March seems to be the month chosen for “Sleep Awareness.” Maybe because it’s around Daylight Savings Time or Spring is approaching and we need to be reminded of how to crawl out of our winter mama bear cave. Who knows. I do know, that even though clocks may change instantly, sleep patterns don’t.

World Sleep Day this year is Friday, March 13, 2020. There are also various “Sleep Awareness” weeks and activities held across the planet. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me because I (and many, many others out there who are reading this) struggle with sleep EVERY DAY AND NIGHT throughout the entire year.

And right here and now, I hope to help you with these often overlooked tips for better sleep. Why? Because I have a serious and rare sleep disorder. Yay! So … let’s just say I’m very aware of sleep challenges.

But this isn’t about me. This is about you!

I’m sure we all could use a little extra sleep and want to raise healthy sleepers along the way while we’re at it. You don’t have to have a sleep disorder, either. Chances are the reason you’re reading this is that you’re tired (perhaps even really, really tired) – and EVERYBODY gets tired – especially mamas

Now some of these suggestions might be part of your life already, but some may be enlightening or maybe forgotten. I know when I had a newborn, I couldn’t remember anything, let alone what sleep was or how to get any of it. It was like slowly swimming underwater for at least six months. And my son still didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost 3! HAHAHA! ***sigh***

Lay down

Seems obvious, but as busy parents, we are always trying to keep up. After the kids go to sleep, it’s like, “I can finally DO all those THINGS! I’m too tired to remember what those things actually ARE right now, but I’m going to stay up and do them! It’s going to be AWESOME!!!”

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Try to just take a breath, make sure your surroundings are safe and lay down. Whatever it is, it can probably wait until you are more coherent (even if you think you are). You might need to set an alarm to do this “laying down” thing. I get really caught up planning events while doing laundry and binge-watching something ridiculous all at the same time. The next thing I know, it’s WAY late. The alarm helps.

Ear Plugs, White Noise, Eye Masks

I use these constantly and never travel without them. Earplugs are not only helpful when sleeping next to annoying snorers, but when you desperately need a nap. Usually, there are screaming children in the other room (under the care of someone else, of course), and construction indoors and out – which never seems to end around my house and neighborhood. Ah yes, one of the joys of living in the Oldest City: constant reconstruction.

White Noise helps as a buffer between your ears and whatever that disruptive noise is that you may or may not notice waking you up. White noise also helps most babies stay asleep longer … I said most babies not all. I also didn’t say my baby. People tell me this is a thing that works, though.

You can play something on your phone from the internet (easiest but sound may be a bit annoying) or hook up to a Bluetooth speaker. The problem I had is that my phone would fail via wifi or something and wake me and anyone else up. I’ve been using a dehumidifier as a substitute until I decide on one of the many fabulous portable and rechargeable white noise machines on Amazon.

Eye masks help keep you asleep – for reals! Even the smallest amount of ambient light can wake up a heavy sleeper and they may not know. There are some super comfy eye masks out there that cover your peepers so well, you’ll swear you’re in the dark, even on the brightest of days. Which leads me to …

Room Darkening Curtains

Why, WHY did I not hang them up earlier??? You can find stylish and inexpensive ones at Big Lots, Ross, Marshalls, and online of course. They honestly changed my life. Even as a baby, my child would wake up to the teeny-tiniest ray of remote sunshine. I have shutters in my bedroom that block out the light almost as well, but I still use the eye mask. Blacking out random LED lights from electronics with black electrical tape can also be helpful.

Screen Time

Yeah, yeah…this is a big one. Who knew we would all be constantly attached to computers that basically control our lives? Our sleep patterns certainly didn’t. The light from a screen (any screen – including TVs, phones, you name it) tells your body that its still daytime! Stay awake!

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If it is absolutely necessary, there are filters and apps that can help you control the amount and type of light emitted from your device. Turn on “night light” or “night mode” in your device settings and your display will show warmer colors at night that are easier on your eyes instead of the blue light screaming DAYTIME at your eyeballs. This is still not a substitute for turning the screen OFF. If your kids are having trouble falling asleep, this could be the reason. Try to turn off screens earlier – for everyone. Lead by example and all that. I know its hard, but I believe in you. You can do it, mama!

Comfort

Make sure the temperature is comfortable for everyone no matter where they are sleeping. Fans, heaters, humidifiers, dehumidifiers… whatever works to keep everyone in snoozy bliss.

sleepIf you can afford it, upgrade sheets and pillows to ultimate comfort and even a new mattress if needed. Allergy sufferers: it is well worth the investment, along with allergy/dust preventing pillowcases and mattress covers. Don’t forget to check your air filters regularly, too.

Anxiety

Anxiety often prevents this sleep thing. Lay down: check. Eye mask: check. Earplugs: maybe. Its crazy dark and super comfy … but I STILL CAN’T SLEEP! My mind is a machine with the gears cranking at top speed and the train is derailing! AAaaaaaa …

Relax … I know what I said about screen time, but go ahead and get on that phone. There are some awesome meditation apps to help you that are FREE.

My current favs are Calm, Simple Habit, and I just started Slumber (only available for Apple iOS devices). For kids: Moshi Twilight Sleep Stories is super cute for kids and adults. All of these apps offer a subscription service, but so far I have used the free options repeatedly with great success. Are you are using an app already or something else that helps you or your fam calm down and get to sleep? Share below because knowledge = power, or in this case = zzz’s!

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Other things that might be interrupting your sleep without you even knowing it could be anything from noisy sprinklers going off in the middle of the night (happened to me) to changes in diet.

If someone else has seen you sleep, ask them if they’ve noticed you snoring or doing anything unusual, like grinding your teeth or kicking or twitching. I’m looking forward to trying a Fitbit to monitor my sleep cycles better. There are other devices out there, too, and if you use one, please comment below. I’m curious to know since I’m often baffled by technology.

If you suspect yourself or someone else may be suffering from ANY sleep disorder, please PLEASE see a doctor. A neurologist or pulmonologist who specializes in sleep medicine can help with diagnosis.

Has something worked well for you or your family that you would like to share? Do you have more questions about sleep? I’d love to hear from you. Until then…

… Sweet Dreams πŸ™‚

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Teresa Merritt
Teresa, a fifth-generation Floridian, grew up in North Palm Beach. Her family purchased a historic Victorian "fixer-upper" house in St. Augustine in 1992. After living in Atlanta, Manhattan, and traveling extensively, she returned to the sunny coastal family home and established Jasmine's Coffeehouse – a restaurant loved by locals and tourists alike from 2004-2008. Teresa also worked as a wine consultant for several years and enjoys doing anything "foodie" related. After the birth of her son in 2015, she decided to follow in her family's 40+ years of real estate experience and join the trade. She currently works at Coldwell Banker Premier Properties where her office window overlooks the mission grounds. When she's not working with wine or real estate, Teresa is seen gallivanting around town with her son, who often persuades her to roll down the fort hills, which she happily complies - regardless of dress or weather.