If you’ve ever wanted to sleep well but thought it was a pipedream, then you’ll want to read this blog article. In this article, I provide an overview of 5 potential solutions to your sleep problem.
After deciding to specialise in sleep counselling for professionals three years ago, I have learnt a thing or two about what works for adult sleep clients. Clients who come looking for solutions to get to sleep quicker and stay asleep have often read the top 5 sleep books and are still struggling to sleep well. They are also generous reviewers of retail products in the sleep market. I often receive unsolicited feedback about what they have tried and what helps them get to sleep and stay asleep.
As a psychotherapist and counsellor, I know that anxiety, even low levels, can affect sleep quality. However, I also recognise that falling sleep is the result of a combination of biology, mental and physical states coming together at the right time, in the right amounts. Often when clients come to me it’s the mental side of the equation that still needs attention to get to sleep and stay asleep.
For those who are looking for a natural way to fall asleep and prefer to buy products before seeing a sleep counsellor, like me, here are some sleep products that you might want consider. (Please note: I receive no financial compensation as a result of what you choose to do with this information)
This sleep tracker has been around since 2013 and I have been tracking my sleep with my Oura ring since then! It was recommended to me by a Zen Buddhist medical researcher whom I met at the Omega Institute on a silent retreat led by Jon Kabat-Zinn. If you want to track your sleep, the Oura sleep ring is considered as accurate as a sleep study. While it can be seen as an expensive piece of jewelry, this sleep tracker has taught me and my clients so much about how their body responds to movement, stress, food, emotions and supplements. It provides useful data that you can interpret to learn how to sleep better.
The benefit of a sleep tracker, irrespective of the one you use, is that it provides you with data that helps you to understand why you feel the way you do, which you can then learn from. For example, not all 8 hours of sleep are equal. On nights where I include carbohydrates in my dinner, I get a third of my usual deep sleep, and I wake feeling pretty ordinary. I’d never know that without my Oura ring.
When a new client comes to see me for the first time wearing an Oura ring, I know they have tried many things to improve their sleep experience. So instead of focusing on sleep hygiene we explore the psychological and spiritual aspects that could be the obstacle to a goof night's sleep. And psychotherapy and counselling are all about repairing those aspects to wholeness through conversation.
If you struggle to get to sleep, you may want to change your pillow or sleep without one. The purpose of a pillow is to support your body at rest. The rest position is lying on your back, facing directly upwards, arms down beside your body, palms upwards. If your pillow allows you to lie that way comfortably, then it is the right size for you. If you prefer to sleep on your side, to support your body, your pillow needs to support your head and neck in the neutral position. If your pillow allows you to lie that way comfortably, then it is the right size for you.
Often pillows are sealed however you can get height adjustable pillows where you can adjust the filling to meet your specific needs. If you move around at night and have multiple sleep positions, this may be a good solution for you because they can be fattened for sleeping on your side, transformed into a ‘U’ or made flat to support your body at rest or expanded to support stomach-side sleeping. Height adjustable pillows are flexible and can adjust and support you no matter your sleep position.
There are many height adjustable pillows on the market. If you can afford to, I’d suggest considering a fabric and filling that has temperature control qualities, i.e. it will keep you warm in winter and cool in the summer months. I use and recommend the adjustable Australian Corn Fibre Pillows from Ecodownunder.
Weighted blankets can be considered controversial as the studies don’t always suggest the weighted blanket was the determining factor for a good night’s sleep. However, the anecdotal evidence for weighted blankets or heavy blankets for those who struggle to go to sleep and stay asleep, is strong. I think it depends on your sleep bedding, pyjamas and room temperature. Often doonas, over time, become lighter and less enveloping and I suspect that this is what the body is responding to. In which case a heavy blanket or weighted blanket on top of your bedclothes will suffice.
If you are like some of my clients, you may find a weighted blanket helps you to relax in bed quicker and it may help you to sleep longer. Other benefits that you might enjoy is waking less in the night and moving around less. If you wear orthotics you may find a weighted blanket is too heavy for your feet if you sleep in rest position, so let your feet stick out from under the weighted blanket while staying under your bedcovers or sleep in your side.
