Quiet the Brain

I want to write about something other than the Coronavirus, but that is hard since that is our reality right now and it is everywhere! I’m going to try, though.  Instead I’m going to write about something stupid. I am going to write about sleep. Maybe it will give you a laugh in this crazy time about how insane I am.  Seriously!  Sleep is so important, but it is something that I struggle with daily.  I believe that I have mentioned before that I am one of those people who really requires 8-10 hours of sleep. My husband on the other hand is totally fine with only 4 hours of sleep. He can fall asleep in less than 5 seconds and can sleep soundly through anything.  I think that developed for him out of necessity because of his life on a submarine.  Whatever the reason, I am super jealous. I was the girl in college that was in the bed by 9:00 every night and got mad when my sorority sisters where having a mini party on the front porch just below my window.  I know! Sad, right? Anyway, I need sleep to be a functional human.  However, for that past several years, sleep has eluded me.  It takes me hours to fall asleep.  I lay there forever with random things floating around in my head.  It is so frustrating, and it happens every night.  I have tried melatonin and other nighttime sleep aids, but they either don’t work or leave me feeling too groggy the next day.  

I become hyper aware of things when I am trying to go to fall asleep.  I hear every little sound despite using a noise machine that blares white noise.  While it helps and I really can’t sleep without it, it doesn’t block out everything.  Sometimes I think I imagine the sounds I hear, though.  It makes my brain go into overdrive trying to figure out what the sound was. I even become hyper aware of my breathing.  That one is partly because I have had this thumping/swishing sound in my right ear for over 10 years.  It is like I can hear my pulse in my ear 24/7. It kind of sounds like a baby’s heartbeat in utero.  I’ve been to countless doctors and no one can figure out the cause.  Anyway, I have learned to tune it out for the most part.  The only time it really bothers me, or I notice it is when I think about it or I am trying to go to sleep.  That is when it suddenly become very loud and annoying.  When I focus on my breathing and slowing it down, it slows down the beating in my ear.  I have to really concentrate on it though.

The craziest thing is what has been keeping me awake the past few nights. You are going to laugh because it is so ridiculous, and I honestly don’t even know how to explain it so that it makes sense.  I have suddenly become hyper aware of my teeth when I am trying to fall asleep.  I’m not kidding! I lie there debating whether I normally sleep with my teeth clenched, lightly touching, or slightly open.  I know that it makes no sense whatsoever, but I’m serious. It just started happening a couple of nights ago, and I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s like an obsession now.  I am having this internal argument with my brain. It makes every position of my jaw start to hurt because I am over correcting whatever position I have decided on that night.  I feel like I am losing my mind.  I really think I am going insane. I try to think about something else, but I can’t.  I don’t even know why it started to begin with, but I can’t stop. It infuriates me because instead of sleeping I am lying there obsessing over the position of my teeth.  How dumb is that? I am sure that there are some people who would say there is some underlying meaning behind it, but I’m not one to believe in that kind of stuff.  I just want it to stop. 

Basically, I need sleep. I need my brain to stop all this ridiculousness. I seriously hope that you have gotten a laugh at my expense today.  I have to laugh at myself or else I’ll cry! If anyone has any suggestions on how to get myself to stop with these obsessions and fall asleep, I am all ears. I think I may need professional help, but they may send me to the psych ward! AHHHH….

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Friday Favorites: Top 5

I feel like I talk about sleep a lot on here, but I am going to do it again today.  Why? Because sleep, or lack of sleep, is constantly on my mind.  My body requires at least 10 hours of sleep and always has, but I rarely get 10 hours of sleep these days.  It is not because I stay up late doing stuff or that I get up super early.  It is because I cannot sleep.  I have a really hard time falling asleep these days.  My brain can’t shut off sometimes.  Part of it is because my day doesn’t stop until about 9:30 or 10 with the girls’ activities so there is no time for down time before I get in the bed.  There is no time for me to relax and unwind from the chaos of the day.  Therefore, my brain is still going 90 miles a minute when I lie down. That is why sleep is always on my mind. I’m longing for it all day and then when the time comes to actually sleep, I’m wide awake.  It is super frustrating.  Anyway, when I do fall asleep, I sleep hard, but there are 5 things that I must have if there is any chance of me getting a good night of sleep. They are my 5 favorite sleep aids.

