The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

Are you getting enough sleep?

Me neither.

I have recently developed a terrible habit of hitting my snooze button repeatedly each morning. So far, my record is 6 “snoozes.” Pathetic.

Intuitively, I know this is counterproductive. Repeatedly interrupting my last 45 minutes of sleep is not going to make me feel more rested when I eventually do drag my lazy bones out of bed.

But I’m…just…so…tired.

Why is that?

Experts say that all the time we spend wired into “glowing boxes” is messing with our brain chemistry.

Oh snap. I definitely spend a big chunk of time on the computer and on my cell phone every day. And since you’re here reading this, I’m guessing you do too.

I also have a sick addiction to watching old episodes of Criminal Minds every night. That’s the stuff of nightmares, let me tell you. Now that I know what the term “enucleate” means, I can never unknow it. {Gag.} Hey, I’ll save you the trip. An enucleator is one who removes the eyeballs of his victims. You’re welcome.

“The UNSUB’s profile indicates that he’s an eviscerating anthropophagic enucleator. Oooh, who brought donuts?”

Yep. We are a sleep-deprived nation, and it’s affecting our health.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, short sleep duration is linked with:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information
Holy CRAP! Could that many of our issues really be related to not enough shut-eye?
 
Researchers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand advise: “There is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common-sense ‘do no injury’ medical advice would be to avoid sleep deprivation.Did they say “injury or death”? Shoot…they had me at “obesity.”

I think we all better get some more sleep, people. Most adults should probably aim for about 7-8 hours a night.

Easier said than done, right? Well put down your Organic Whole Milk 3 Pump Vanilla 2 Pump Cinnamon Dolce Iced Frappuccino for two frickin’ minutes and pay attention…if you’re not too sleep-deprived to concentrate, that is. I’ve scoured the Internet for you to find all the best tips and tricks for getting a better night’s sleep!

Disclaimer: if you have a serious sleep disorder like sleep apnea or chronic insomnia, please seek real medical advice. I am not a licensed medical doctor. As if. 

Okay, here we go…

1. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. That means clutter-free, no extreme temperatures, and no TV or computers. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

Bonus points if your bedroom is painted a tranquil, sleep-friendly color from the left side of the color wheel like pale blue or green. Cool colors actually reduce your pulse rate and therefore are more likely to induce restful sleep.

2. Keep your room dark and quiet at night. Buy blackout curtains if necessary. Too much light coming through the windows will mess with your circadian rhythms (natural sleep/wake patterns) and you won’t sleep as soundly.

3. Have a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual. A hot bath, reading a book in bed, listening to relaxing music…these are all good ways to calm the mind and get it ready for sleep. Avoid exercise or electronic time an hour before bed.

4. Establish a routine. Experts agree that it is best for our internal clocks if we go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. I have one friend who puts on her jammies, washes her face, and flosses and brushes her teeth every night at 8:00 PM. She says getting her evening ablutions out of the way early discourages her from late night snacking or falling asleep in front of the TV with her makeup still on. Brilliant!

5. Limit caffeine to mornings only. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it. Yowza! Who knew? Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake. Hey, maybe we won’t need so much joe if we follow all these other tips!

6. Eat low-fat, high fiber foods. And avoiding eating three hours before you go to bed. Dr. Oz has lots of specific recommendations for foods that promote good sleep here.

7. Sleep on your back! Apparently sleeping on your stomach puts a lot of pressure on your internal organs, not to mention the wrinkles it adds to your face. Just don’t sleep on your back if you’re falling-down-drunk. All this beauty sleep won’t mean diddly-squat if you asphyxiate on your own vomit in the middle of the night. Ew!

And speaking of which…

8. Cut back on the hooch. Alcoholic beverages mess with your sleep patterns. Oh sure, a drink (or two) may initially help you fall asleep, but it also causes sleep disturbances later on in the night, resulting in less restful sleep overall. In addition, an alcoholic beverage before bedtime may make it more likely that you will wake up during the night to pee. Unless you’re totally wasted and piss your bed. Never pleasant.

9. Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep. Additionally, sleeping smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep. As if you needed another reason to quit smoking. Sheesh.

10. Sniff some lavender. Research has proven that a just a few drops of pure lavender essential oil (on a tissue under your pillow or in an aromatherapy diffusor) can help you sleep more soundly and feel more energetic the next day! Sweet! Now THIS, I can do!

11. Don’t let your pets or kids sleep with you. Sorry, co-sleepers. I know, this one’s tough for me too. But experts say that your kids’ and pets’ motion in the middle of the night can affect the quality of your sleep.