How you find a heavier blanket for sleeping is up to you. It can be a weighted blanket, designed specifically to provide weight and not overheat, or it can be a heavier blanket with cooler bedclothes. The choice is yours. If you choose to buy one specifically for better sleep, the weight you are looking for is a weighted blanket that is 10% of your body weight, give or take 1kg. You’ll know within a week if it’s for you.
I heard about the Chilipad and Ooler Sleep Systems for sleep from one of the sleep doctors I follow, W Chris Winter MD (The Sleep Solution) and I recently had a client purchase one. She is overjoyed at the results. She slept through the night without waking and has continued to sleep well between counselling sessions. Benefits other clients have noticed is a decreased resting heart rate and the elimination of night sweats.
It is a temperature-controlled hydra-powered thermal mattress pad. It can be programmed to a cooler temperature for summer and warmer one for winter. Think electric blanket but hydra powered with a greater temperature range. It is fitted under your flat sheet and can be set from 13 – 46 degrees Celsius.
In each couple there is a warm bodied person and a cold bodied person. And if you’re sharing bedclothes, it can be hard to get the temperature right for the both of you. The Chilipad/Ooler Sleep System enables each one of you to set your own individual temperature, so you get your optimal temperature for sleep. The recommended room temperature for adults is between 19 – 21 degrees Celsius but of course with the Chilipad/Ooler Sleep System you may want to adjust your temperature based on your bedding and the room temperature.
Other features my clients like about the Chilipad/Ooler Sleep System product is that aside from guaranteeing a constant temperature during the night, it also works as a white noise device, so a barking dog, and noise from traffic is no longer a problem.
I’ll start by saying I am not a fan of ear plugs or ear buds. My ears prefer headphones that cover my ears instead of poking into them like ear pods. However, after a desperate week of noisy neighbours and feeling super-sleep deprived, I found myself buying a pair of Bose Sleepbuds 2. If you have tried the foam earplugs and silicone putty earplugs and been disappointed, you’ll love these. The Sleepbuds have 3 sizes, I’m using the smallest size and it has taken a while for my ears to adjust to them. It took 4 nights for me to leave them in overnight. While there’s lots to like about these Sleepbuds the best feature is that you can comfortably sleep with your head on it’s side and not feel like it’s poking into your ear canal. It’s quite a comfortable fit once you get used to them.
Since I started wearing my Sleepbuds 2 I have slept through the night uninterrupted, and my sleep scores have improved considerably according to my Oura ring. I feel more like my old, younger self. I haven't even been woken up by my partner's snoring or restless legs. I put that down to using the Sleepbud Sound library which acts as white noise. I play the Swell sound and it plays all the time, from the moment the sleepbuds are in my ears to when I take them out. They cut out everything and I love it! I get transported to an island holiday every night 😊.
Before using the Sleepbuds, I’d wake up because of my partner’s noisy sleeping and then hear all of the outside noises, which woke me up more and made it hard to get back to sleep.
As a sleep counsellor, I particularly like that the only purpose you can use these Sleepbuds for is sleeping. While they work with Bluetooth technology, they don’t play music which can keep your brain awake and most of their sound choices are natural sounds like rain, sea and wind. Another innovation I like is the alarm, which only I can hear. So, when it goes off, you don’t wake others like you might with an alarm clock on your bedside table. And I don’t hear my partner’s alarm go off so I can truly maximise my time in bed.
Now I realise that some of these products I’ve talked about can be expensive and not wallet friendly for everyone. However, I absolutely believe in them either because I’ve used them myself or clients have decided to buy them based on their own research and found them to be a worthwhile investment combined with their sleep counselling. Sleep is a fundamental requirement for wellbeing and natural solutions, including sleep counselling, are far more effective in the long term than sleep medication. So, if you would like to improve your sleep experience talk to someone about how you can go about improving it. Or book a time with me for a free, confidential 30-minute sleep call by clicking on this link.
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