1. Super Soft Sheets (Amazon)

My husband and I are both really picky about our sheets.  They have to be silky soft.  For some reason, sheets that aren’t silky soft make me hot.  I don’t know why, but the rougher the sheets are, the hotter I get. Sheets made from jersey fabric or that are flannel are definitely out of the question. I feel like I am dying of heat when sleeping on those types of fabrics. I also don’t like textured sheets because they make me feel hot too.  Our favorite brand of sheets is Boll & Branch.  They are on the high-end cost wise, but this is one area that we will splurge.  We think they are worth the cost. These sheets hold up well so they last for a long time.  They are made with pure organic cotton, are lightweight, and are super soft. I personally do not recommend the striped ones they have because they are textured and too hot for me. 

2. Sound Machine (Amazon)

When my husband and I were first married, we got an air purifying machine to help with my allergies.  I got accustomed the soft hum that it made. I liked the noise partly because it was soothing, but the main reason was that it blocked out other noises.  With my husband deployed a lot, I would have trouble sleeping when he was gone and I was home alone because every little noise I heard during the night would scare me. That machine helped drown out all those little noises.  We had that machine for years.  I don’t think that it really worked as an air purifier, but we kept it just for the noise. It got to the point that we had to buy a little sound machine to take with us when we traveled because we couldn’t sleep in the quiet.  When we moved, we decided that it was time to get rid of that big air purifier and opted to just use a sound machine instead that made white noise.  We cannot sleep without it.  My youngest daughter took over the small travel one we had and we purchased a new one for our bedroom.  It came with a variety of sounds that you could choose from like waves crashing on the shore, rain, nature sound, and more.  We prefer just the white noise to anything else. The sound machine is a MUST HAVE for a good night’s sleep in our house. 

3. Leg Pillow (Amazon)

The leg pillow is another MUST HAVE for my husband and me. We have been using them for years. We are both side sleepers, and the leg pillow fits perfectly right between your knees.  It helps to keep your spine aligned and your body in a more comfortable position. It helps with lower back and hip discomfort. These also travel with us everywhere.  The ones we have, we have had for years and are similar to the one linked above, but I am considering getting one like this, to see if the cooling pads in it help to keep me from getting so hot while I am sleeping. 

4. Sleep Innovations 2 in 1 Pillow (Amazon)

Just like I am particular about my sheets, I am also super particular about my pillow.  I cannot tell you how many pillows my husband and I have bought over the years trying to find the perfect one.  Let’s just say that the number would be obscene! Anyway a few years ago, I stumbled upon this pillow at and I was immediately hooked.  I love that it has the memory foam on one side and the microfiber on the other side.  I don’t think I will ever try another kind of pillow.  I love this one so much.  I will just keep replacing it every few years for a new one just like it. 

5. Carmex (Amazon)

I know you are thinking that I am crazy, but I have to have Carmex to sleep.  I have said for years that I am addicted to Carmex.  I used to have to have one with me all the time, but I have worked hard to break that habit and think I am much better. While I may not need it with me 24/7 anymore, I still HAVE to have it at night. It is the last thing I do before I lay down.  I have to put on my Carmex or I can’t stand it and won’t sleep.  

Those are my top 5 MUST HAVE favorites for a good night of sleep.  I have a hard enough time falling to sleep on a nightly basis that I will use all the tools I can to make the sleep come faster and longer.  What are your MUST HAVES for sleeping?

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Friday Favorites: Sleep Cycle App

I’m getting a late start on this post today.  My kids are out of school again today (not because of snow even though it snowed again last night) for a teacher workday, so my schedule has been thrown off yet again. I did enjoy sleeping in this morning, though.  I don’t get to do that very often. I am feeling rested and ready for the day. Sleep is such an important piece to your overall health.  I am one of those people who really requires at least 8 hours of sleep a night. I have always known this about me. I know that my body and mind function way better when I have had at least 8 hours.  Even when I was in college, I was the nerd that went to bed between 9 and 10 every night.  For the majority of my life, I have tried to stick to a bedtime of around 9:00. This was especially true when I was teaching because I got up at 5:00 every morning so going to bed at 9 would give me the needed 8 hours of sleep in theory.   I have always had a hard time falling asleep, though. It takes a while for my brain to stop running so I often ended up with only 6-7 hours of sleep. It has really been since I stopped teaching that my bedtime has gotten later and later despite the fact that I get up around 6:00. Part of it is because my daughter doesn’t get out of gymnastics practice until 10:00 most nights so it is impossible to go to bed earlier. The other part of it is that this is the time that I get to spend with my husband.  We will watch TV together or we will just lay in bed and talk for a bit. He on the other hand is a person that can live off of just 2 hours of sleep. That is partly due to necessity because of his job. It has always driven me crazy that he can fall asleep within 2 seconds of his head hitting the pillow.  I’m not exaggerating.  I’m super jealous. Anyway, I do feel like I am tired a lot more during the day now that I go to bed later and get less sleep.  It’s like I can never get enough.

