for my four-year-old to sleep in past 6:30 am---even on the weekends...goddamnit...).
Set of 3 Contoured Sleep Masks ($12.99 Amazon.com). These are the sleep masks I use.
I love that the parts that go over your eyes are hollowed out. That way, they don't put any pressure on your eyes---a lifesaver for eyelash extensions!
2. Ear Plugs
My husband's snoring is no joke; I'm completely and utterly dependent on ear plugs. Average snoring is between 60 and 90 decibels and my ear plugs block out around 30 of those.
Foam Ear Plugs - 200 Pairs ($21.30, Amazon.com). Yes, you need this many when you wear them every night!
While they're a start, ear plugs alone don't cut it. I combine them with a white noise machine (below) to completely obliterate spousal snoring.
3. A White Noise Machine
When my son was born, we started using a white noise machine in his room to prevent the hallway hubbub from disrupting his slumber. He's four now and I haven't been able to sleep without one ever since.
As soon as I hear the soothing, low-pitched drone of our sound machine, it's like a switch goes off in my head telling me it's bedtime! The sound's somewhere between that of an electric fan and the sound inside of an airplane cabin (there's actually a small fan inside creating the noise!). In addition to helping drown out Eric's epic snoring, there's something soothing and almost hypnotic about it.
Our sound machine: the Marpac Dohm White Noise Sound Machine ($38.58, Amazon.com). The secret to the perfect drown-out-almost-anything sound? The little fan inside creates a deep, low-tech tone.
I'm extremely picky when it comes to sound machines. Our previous one was one of the best-selling sound machines on the market, yet I found the sound too tinny and could detect a distracting, repetitive pattern in it.
Homedics Sound Spa Relaxation Machine ($18.12, Amazon.com). This was our first sound machine.
My son's not as picky, and this one still serves him well in his room. (For a peak into my son's minimalist boy's room, click here!)
4. A Weighted Blanket
There's been so much buzz about weighted blankets the past couple of years that I finally caved and put one on my Christmas wish list this past year. Claims abound about how they're a panacea for everything from autism to anxiety and, of course, insomnia. A popular theory is that deep, consistent pressure calms the body by increasing the release of serotonin (a 'feel good' hormone), which is also a pre-cursor for melatonin (the sleep hormone).
After much research, this is the weighted blanket I settled on: YnM Weighted Blanket ($95, Amazon.com). It's one of the most reasonably priced weighted blankets out there.The model looks like she could use a little more weight in her blanket...
I couldn't find a credible source on the physiology of how weighted blankets improve sleep. I only know from personal experience that it works for me! I feel like I've been getting to sleep more quickly and waking up less frequently since I've had one in my life.
Well before the invention of the weighted blanket, I'd sleep with a hefty duvet pulled all the way up around my face. Even in the summer, I'd sleep with the AC on full blast in order to continue using a winter-rated down duvet! The weighted blanket allows me this level of comfort without over-heating.
At first, I found the added weight of the blanket took some getting used to (you're supposed to choose one that's about 10% of your weight), but after a couple of nights, I stopped noticing the extra weight.
5. A Comfortable Pillow
It goes without saying that having a comfortable place to rest your head is crucial to sleeping well and avoiding waking up with a crick in your neck.
What makes a pillow comfortable will vary from one person to the next. For me, the Obus Forme Cervical Pillow has been a godsend. Because I spend a good part of my day perched in front of a computer screen, I'm prone to neck strain. I find that this pillow, with it's ergonomic neck support, seems to realign my neck overnight, allowing me to wake up without neck stiffness.
Obus Forme Neck & Neck 4-in-1 Cervical Pillow ($59.95, Amazon.com).
6. A Mattress With Motion Isolation
As luck would have it, not only is my husband an aggressive snorer, but he has a wicked case of the 'Jimmy legs.' You may recall me lamenting about this in my Leesa mattress review...
Our Leesa mattress has been a game changer. It's completely neutralized both my husband's Jimmy legs and the movement from our dog jumping on and off the bed throughout the night.
Leesa Memory Foam Mattress, Queen ($845, Amazon.com).
There you have it, my six essentials for a solid night's sleep!
Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on how to make the most out of selling your used stuff online, cheap date night ideas, minimalist baby registry essentials and how to create a capsule wardrobe!
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