So You Say…You Can’t Sleep

Anyone who has ever spent a night tossing and turning knows that being hangry is nothing compared to sleep deprivation crankiness (slangry?). Science has shown that sleep is vital to mental and physical health, as well as quality of life. If you find yourself spending your waking hours trying to figure out how to improve your sleep, read on for a few suggestions.

Weighted blankets immediately make me think of anxious dogs cowering under thunder blankets during thunderstorms and fireworks, but hey, if it works for pups with PTSD…. Weighing anywhere from five to 30 pounds, a weighted blanket works by mimicking deep pressure stimulation, which in turn tricks the autonomic nervous system into rest mode. Basically, the weight activates the same pressure points as a deep tissue massage, a baby swaddled, or a really great, tight hug from your Grandpa. Those pressure points then release a series of your body’s natural hormones that help you get a good night’s rest, including serotonin and melatonin. As a general rule, a weighted blanket should be five to ten percent of your body weight; weighted blankets shouldn’t be used for children under 2 years, as it may increase the risk of suffocation.

Mosaic weighted blankets – starting at $125

Sometimes what you do during the day is just as important as what you do at night, particularly when it affects melatonin production. Studies have found that people who do not receive enough natural sunlight or bright light during the day (i.e., typical office workers) have disrupted circadian rhythms, which is the body’s natural regulation of the sleep–wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. If moving your desk outside isn’t an option, light therapy lamps have been shown to improve nighttime sleep quality and duration, reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and enhance daytime energy. As a bonus, using a light therapy lamp can be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder.

Verilux HappyLight – $29.99 at Amazon

Scent has the amazing power to grab your attention (natural gas in the kitchen), affect actions (what dieter can resist freshly baked chocolate chip cookies) and even bring back memories (CK One, the smell of the high school experience). The right scent may be able to improve your sleep as well. Lavender has been shown in human studies to slow heart rate and blood pressure, as well as induce a parasympathetic (relaxed) state. When the brain waves of 31 subjects were monitored in a 2005 sleep study, the scent of lavender changed the quality of sleep compared with distilled water smelled as a control by the same subjects. Studies have been inconclusive, but scientists say it will likely work best as part of a calming bedtime routine. Other olfactory options include vanilla, chamomile, jasmine and rose.
Dream Essentials Aromatherapy Sleep Masks – $24.95