A World Awake: My Sleep Regimen
It seems as if no one can sleep. Well… We live in a modern world that supposedly makes life simpler and more comfortable than traditional ways of life, yet everybody is too damn busy to slow down to enjoy life. The result is a range of imbalances that take hold, problems mount, then anxieties run amok. Still, people wonder why they can’t sleep.
If you go-go-go all the time, you have no time to decompress, and no time to savor the flavors of life. For being alive is a wondrous gift and many of us squander it. To sense and feel, taste and smell, to love and hold close, to experience bliss and a beauty so stunning that touches the depths of the soul. These are moments that makes life worth living. Taking the air, the water, the warmth of the sun, and life in general for granted is easy if your vision is narrow, but what a waste that is.
Health is more than simply being physically healthy, for its about living in equilibrium in all states; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. One state becoming imbalanced is enough to set off the entire system. While symptoms may show up as pain on one part of the body, it might be another imbalance that is manifesting itself as pain. Where allopathic medicine might want to treat the pain with powerful analgesics, it’s likely more effective to take a deeper look at the cause of the imbalance. I’ve had emotional imbalances manifest as back pain before, and I’ve had spiritual imbalances show up as anxiety attacks in the middle of the night.
If you can’t sleep through the night, take a deep and honest look at your life and the state of your body, your mind, your heart and your soul. You might find that you need to address those imbalances before prescribing yourself heavy sedative drugs.
Sleep problems can be caused by a myriad of issues, but from my experience, it’s either an life imbalance issue or a sleep hygiene issue. Sleep hygiene is more than just clean sheets. It encompasses your behavioral and environmental practice leading up to bedtime. This involves your daily routine, how you prepare for bedtime, and the quality of your sleep habitat.
A few years ago, I went through nine months of such disheartening insomnia that it took a toll on my mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and in my marriage. I would go to bed in a matter of seconds. No really… I would start an audiobook and be out within the first paragraph or two, much to my wife’s jealousy, as it takes her hours to fall sleep. But then I would wake up around 3:00AM and I would be wide awake, full of anxiety, frustrated and fiery beyond reason, and it would take me hours to try and get back to sleep. A mix of plant medicines and getting to the heart of the problem of my imbalances worked wonders, but it was not overnight. It took months to get my mental and emotional state back to a healthy balance, but my sleep, life and marriage are better for it.
My favorite sleep regimen goes beyond natural medicines, but they have been crucial for my success… First, take a hard look at what imbalances you might be experiencing in your life, and find a way back to a healthy equilibrium. Second, set yourself up for success. Make changes and practice good sleep hygiene.
Make your bedroom comfortable, clean and free of clutter and doom piles. Few things bother me as bad as when I’m getting ready to lay down and I see piles of clothes and projects I haven’t had time to get to. Even if the rest of your house looks like a tornado hit, prioritize your sleep space. I don’t want to be thinking all night about everything I didn’t have time to do that day. You may be asking yourself, “what is a doom pile?” It’s that towering monstrosity of lost or misfit items, or things that require a new home somewhere else in your house, or more often than not, it’s something that requires a whole minute of attention, yet you haven’t had the grace to bestow such a lavish gift upon it, so it literally piles up into something threatening to spill over like Mount Vesuvius. Looking up and spotting that teetering empty shoe box, half eaten apple, and crazy dog toy that looks something like a roadkill squirrel are simply not conducive to a sound sleep.
Try to keep your bed as a place you only use to sleep, and so when you lay your head down on your pillow, your mind knows it’s time for sleep. If you use your bed as your couch and spend most of your waking hours in it, it’s easy to confuse your brain.
Remember, your sleep space should be your safe space. Make it dark and cool, and comfortable. Letting in fresh air during the day can do wonders to improving your quality of sleep at night. Get rid of all light and make sure no light pollution can penetrate your curtains. I use and love black-out curtains for sleep sanctuary.
Make sure you change your sheets often, preferably once weekly. Make sure they’re soft and comfortable. I like to have cooling sheets in the summer and thick warm flannel sheets in the winter. When you don’t clean your sheets often enough, you invite a slew of funky things to terraform your bedsheets. Picture a mutant alien disaster zone, requiring CDC officials adorned in hazmat suits. Then for the sake of society, they declare your house of no hope, cover the entire town in a giant glass dome, before nuking it to smithereens. It’s not only bodily secretions and skin cells that accumulate on bedsheets over time, but also pollen, fungi, bacteria, pet dander, dust mites and bed bugs. If you ever notice yourself itching, skin breaking out or becoming inflamed, or symptoms of eczema, it might be due to how regularly you change your sheets. Free your safe sleep space from dirt and molds, too, because if you can’t breathe well, you certainly won’t sleep well.
