Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Top 10 "Unique" Tips for Better Sleep

In my last post I shared how I have recently set a goal for myself to get more sleep, and after two months or so of doing it, I've made sleep my new best friend and I feel better than ever...when I make it a priority that is. Read more about it here. Now I know for some of you that sleep doesn't come easy. You may find it easy to make all the time in the world for sleep, but the second you tuck under those covers, and close your eyes your mind does not get the message and you end up tossing and turning, sometimes for hours.


While I've never had insomnia, I have struggled with getting my mind to "turn off" from time to time. After having both my girls I found it much easier to fall asleep than before I had kids, mainly because this whole parenting thing is a bit exhausting.

But nonetheless, I still toss and turn from time to time, and over the years I've come up with a few tips and tricks to help me fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling much more refreshed.  Now as the title suggested, they are a unique set of tips. I mean we've all heard the suggestions to make your room dark and cool, and to drink a warm glass of milk before bed, etc. but these are some different tips that fit the slightly alternative, green lifestyle that I live that could maybe help you.

Watch a video breakdown of the tips in this week's video...


I'm sure this list may seem overwhelming and very high maintenance for some of you who are like my husband who could fall asleep on the couch, with the lights on, during an episode of Sons of Anarchy...Charlie Hunnam anyone? ( : But not all of us are gifted with the talent of falling asleep so easily. So if you sometimes struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or just wake up feeling groggy these tips may be for you.

Ashley's Green Life Top 10 "Unique" Tips for Better Sleep

1. Sleep on an Earthing mat.  An Earthing mat is a mat which connects to the grounded portion of your outlet and essentially "grounds" you to the Earth...hence the name "earthing."

My Earthing Mat.
The idea behind it is that by "connecting to the earth with our bare skin or feet" we are able to tap into the Earth's unlimited energy, a source of healing." Benefits that have been noted from using Earthing products (like the grounding mat) with consistent use are:
  1. Better sleep
  2. Decrease in pain
  3. More energy
  4. Faster recovery time (more healing)
  5. Reduction or elimination of jet lag
  6. Normalized production of the stress hormone cortisol
The mats are really easy to use,  all I have to do is plug it into my outlet and sleep on it.  You can purchase the mats here, as well as grounded pillow cases, sheets, blankets, and even body bands.

You can see my black mat here on my bed, it's underneath a crazy spiky mat
which I will share more about next.

Now although Earthing probably seems pretty "out there" I saw the biggest improvement in my sleep when I started using this mat. It's been almost 2 years since I got my mat and I haven't slept a night without it. If you want to learn more about it, check out this post: "Earthing: What Is It & How to Do It"

"Earthing: What Is It & How to Do It"

2. Lay on a Spoonk Accupressure Mat before bed. So you probably saw that crazy pink mat above, and as you guessed it, that's my Spoonk mat. In case you're wondering, it's pronounced like the word "spoon" with a "k"...spoonk! The mat is based on principles of Japanese Shiatsu massage and accupressure. The idea is that the 6000 some pokes contained within it, stimulate specific reflex points throughout the body and bring circulation to the area where it's being used. In turn, it relaxes stiff muscles, decreases pain, and releases feel good hormones.

Now I got the mat thinking it would be great to help with tense muscles, but I was surprised to find that it actually improved my sleep. This is backed up in a study done with the Spoonk Mat where 98% of users reported pain relief, 94% reported more relaxation, 94% reported better sleep, and 81% reported an increase in energy level.


The Spoonk can be used anytime, but one suggested time is to lay on it for 20-30 minutes before bed. Now I don't know about you, but if I'm in my bed at night...I am often asleep within a few minutes. There's no way I would last 30 minutes just laying there, relaxing, and then be able to remove it. So what do I do? I lay on my mat before bed and leave it there even when I fall asleep. It usually stays there for 30 minutes to 2 hours or so. Then if I wake up for some reason, I toss the mat on the floor, and go back to sleep.  Also, I have found that mat to be really helpful when I have to get up in the middle of the night to nurse Mila, and then come back and try to fall asleep. Sometimes the act of getting up with her, makes me feel wide awake. But a little time on the Spoonk mat, always seems to help speed up the time it takes me to fall back to sleep. 

Read more about Spoonking here: "How to 'Spoonk' for Better Health."


