In honor of World Sleep Day, I want to follow up on an article I wrote a few months ago for Runner’s World about handling chronic sleep issues as an elite runner.
Unlike Tina (pictured at left), I’m a highly sensitive sleeper—to noise, light, temperature, disruptions to my routine, worries about the next day, etc. And I know how much my rest hinges on my night-to-night sleep hygiene (which, according to the National Sleep Foundation, refers to “practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness”).
Some of that is behavioral: going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, nixing caffeine mid-afternoon, winding down properly at night, eating a small snack before bedtime, calming my mind with light reading until I fall asleep, and such.
Other aspects of my sleep hygiene rely on physical things that have, over time, nuzzled their way into my nightly routine. Here are my 8 favorite tools that I trust to help me induce sleep at the appropriate time:
- Flying Bird Botanicals Dream Catcher Tea– My sister (brand new mama!) Rachel gave me a tin of Dream Catcher last year, and it quickly became my favorite nighttime tea. It’s calming, tasty, and perfect pre-bed, thanks to a blend of chamomile, lavender, rose petals, orange peel, and more.
- Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaks– When I have time, especially in winter or on those extra sore days, I love taking a hot bath before I crawl in bed. I’m not above the big bags of epsom salt from Costco, but the Soothe & Sleep variety by Dr. Teal’s (heavy on the lavender) is my preference.
- Biddeford Heated Blanket– I never owned a heated blanket until I moved to Colorado, and let me tell you: it is game-changing. My husband and I turn ours on to High about a half hour before hitting the hay, and love being able to control our own sides. (I always leave mine on until the last possible moment before I fall asleep. Will bows out earlier.)
- LectroFan Sound Machine– I’m so dependent on my LectroFan sound machine that not only do I have one in both my room and guest room at home; I also bring the mini version with me every time I travel. I never sleep without it buzzing on full blast.
- BedGear Pillow– To be honest, I’m not the type to spring for luxury sleep gear. But I liked the travel-sized BedGear pillow I was given at the Houston Half Marathon so much that their Solar 1.0 pillow—crescent-shaped, cooling, and just firm enough—now gets nightly use.
- Polar Vantage M– As I mentioned in the Runner’s World article, I like to do regular check-ins on my sleep patterns via wearable trackers. Beyond being super handy for tempos and long runs, the Polar Vantage M has been a big asset for sleep tracking too. I appreciate that it doesn’t guess which phase of sleep I’m in at different points of the night, and so far I’ve found it to be quite accurate about sleep and wake times.
- Bucky Eye Mask– Even though my husband installed two layers of blackout shades/curtains in our bedroom, I still sleep with an eye mask on. It blocks out the little cracks of light that come in through our bathroom and gives me added peace of mind. Worth it for that!
- Hearos Ear Plugs– Similarly, even though I sleep with my sound machine on full blast, I wear ear plugs for the extra bit of confidence that sound will not disrupt my sleep. It’s a habit I formed in the noisy college dorms that I likely will never drop.
*Disclaimer: I’ve received free products from BedGear and Polar, but am not being compensated in any way for this post.