I like my sleep space to mimic the atmosphere of a cave, minus the moisture. Dark as the blackest night and damn near cool enough to see my breath will have me sleeping like a hibernating bear. I also prefer my space to be as quiet as I can, which can be difficult in cities or if you’re along roadsides, so I like to employ a noise machine which mimics the sound of wind, ocean or storms. These natural sounds are very soothing, which makes sense as those are the sounds we humans have grown used to over the eons of time, not cars, trains, or sirens. If the air in your bedroom is dry, introducing a cool mist humidifier can aid your comfort levels and lessen the chances of dryness and breathing problems affecting your sleep. Ever try to sleep in a dry house in the winter and your throat ends up super dry, so you drink water throughout the night, and then you’re the victim of having to get up and pee who knows how many times? A humidifier can fix that problem for you.
A well known routine is the 10-3-2-1 method, which is as follows: 10 hours before bedtime, no more caffeine. 3 hours before bedtime, no more food or alcohol, especially no heavy meals. 2 hours before bedtime, no more work. 1 hour before bedtime, no more screen time; shut off all phones, TVs and computers and do something calming. I drink a good bit of water 2-3 hours before bed, then lessen my intake closer to sleepytime, to lessen the chance of having to wake up to pee in the middle of the night. I generally follow these guidelines in my life and it’s helped greatly, though I do sometimes watch TV until my head starts to fall, but I’m working on it. Nobody’s perfect. That’s something to keep in mind here, because it takes time to make lifestyle changes. It can take months to cure a sleep issue, so be patient with yourself and with the process.
Treat the 1-2 hours before bedtime as relaxation time. Keep the lights down low, the mood positive, and avoid screens. The reason to avoid screens is the colors and light they emit, especially on modern smartphones. These devices mimic the sun, tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which ceases the creation of melatonin, the natural chemical your brain creates to induce sleep. Think about your natural circadian rhythm, your body is trained to sleep when the sun goes down. That’s why working nightshift can be so harmful and affect mental health, while throwing off other systems of the body.
Another important point about melatonin is that if you supplement melatonin, which is usually derived from animal brains or is synthesized in a lab, then your brain’s ability to make its own will be drastically affected. If your brain receives supplementary melatonin for too long, it will actually stop its own production, creating a much bigger problem. We use a very small dose in our Peaceful Slumber tincture to aid sleep, and to help people transition away from using melatonin supplements, so they can rely on the effect of the herbs.
For the last couple hours before it’s time to lay down, do something relaxing, like read a book, take a walk beneath the stars, take a bath, practice yoga, meditate, write down what you’re thankful for, write a longhand love letter, draw, color, or try your hand at a favorite pastime of Jenni and I’s in woodburning art. Anything relaxing that doesn’t work against the ultimate goal of unwinding from the long day can work wonders.
Before I cover my herbal nighttime routine, I want to mention some of my favorite herbs for achieving great sleep. I particularly love lavender. I bet you didn’t see that coming, right? Seriously, a really good lavender can transform a bedtime routine, because it’s intoxicating and so calming, and can aid you in any form, from tea to salve, to essential oil or used simply as a night time linen spray or sachet. I also love chamomile, valerian, mugwort, blue lotus, passionflower, California poppy, and skullcap.
When I’m struggling to sleep well, I give myself plenty of hours to catch up, in case I have another bout of middle of the night insomnia, so I’ll go to bed earlier and make sure I don’t have to wake up super early, if my schedule will allow it. My typical nightly routine includes drinking Purple Haze Tea with Peaceful Slumber Tincture drops in it 45-60-minutes before bedtime, then before I lay my head down, I apply Twilight Cream on my feet because that’s where your biggest pores are located for quickest absorption, as well as on my wrists, back of neck and temples, then I breathe in the aroma and do deep breathing exercises for relaxation. My wife is also very kind and rubs Twilight Cream on my ailing back muscles on hard days.
There are times during nightly wake ups which make it hard to fall back asleep, where I will use an aromatherapy inhaler like the Calm & Content or Sweet Slumber to help me calm my anxiety before giving it another try. Reapplying Twilight Cream is helpful as well. You can also use an essential oil aromatherapy diffuser or practice meditation. I find listening to a comforting audiobook that I’ve already listened to many times can be helpful too, as I won’t have to hang on every word and can fade off back to dreamland. But sometimes, that’s simply not enough.
For extreme moments of anxiety in the middle of the night, I will meditate and sometimes follow a guided meditation. Other times, I like to simply reset. I keep the lights low and I make a cup of tea, usually lavender, chamomile and lemongrass, which is a personal favorite blend of mine, which keeps it simple. If I’m in pain, I will add some Relief Elixir Tincture drops to my tea, or a little extra dose of a sedative like Peaceful Slumber. I also like to have a piece of toast with peanut butter as I sit and ease my mind back into a relaxed state. The key is to not use the phone during this time, because the light on the screen will absolutely wreck your ability to get back to sleep quickly and back into REM. If your phone has the night shift setting, then put it on, because that helps with the blue light. Either way, screen bad.
Thank you for reading. I know this isn’t an all encompassing manual for sleep, as many people suffer from PTSD, nightmares, and other physical discomforts that can break up sleep patterns. But I sincerely hope this helps you find relief. Take time to slow down, taste the flavors of life, and get some shut eye.