4.  Use a sound machine.  When Avery was a baby and slept in our bedroom, we got a sound machine to help her sleep, and it ended up helping us sleep too. So much so in fact that once she moved out and into her own room, we only lasted a night or two without it until we went out and bought our own. Without a sound machine, I felt like I heard every sound, both inside and outside my house. "Did the air conditioning just turn on?" "Is that my dog barking?" "Who's car is that?"

My sound machine, a sleep must-have in our house.

Add a sound machine back in the equation and all those sounds get tuned out and all I focus on is a white-noise/waterfall-like sound. I use this Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine off Amazon.com ($16) and I use the setting called "Waterfall." I like this sound machine because it can run all night long (some have timers and only play the sound for 15-30 minutes), and you can control the volume from quiet to loud.

Similar to the essential oils, once I turn that sound machine on and hear the "Waterfall" sound, I feel my mind and body start to relax...they know it's time to go to sleep.  My girls are the same way, as they both have a sound machine in their rooms too.

5. Use an eye mask.  I started this habit a few years ago when we moved into our current house, because despite getting room-darkening shades, we have a skylight in the area of the room near the bathroom. So no matter how much I cover the light of the windows there's still a bit of light coming from the skylight, either from a full moon, the sun setting, or a bright and early sunrise.


I've tried all kinds of eye masks over the years, from fancy ones to simple cloth napkins folded in thirds, and recently I found this cool silk one on Amazon.com, Fisher's Finery 100% Silk Eye Mask ($15) which I really love.

One of my favorite aspects of using an eye mask is that it forces me to shut my eyes and stop watching the clock. Don't you hate that feeling when you're trying to fall asleep, and you peek at the clock to see you've been laying there for 30 minutes...and you're STILL not asleep. Grr. With this eye mask, all visual stimulation gets tuned out and I'm forced to close my eyes and relax.


6. Turn off and remove all electronic devices from your bedroom and try not to check them right before bed.  I'm kind of a cell phone-phobic person in how I'm cautious about the radiation they emit, and I take active steps to reduce that radiation. The main way I do this is by using a Pong Phone Case for iPhone 5S ($59) which "redirects harmful wireless energy away from the user."  I also turn my phone off every night and charge it downstairs in my kitchen. Obviously since I don't have my cell phone by my head all night I am able to reduce the possible long-term exposure to harmful wireless radiation, but more importantly I guarantee myself a 7-8 hour window when I can be free from cell phone-related thoughts (email, text, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.).

Goodnight phone, you need some rest too.

I'm sure this seems crazy to some people, who use their cell phone as their alarm clock and keep their notifications on all night, but I love the silence, peace, and the "do not disturb" aspect that comes from a turned OFF cell phone that I don't have to look at for 7-8 hours. I can do other things like sleep, spend time with family, and just RELAX!

To piggy back on to this, I try to stop checking my phone an hour or at least 30 minutes before bed. This lets me tune out from everyone's status updates, blog comments, and emails and just relax. Otherwise I find that when I lay down to go to sleep I think about what someone had for dinner, where someone just checked in at, and try to draft out a response to an email. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be thinking of sleepy things.

But wait...what if someone has to get a hold of me and my cell phone is turned off for an unheard of 8 hours at a time?!! What am I going to do? No worries, I've got a landline. (Insert gasp). I know it sounds crazy, and to make it even better, it's a CORDED LANDLINE, not even cordless-LOL. A bit nerdy right? I don't think so. You all know I like to practice what I preach and one of the steps I took when reducing my exposure to cell phone radiation was to get a landline and use that (instead of my cell phone) to call people when I am home. Here is the one I got from Amazon.com ($30).

My landline corded phone, a great back up for when my iPhone is
turned off at night.
In case you're wondering, I got a corded landline because cordless phones and their charging stations actually emit a high amount of radiation, where as corded phones do not.

Now aside from serving as an alternative to using my cell phone, my landline also works great as my emergency back up if someone needed to get ahold of me in the middle of the night or when my phone is off. This makes it easier for me to turn my phone off each night, and not lay there wondering IF something has happened and no one has a way to get a hold of me.