Why am I telling you my sleep habits? I’m sure you really don’t care.  The point is to share with you one of my favorite apps on my phone. It is called Sleep Cycle. My husband introduced me to it about 2 years ago. We both use it every night. This app is really cool because it tracks your sleep patterns and serves as an alarm clock.  You set it at night before you go to bed to the time you need to get up, then set your phone down on a table beside you, and it records your sleep.  Somehow based on the sounds it hears throughout the night, it can determine the times when you were awake, were in deep sleep, and when you were in a lighter sleep.  In the mornings it will tell you how long you were in bed, your sleep quality, if you snored, and how many steps you took that day. Over time, you can look at graphs that show your sleep patterns over days, weeks, and even months. It is pretty cool to see it all laid out in a graph. My husband and I always compare our sleep quality percentage.  My sleep quality for last night was 89%. You can see below my sleep graph for last night. I was awake between 5:00-6:00 and then fell back asleep. The night before my sleep quality was 81%.

The other cool thing is the alarm feature.  You can choose to set it up like a normal alarm that wakes you up at the time you set it, or you can choose to set it up to use a wake cycle.  For the wake cycle, you would set the alarm like you normally do for the time you want to wake up. The difference is that it will wake you up sometime around the time you set it, but it will be when you are in your in your lightest sleep. This a more natural way to wake up.  For example, let’s say that you set it for 6:00 AM.  Then the app senses that you are in a light sleep phase at 5:45. The alarm will start out at a soft volume and begin to wake you up at 5:45 even though you set it for 6:00. Now, you can set it so that it will only do this within 10 minutes of your set time or you can set it so that it can wake you up in your lightest sleep for up to 90 minutes before your set time.  The app actually recommends that you set it for 30 minutes but the choice it yours. This prevents the alarm from waking you up from a deep, dead sleep. It wakes you up in a more natural way which is really cool.

Here are some other cool features to the app.

  • Sound-choose from multiple soothing sounds that wake you up in a natural way by beginning to play softly and then increasing in volume until you turn it off.
  • Vibration-used when the sound does not wake you up
  • Snooze-can be set for anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes of snooze time
  • Weekend-allows you to set the days of the week that you only want sleep analysis but no alarm to sound
  • Sleep Aid-emits a soothing sound to help you fall asleep. (I use this a lot when my husband is away to help me fall asleep faster.)***
  • Sleep Notes-allows you to track how different activities like drinking alcohol, drinking coffee, or exercise affect your sleep quality***
  • Weather-displays the weather when you wake up***
  • Heart Rate-measures your heart rate when you wake up.  It does this by analyzing the color changes on the tip of your finger when placed on the phone’s home button***
  • Philips Hue-allows the phone to wake you up with lights rather than sound***
  • Apple Watch-The app can be paired with your Apple Watch if you wear it at night to track your heart rate throughout the night. (I don’t use this feature because I can’t sleep with my watch on.)

Many of the above features (***) only come with the Premium subscription which is $29.99 per year. Fortunately, when I got the app two years ago, it was a paid app, so I automatically got the premium features without having to pay the subscription fee.  While the free features are cool alone, the premium option gives you much more data and allows you to track your patterns over a longer period of time.  I recommend the premium features, but I understand not wanting to pay for the subscription.  Try out the free version and see what you think.  If you really like it and want more detailed tracking and the options that come with the premium subscription, then go for it. 

Here are some more cool charts to show my sleep patterns over time.

Again, both my husband and I love this app. It is one that we use daily and would both recommend that you at least give the free version a try. It is pretty cool to see your sleep patterns all laid out in the graphs, and the alarm feature is awesome. The app is available for Apple and Android users. Go check it out!

Anchored and Rested,