And one more, because I do enjoy a happy ending:

12. Have sex. Well what do you know?! I guess my husband is right when he says “Come on! It’s good for you!” Studies show that sex before bed helps relieve stress and release calming hormones that will help you to sleep more soundly. Bom-chicka-wha-whaaa!

Alrighty then, friends. We have our marching orders. Let’s go get some sleep!

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

30 Comments

  1. I always wondered what the dude that removes eye-balls was called… now I know!! The Wizard of Oz has got nuttin’ on you, Iris!!

  2. Right there with you. Alexis-Sleep=Angry Troll

    For me the troll transformation is pretty quick. 1-2 bad nights and I’m a growling limping hunchback. Honestly I think most people fit this category, I’m just one of the few who actually ADMITS it 😉

    We have a no screen time (computer) after 9:00 PM rule (TV is OK but never in the bedroom). Feels a bit 1980s to actually put a curfew on screen time but I find that a) we stop talking to each other (both lulled into silence as we worship the glowing screens) and b) Yes the light interferes with your body’s production of melatonin (ex. brain sleep chemical). No screens allowed in the bedroom ever.

    Also was recently told by an actual feng shui expert that the bedroom art should be kid-free. Was sort of shocked (our bedroom is covered in kid art!) but yeah…apparent is not good for the sex life OR sleep. So no pictures of kids, art kids made, etc. In the bedroom. Who knew?!?!

    • That is GREAT advice! It makes perfect sense… hard to get your groove on when you’re looking at a macaroni self-portrait of your toddler. More bedroom decluttering, here I come! Thanks Alexis!

  3. Iris: as usual, you crack me up. I have narcolepsy, so sleep is a big issue for me. Just wanted to say I LOVE the photo of your kids reading together in the bunk beds. Nobody is even enucleating (is that the proper usage?) their sibling for extremities touching faces!!! Wow! And the classic photo of the kid, and the dog, and the momma racked out on what looks to be a fold out couch bed in the living room. Surely that isn’t you??? Maybe a holiday with out of town guests has relegated this poor woman to sleeping in the middle of the homes public area? Never a good way to induce restful sleep in my experience. A few days with my mother-in-law will cause me to sleep standing up. Exhausting. Great photos, great info, great laugh for the day. Thanks!

    • Thanks Meili! I confess, that poor woman on the sofa bed with the dog in the crotch IS me. I was pregnant with Bucket Head at the time, and you were right, we did have out of town guests! And yes, that pic of the kids with the feet in the faces cracked me up too! Thanks for getting it!

      And sorry to hear about the narcolepsy. That must be dangerous and exhausting! And/or very convenient in social settings when you want to end a conversation.

  4. I agree with the bedroom art. Our is rather naughty. 🙂

    And sex before bed definitely leads to better sleep.

    Unless you smoke a cigarette after…

  5. And I am thinking you ladies haven’t even hit the trigger of menopause yet! It gets even worse! Night sweats, hot flashes. Yippee! One thing that has helped me with all the above is exercise. Early in the day, not in the afternoon or evening. Cause I am sorry, I am just NOT giving up my bedroom TV, Computer, iPod, or my knitting. If I do I have to sit through every John Wayne/Clint Eastwood/Spaghetti Western offered on tv. And I won’t do that. I just won’t.

    • Oh I hear you sister! I have a TV in my bedroom too (for now). It is my backup TV in case The Gatekeeper has the remote. But I’m not sleeping well, so I might have to give it up. And yes, the morning exercise is a must!! I agree!

  6. I’m surprised exercise didn’t make the list – I found that the times I have been working out or more active during the day, I sleep much more soundly at night. I think there is a ton of published evidence that supports this.

    Other tips would be:
    Don’t have kids;
    Don’t have dogs that only like to sleep under your side of the bed and bark & fart during their doggie nightmares;
    Don’t marry someone who isn’t temperature compatible with you (I crave A/C, she will be the first human on the surface of the sun);
    Don’t live in NYC and especially not next door to a 76 story high rise that is under construction;
    Don’t have a similar name to a celebrity and get crank calls at 3 AM;

    And most importantly…
    Be as shallow and vapid as possible to avoid ever laying awake and contemplating things like the universe and your role within it, climate change, the stock market, political gridlock, the economy, international geopolitics, people you’ve wronged, people who’ve wronged you, the time in 3rd grade when you pooped yourself, and whether or not you are more of a Dr. Pepper or a Mr. Pibb person.

    • You pooped yourself in third grade? Dude. You just lost your license to tease me about that one particular incident. You know the one. Don’t make me say it.

      And yes, you are totally right – I should have added exercise to the list! It’s so important! I was running out of space, and time, and energy… I’m sleep deprived you know.

      • Actually it was the summer between 2nd & 3rd grade at camp. Coincidentally, my favorite movie about camp is “Meatballs”. The universe works in mysterious ways….

