My Favorite Sleep Hacks

 

Getting a good night’s rest has been a roller-coaster ride for me the past few years. Like some kind of masochist, I somehow happened upon reading a ton of articles about the benefits of good sleep while my son was an infant and it was impossible for me to sleep well. The result was that I became nearly obsessed with good sleep. Once my son started sleeping through the night, I tried to really up my game in terms of getting a solid 8 hours a night. Keyword here is “tried”. Every night when I’d try to go to bed early, I’d toss and turn and wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. I read everything on sleep I could find, tried what felt like every sleep hack under the sun, and even went so far as to visit a sleep specialist as a diagnostic. Some things helped a ton, some things didn’t seem to help at all. Ultimately, my struggle is with the act of falling asleep, not necessarily staying asleep, and it was diagnosed as a very mild case of sleep-onset insomnia.

Fast-forward a few years and I now have a healthy relationship with sleep. I still don’t consider myself to be a particularly good sleeper, and still find a full 8 hour night elusive, but I feel more in control of the situation. I do still live with a 3 year old after all. Most of the time, I feel like I’m getting enough sleep which is most important to me.

After chatting with a friend about sleep troubles, I thought it would be valuable to share what has worked for me. Here’s the list of things that have helped.

Back to Basics:

  • Consistent Routine – following a consistent schedule is super helpful and so intuitive, I almost forgot to list it, but this is the first thing recommended to me by the sleep specialist. Attempt to go to bed at the same time every night and attempt to wake up at the same time every morning. Also, do your best to follow the same steps each night leading up to bed. This will help your mind/body know that it is time to shut down for the day. Pavlov anyone?
  • Darkness – Do you find that you tend to sleep better in hotels? It’s probably because hotels often do a great job of blacking out the light. Turn off all of the lights, get some blackout blinds, wear a sleep mask. Do whatever you need to do to immerse yourself in total darkness because even the hint of light can adversely affect your sleep. I personally haven’t found a sleep mask that I like, but I block out lights like a ninja.
  • Reduce Distractions – If your spouse snores, give them a gentle nudge. If the problem persists, be less gentle. Ideally, you’re not distracted by outside noises. I have not had a great experience with ear plugs, or white noise machines, but those do seem to work for some people. If my wife is snoring too loudly and we can’t get it to stop, I personally have better success leaving and sleeping in the guest bedroom.
  • Exercise – I train most days, but on days I don’t train, I make sure that I at least go for a nice walk or two to use up some of that excess energy. Moving throughout the day, helps to burn up that excess energy for me. I find that when I’m working on my computer for hours on end or simply watching football all day Sunday, I end up having more trouble falling asleep that night. I do avoid exercises that result in an elevated heart rate later in the evening as those tend to energize me and keep me up at night. My rule of thumb is that I have to train before my last meal of the day.
  • Sun Exposure (Vitamin D) – Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D, which is a critical nutrient in facilitating sleep (among tons of other amazing benefits). Sun exposure is the best way for humans to absorb vitamin D, as it’s not a vitamin that’s readily available in our diets, and when ingested, is not always absorbed well. Given my work schedule and climate, I struggle with this one, but do notice that I sleep better on days when I’ve had a decent amount of sun exposure.

Next Level Hacks:

