The Sleep Experiment

The Sleep Experiment

A few weeks ago, I woke in the morning feeling rested, alive, with a clear head and a calm heart. This might sound ordinary. Boring, even. I wish it were. Most mornings I woke up tired, cranky, and foggy. Sometimes it was the fault of my chattering brain, keeping me awake and fidgety well after midnight.

Sometimes it was a haywire internal clock, springing my eyes open and holding me in that special hellish state of alertness at three or four in the morning. I wasn’t sleeping well. Each night as I climbed into bed, I’d say a lame little prayer for sleep. Sometimes the stars would align, and I’d get lucky. Most nights I wouldn’t. It wasn’t a great system.

On this particularly good, rested morning, I thought: what if I stopped relying on luck and prayer? What if I made sleep hygiene my top health priority, the way one might train for a race or diet for a wrestling match? I had felt so good that one morning. 

What if I could feel that good every morning? 

I read a million articles about sleep and experimented with many of the strategies I read about; embracing some, discarding others. After three weeks of trial and error, I’m happy to report that my nights have been more restful and my mornings consistently brighter. It required some deliberate changes of habit, but it’s worth the effort, and now I am determined to maintain these habits forever.

After all, a solid night of sleep doesn’t just help you feel alert in the morning. Sleep has profound health benefits; a good night of sleep is basically a miracle drug in itself: https://www.verywellhealth.com/top-health-benefits-of-a-good-nights-sleep-2223766

Here’s what is working for me:

Light

A good night of sleep begins in the morning. Plenty of research supports the fact that if we can get our eyeballs on natural light first thing in the morning, if helps set our internal clock. For you, that might mean an early morning walk to greet the dawn. If so, you are more awesome than I.

For me, it means pacing around my apartment in the morning, looking out the windows at the squirrels while I drink tea and listen to the radio. I do this for fifteen or twenty minutes and delay turning on my computer or picking up my phone (more on that devil later) until I’ve given myself a healthy dose of morning light exposure.

Caffeine

You think it’s your friend, but it might be the reason for your midnight tossing and turning. Caffeine stays in your system for 5-9 hours, depending on how fast you metabolize it. I was often drinking tea deep into the afternoon or even early evening, but I started to strictly cut myself off at 2pm and it made a huge difference. One day I forgot to do this and had a strong green tea at 2:30 and it was much harder to fall asleep that night.

Booze

Sigh. I love whiskey. But for other health reasons I’ve been cutting back, and for the purpose of my sleep hygiene experiment I eliminated alcohol completely. It might make you feel relaxed, it might seem to help you conk out easier, but alcohol definitely disrupts your natural sleep cycles and makes those 4am hellscapes way more likely. In place of alcohol, I’ve turned to relaxing herbal tea blends and low-dose cannabis edibles to help me chill out.

Smartphones

Turn off your dang phone and do not take it to bed with you! Seriously, get some distance from that thing before it kills you. I could write a book about this (there are probably books about this), but for countless reasons, including the fact that it’s beaming blue-wavelength light into your eyes, telling your brain to WAKE UP, we all need to turn off our phones at night.

Using it as an alarm clock? Stop. Get a real alarm clock. Do I seem like I’m yelling at you? I am. But I’m yelling at myself too, if that helps.

CBD & CBN

These soothing, non-intoxicating cannabinoids have been utterly game-changing for me. I experimented with different methods of ingestion and ultimately incorporated two effective products into my nighttime routine. I swear by these. The first is 2Rise Naturals Sleep tincture.

One dropperful taken about 30 minutes before bedtime helped me to let go and drift off, thanks to the calming and sedative effects of CBD and CBN, and the low dose of melatonin helped reset my chaotic inner clock. It took a week of usage for me to tell a difference, but then it started to work like magic. I’m a lifer. 

CBD + CBN Sleep Tincture

CBN has a sedative effect, which gives it a reputation as “the sleep cannabinoid”, while melatonin helps to regulate the sleep–wake cycle.

The other is CBD massage oil.  Every night I give myself a foot massage with a generous handful of Serpent Spiral’s “Comfort,” a yummy, earthy blend of coconut oil, essential oils, and a therapeutic amount of full-spectrum CBD. This ritual only takes a few minutes, and the payoff is huge, trust me. 

Comfort CBD Massage Oil

Crafted with therapeutic grade essential oils suspended in a base of organic coconut MCT oil.

If you really want a transformative nighttime ritual, take a warm bath and then coat yourself from head to toe with this stuff, rubbing it in well. I tried this a couple of times, and it eased my aches and pains and restless legs, relieved the stress of the day, and as a bonus, I woke up with soft, glowing skin. On nights when I’m not up for that full routine, a foot massage does the trick.

Breathe

Try taking deep abdominal breaths in bed. This practice has been more transformational that I can tell you. Even five minutes of deep diaphragmatic breathing can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” part of your brain, as opposed to the “fight or flight” part). If you’ve never practiced deep diaphragmatic breathing, it’s worth learning the basic technique.

You can ask a yoga teacher or check out one of many YouTube videos on the topic. I like this one:

I’ll close by cheering you on to conduct your own sleep hygiene experiments. Our schedules, bodies, and chemistry differ, so there is no universal formula. My grandma used to drink coffee before bed and she slept like a baby! I’ve shared here what worked for me and I hope this helps you find better nights and happier days. You deserve a clear head and a calm heart every morning, not just every once in a while!

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