7. Do something relaxing before bed. I write in a journal and do a quick stretch routine. Just as I mentioned how I try not to check my phone/email/Facebook immediately before bed, I also try to do something relaxing before bed. The first one is to write in a journal. Now as you can tell from my blog, I love to write and before I had my girls I would journal all the time. These days, I rarely journal because I feel like I don't have the time to sit and just write pages at a time.  That's when my brother told me about an awesome book called The Five-Minute Journal ($23). It's a very simple journal that has a form for each day with a section for the morning that you fill out right when you wake up, and a section for at night which you fill out right before bed. It's the same questions/prompts for each day. In the morning you write: 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things you can do to make today great, and an affirmation for the day. Before bed you write: 3 amazing things that happened to you that day, and one way you could have made today better.

The Five-Minute Journal 

I've been writing in it for almost 3 months now and I love it. It really helps you keep track of your own personal growth, teaches you to look for the good in all things. I can't recommend it more.

After writing in my journal, I hop on down to the floor to do my daily stretch. This is a series of stretches I came up with years ago and that I continue to do daily right when I get up and before I go to bed. They help me relax and relieve tension before I go to bed.

Learn my entire stretch routine here: "My Daily Stretch"

8. Have clothes that you only wear to bed.  I have actual pajamas, thanks to a suggestion from Arianna's Huffington's book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, which I only wear to bed to help my body know, when I put them on it's time for bed.  When I read the idea I thought it was brilliant. In the past I would always wear tanks/yoga pants/shorts when I was relaxing around the house, then when it was time for bed I would go straight to bed in the comfy clothes I had on, never thinking that actual "PJs" might be more helpful for sleep.  So that's when I went out and bought two sets of tank/short pajamas from Target, they are a very soft material and I try very hard to only wear them to bed. When I put them on, my brain thinks: "Alright, it's time for bed. Let's do this!"

My "designated pajamas."
Now to be completely honest, I actually have one more pair of pajamas I got from Victoria's Secret that are incredibly comfortable and are made from satin. But once they arrived,  I thought they might be a tad bit risqué to post a pic/video of me wearing, but you can check them out here: Satin Cami & Short Set ($52).  Side note: this is actually my favorite pair of pajamas. I recommend if you are looking for clothes to be specifically for PJs, get some satin ones, you won't regret it...unless you are looking for some slightly modest PJs to post on your blog, then you might want to stick to the comfy, Target ones.  ( :

8. Make the room as dark as possible by not only covering windows, but those little lights from appliances. As I shared above, I try to keep my room as dark as possible with curtains, but as I've had children, little appliances/electronics have found their way into my bedroom and they bring with them their blaring, bright lights. Who wants their room illuminated by the white/blue glow of a baby monitor? Not me. Especially after reading articles like this one about how this white/blue glow can be bad for your health.

My solution? Cover the lights! As you can see my go-to is black electrical tape.

Mila's wipe warmer with the light covered.

Mila's baby monitor base in her room has a bright white/yellow light
that I've covered with more black electrical tape.
The other day I was at the store and saw they had white duct tape, I suppose I could cover this unsightly black tape with a little white? Maybe someday, when I've got the time!

Another strategy I use to block the light from larger surfaces, like baby monitors themselves with display screens, is to cover them with objects. So for Avery's monitor, I use a big book. 

Monitor not covered, looks fine during the day, but lights the whole
room up at night.

My solution, use this lovely Sesame Street book to cover the monitor. It
allows me to hear if the monitor goes off, but I don't have to see
all the bright light. 
Obviously I have a lot of kid/baby appliances with little lights that need covering, but the same applies to things like DVD players, cable box, gaming consoles, etc. If it has a light that shines in the room you sleep, try covering it up and see if that helps you sleep better. 

10. Use a wake up light as your alarm clock.  Nothing ruins a night of great sleep like the blaring sound of an alarm clock, so instead I use a Philips Wake-Up Light . The way the alarm clock works is that 30 minutes before it goes "off" for you to wake up, a light starts to gradually get brighter, brighter, brighter until it's time for you to wake up. Then nature sounds (birds chirping) play quietly and gradually grow louder (over a period of 90 seconds)  to wake you up, if the light already didn't.  I know it sounds pretty out there and unnecessary considering it's price ($100), but it is so worth it. Read more about it here: "A Healthier Way to Wake Up."

My Wake-Up Light alarm clock that gradually gets brighter in the morning.

