Dearest fellow insomniacs,
I write to you from my bed as I lie awake and ponder life’s great questions: What am I going to have for lunch tomorrow? If it’s past midnight is today tomorrow or is yesterday today? Should I just get up and do something productive?
Relaxing, right? Ha.
I’ve always had trouble sleeping. As a wee one I protested nap-time daily and popped out of bed probably every 25 minutes with some creative excuse as to why I was up or in distress from a nightmare. My mom invented Fairy Dust that she would “sprinkle” in my eyes to help me calm down and drift off. When the dust wasn’t quite strong enough anymore, my dad switched to making me a “potion” which consisted of hot water, lemon, honey, some sort of powder that floated to the top, and a “secret ingredient”. I later found out that the visible secret ingredient was crushed up melatonin and the invisible one was a prayer. (Cue the sappy chorus of “awwww”s).
Somewhere in between the fairy dust and potion eras, I transitioned from reading entire novels in one night to channeling my restlessness into cleaning my bathroom— THAT’S when you know. I’m well aware that my sleeping issues are not nearly as severe as one’s could be, but everybody deserves a good night’s sleep at the very least.
I’ve continued riding the melatonin wave, but some nights it’s just not quite enough. I’m continually on the lookout to add to my sleep-aid arsenal, but here are my tried and true tools for a better night’s sleep:
Essential Oil & Sleepy Lotion
My parents gave me an essential oil diffuser for high school graduation and I have to admit I really doubted how great of a gift it was at the time. As I wrote about in my Sensory Mindfulness post, scents are one of my favorite ways to ground myself. Each roommate of mine from the past four years can attest to the fact that the essential oil diffuser is much more than scented water vapor; it’s a lifestyle. When I lived in the sorority house, everyone who came into my room would comment on the “chill vibes” that the constant stream of lavender mist created. I switch it up and use lemon, eucalyptus, and peppermint, but come bedtime, lavender is my go-to.
Some nights I need a little extra oomph and use the Sleepy Lotion from Lush in addition to or instead of the diffuser. My sister introduced me to this lotion because of my love for Lush and my rocky relationship with sleep. Surprise, surprise, I doubted the magic of this gift too. It smells like a pan of freshly baked sugar cookies in a field of lavender and works wonders for anxiety and restlessness. The sleepy lotion is potent and creamy so a pot of it lasts for nights on end of moisturizing dry elbows.
Nothing Much Happens; bedtime stories for grown-ups Podcast
I would like to find Kathryn Nicolai and give her a hug to personally thank her for helping me sleep soundly. This cozy podcast is my most reliable secret weapon to combat sleepless nights. I’ve tried a lot of guided meditations over the years whether just to relax or specifically to help me fall asleep, but none has knocked me out quite like Nothing Much Happens. Kathryn Nicolai’s voice is so soothing and her stories are engaging enough that my mind doesn’t wander. Like the title suggests, there isn’t much going on plot-wise, so I’m not kept awake by an enthralling story like when I try to fall asleep to audiobooks.
Grown-Up Potion & Fairy Dust
Upon further reflection, I realize that the title of this section might be a little misleading, but I swear it’s not what you’re thinking!
Looking back on my childhood, between potion and fairy dust, the placebo effect was what put me to sleep for years. Now that I’m older and know the secrets behind my parents’ methods, I see that the real power was in the routine they established for me. Lo and behold, this post has rounded the bend into the health-magazine-advice category and like all mediocre sleep aid articles, it comes down to having a “solid routine that never fails!!”. I am still trying to get a handle on a routine that works for 20-something Helen, but right now it consists of a night shower, melatonin, sometimes reading a chapter or two of a book, and listening to the Nothing Much Happens podcast. Kathryn Nicolai calls it creating a nest for your mind and says it’s just as important as having a physically comfortable place to sleep.
I’m setting the intention to get better about reading rather than watching an episode of TV before bed, and might try to incorporate journaling into my nighttime routine as well. As always, please let me know what works for you in the comments! And sweet dreams, chickadees! I wish you all a better night’s sleep tonight 🙂