    • Kim(aka badgasmom)

      January 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      I hear ya about canine flatulence (and in our house, feline as well). But I wonder…if dogs fart in their sleep and are awoken by such putrid-ness…do humans do that too? I mean farting in our sleep….

  7. I am all about a good night’s sleep! I’ve found that when I wear myself out during the day (out of the house, exercising then go to work) by the time I get to bed I’m genuinely tired and sleep like a rock. I agree with #12……when he’s worn out, he sleeps good which lets me sleep good. 🙂 It’s a win-win! Also, the lavender thing is really good for relaxation. I’m an ER nurse, and will use a lavender body spray on my uniform and in my hair when I go to work……… I rarely have angry and aggravated patients when I do this!

  8. Last night I took a pass on my evening snack to see if I slept better. I slept all right, with terrible, creepy, spine-tingling dreams. Tonight it’s back to pepperoni and anchovies washed down with a quart of gin.

  9. I give my girls pre-bed bubble baths with California Baby’s Overtired and Cranky bubblebath – it has lavender and chamomile, no artificial nuthin’, and does not give girls UTIs. It’s hard to find and kinda expensive so I buy it online. But that shiz *works*. Totally worth the expense and the trouble of ordering it on Amazon.

  10. HAHA! Love the last picture! Mr. Ike! 🙂 Love that guy!

  11. A tip for a tip: Move your alarm clock to the other side of the room. Not the other side of the bed-away- where someone has to stand up to turn it off.

  12. Why do you think my doctor gave me Valium AND Elavil at night. Apparently sleep problems are common with fibromyalgia and make the pain worse….sorry but sex revs me up. I can’t wait to jump up and start accomplishing something. I know I am weird. We NEVER have sex at night. But then I have no kids at home so we are not limited to nighttime.

    DH sleeps better not just watching Investigation ID or Deadly Women or whatever other REAL crime shows before bed, but actually all night long. That’s why he usually ends up on the couch. He tries, he really tries to stay in bed. TV will automatically turn off and I swear it wakes him right up and just as I am drifting off in my drug haze, he is getting up….out to the couch where he can leave the TV on all night!

    I am at Oldest daughter’s house in Reno and Landon is sleeping with me. He is so happy and such a good little sleeper. I didn’t even wake up when poor daughter got called out at 11:00 pm to ultrasound a 9-year-old for a DVT. As if…..Sometimes at 2:00 a.m. people will say, “oh did we get you up”. Yes. she will answer probably with pajama bottoms and scrub top on….wiping sleep from her eyes as she squirts that junk on the patient. “Oh sorry”. OD “then don’t wait 4 months to decide to suddenly come to the ER in the middle of the night”. HAHAHA.

    I’m spending my days sewing and watching TV. Today it was The Office all day, oh and the news. DH is hunting, but I am driving home Saturday and OD is flying back to South Carolina to visit MD and YD and family….including my darling granddaughter who looks so much like OD did as a 3-year-old. Ahhh the South…..

  13. You always make me laugh! Thanks for the great advice. I also loved Bernie’s advice to remain shallow. I do have a tendency to want to solve the world’s problems at about 3am.

    What works best for me is to convince myself that I have a sniffle or a headache or something indicative of allergies (apparently I feel it is ok to need chemical help for allergies but not for sleeping issues) and take a Benadryl at bedtime.

  14. Kris the Colts Fan

    September 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    I believe in Ambien. It works. And solo sex works just as well for improving sleep. Especially because you don’t have to clean up his mess, don’t have to worry about cuddling, and get the whole bed to yourself.

  15. We’ve kicked out the dog and cut back on the booze. SO MUCH BETTER! A thousand times better!
    Now I have to figure out how to turn off Criminal Minds before bed. Not only does it keep me up, but it gives me violent nightmares. Not good.
    Thanks for the tips!

  16. For the first 30 years of my life, I could sleep anytime there was a blanket. This past year, I’ve met the insomniac version of myself and it’s killing me! Sleep is one of my favorite things (behind Oprah and wiener dogs, of course) and I can’t wrap my mind around how my tired ass can’t just effing fall asleep at night. Getting old sucks.

  17. Well, crap! It’s 1am and I’m sitting in front of the computer reading your blog. I will blame you tomorrow when I have to drag my sorry, overtired ass out of bed and have three kids up, dressed, fed and out the door by 8am. On the other hand, doesn’t laughter do something good for your body? It should all balance out, right? RIGHT?!

    • RIGHT! Laughter burns calories and rejuvenates all the cells in your body. It also stimulates endorphins and cures diseases! Stay up and laugh, sister. It will totally balance out the lack of zzzzz’s.

      And thanks for being here and eggin’ me on! Love that!

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