Now I had a few bonus tips that didn't make the list, but I just had to include which are:

Bonus Sleep Tip #1: Eat something OR NOT before bed. A lot of sleep research says not to eat anything a few hours before you go to bed so that your body can be resting and not digesting, and I tried it but it didn't work for me...I was starving! I think there is probably an exception to this rule if you are pregnant or nursing. All that baby growing/milk making can make a mama hungry. Or maybe I just have a fast metabolism. Either way I find it helpful to eat something small, 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed. Cereal like Erewhon's Strawberry Crisp with Rice Milk, usually does the trick for me. A banana is another pre-bed snack that I like.

My favorite gluten-free, strawberry cereal with rice milk before bed.

I often find that I'm not particularly hungry when it's time for bed, but I know that if I eat something then, it will help hold me over when I have to get up at 2 AM to nurse Mila, instead of returning to bed to lay there and attempt to fall asleep to the sound of my growling stomach. But do what works for you. Maybe you need to eat something, or maybe you need to close the fridge door by 8 PM and don't open it until morning.

Bonus Sleep Tip #2: Splurge on something for your bedroom. I came across the suggestion in one of my sleep books to try to sleeping on silk sheets, it said something like, "Once you sleep on silk, you'll never go back to anything else." Really? I was intrigued. So started with baby steps and got my silk eye mask, like you read about above. Hmm...it was nice and soft.

How about a new silk pillowcase? I splurged again, and got this one from Amazon.com: Fisher's Finery 19mm Mulberry Silk Pillowcase ($26). If you're curious I got the Queen size in the color Taupe. Aside from being soft, this pillowcase is hypoallergenic and can help promote skin and hair health (aka decrease bed head, which I must admit it has been helpful with). A pillowcase with beauty-enhancing properties, love it!

Sleeping in my newly-upgraded sheets/pillowcase.
Then came time for the sheet. This was the big daddy purchase, I had my eye on this one from LilySilk.com for a while:  19 Momme Seam Silk Flat Sheet ($150). Yes you read that price right, $150! Yikes, but luckily my husband and I's anniversary was coming up and this gave him the perfect gift idea. So he surprised me with it and I must say, I will never sleep on anything else again! As you can see I cover up with it, instead of sleeping on it like a regular sheet, but this is something I've done for years, and it's so comfortable to me.

**Update, since posting this, I've go some slack from fellow vegans who say my use of silk products is unethical. Call me naive, but I guess I just didn't realize what REALLY went into making silk products until I read this article ("Silk: The Ugly Source of a Beautiful Material"). I had never done anything with silk before and I just figured they got the silk AFTER the silk worms were done with their cocoons, but it turns out they most often kill the worm before they leave the cocoon. Say what? Poor little things. So here's what I plan to do. Replace my sheet and pillowcase with these from "The Ethical Silk Company". The company says they do not kill or harm any silk worms in the process of making their silk, and they make sure each moth has left the cocoon before the silk thread is spun. Thanks to my readers for sharing this information with me so that I can now buy a more ethically sound product. Sorry if anyone was offended, now I know.**

Obviously I went a little crazy with these sleep upgrades, but upgrading your sleep environment does not have to be this extreme. Just a new pillow or blanket, may be all you need to ensure a comfortable night's sleep.  Or maybe your bedroom needs a complete makeover to create the zen-oasis you want when it's time for you to turn in for the night. Do what works for you, with the budget you have.

So there you have it, my 10...okay 12 "unique" tips for better sleep. I'm sure some of them you might have heard about before, and others may seem a little crazy, but which ones do you think might help you? Also, what are your favorite sleep tips? Share them below and we can all learn from each other.

And just because I love you, I'll give you a little behind-the-scenes look at what it's like when I film sometimes. I always love it when my favorite bloggers peel back the curtain of what life behind that perfect recipe picture, or DIY craft, so here's mine...

Here's what you see in my YouTube video...
Here's what I see...yikes!
Whoa baby! That room is crazy. I promise I love a clean house, but with two girls now things get a little crazy.  So when I have the small window of time to shoot a video (cue Brandon taking the girls for a walk outside) I clean what will be in the shot of the video...and then I clean the rest later. You can bet it's clean before I go to bed, because looking at that craziness would defiantly keep me up.

Just thought you might like that little behind-the-scenes look at life in this "Green" and sometime "Crazy House." Thanks for being patient with my lack of posting lately. Hopefully I'll have another post up soon.

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