  • Avoid Blue Light at Night – At least 2 hours prior to bedtime, I don a pair of blue light blocking glasses. Blue light tricks your body into thinking it is day time, and is emitted a bit from most lights, but in large amounts from screens (TV, Computer, Phones, etc.). If I don’t have access to my dorky shades, I do my best to avoid screens, or at least dim them as much as I can.
  • Turn Off Your WiFi and Baby Monitor – This one had a surprisingly noticeable effect on the quality of my family’s sleep. I thought to try this after attempting to use my cell phone right next to the baby monitor. The interfering frequencies caused interruptions in my phone call, and I started to think about what else these frequencies could affect. I view WiFi, Baby Monitors, and similar devices essentially as low-level stressors. I don’t think they’re harmful in low doses, but why subject yourself to these when you don’t have to? You don’t need WiFi while you sleep after-all. The simple act of turning off my WiFi seemed to set a calm over my entire house. My son seemed to sleep better immediately after we removed his baby monitor too!
    • I imagine an EMF canopy over your bed could produce the same benefits, and possibly even more if you live under a Cell Tower.
  • Earthing – Maybe a little hippy-dippy for most people, but I love this hack. It’s particularly effective for combating jet lag. Have you ever gone to the beach and felt totally relaxed. Maybe fallen asleep there, and/or had a great night’s sleep later that evening. It could very well be due to expending more energy walking in the sand/playing in the water, or the additional sun exposure, but may very likely also be due to the increased intake of negative ions. When we connect our skin to the earth (sand, grass, etc.), we absorb negative ions though our skin. The largest pores in your body are located in your feet, so going barefoot over the earth is a perfect way to soak up those negative ions. If the ground is damp or your feet are wet (a la at the beach), your absorption of negative ions increases. Could this be another reason for why your feet sweat, so absorb more negative ions? Due to weather and social reasons, most people won’t be able to do this every day, but a good 20 minutes of feet to earth will do wonders. The book Earthing is also a good, quick read on the subject, although some of the testimonials are a little over the top for my taste.
    • Regarding jet lag – the hippy explanation would be that you are connecting with the Earth on that new part of the world, but I’m assuming that being trapped in a flying, WiFi-enabled, box for hours on end leaves you more positively ionized, and the negative ions help to bring you back down.
  • Mindless Mind-Games – Much of my onset insomnia is due to not being able to turn my mind off. My head hits the pillow and my thoughts are off to the races. I’ve heard suggestions about reading Fiction before bed, but that didn’t help me. Oddly, what I think does help me is playing solitaire. It requires enough of my attention to where my mind doesn’t wander too much, but doesn’t require too much of my brain that it revs me up and keeps me awake. I do play on my phone, but only if I’m wearing my blue-light canceling glasses.
  • Magnesium – I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention magnesium. This is another mineral that the majority of us are deficient in, but definitely aids sleep. We add essential infused Epsom salts to my son’s baths and I can physically see him calming down. Epsom salt baths are one of the best ways for the body to absorb magnesium. You can also take a Magnesium supplement, but just yesterday, I read that you should be careful of which version of magnesium you try. I’ve been using Magnesium Citrate, which this blog lists as a lower quality version, but I did seem to benefit from it anyway, so I imagine using a higher quality magnesium, could be even better.

If you’re Desperate:

  • Essential Oils – I wasn’t a believer in Essential Oils until I used a Young Living essential oil blend called Rutavala to support sleep. I rolled it on my feet, neck, and chest and slept like a baby. I add essential oils to the “If you’re desperate” section because I like to reserve these as a “magic bullet” when I’m in a pinch. I use these for sleep if I break routine and haven’t followed my own advice (above) and need help calming down. If that’s the case essential oils are the first thing I reach for. I will say that I have plenty of friends, who supplement with essential oils for sleep every night, so I don’t think there’s a concern with using them every night, I just prefer to keep them as a round in the chamber if you will.
    • The following are essential oils that have helped me relax for bedtime:
      • Homemade Sleep Roll-on Blend – Lavender (10 drops), Stress Away (10 drops), Nutmeg (10 drops), and Geranium (10 drops) topped off with a carrier oil (almond oil).
      • Lavender
      • Cedarwood
      • Idaho Balsam Fir
      • Idaho Blue Spruce
      • Frankincense
    • Click here to find out more about therapeutic grade essential oil
  • Cold training – I started cold training using the Wim Hof Method about 2 years ago. Over the course of 10 weeks you progress from ending a shower with 30 seconds of cold water, to taking a full on ice bath. There are a whole host of health benefits, but one of them was that I found that I had an easier time falling asleep on days where I had completed cold training. I have a similar experience with cold training as I do with exercise in that I avoid doing it right before bedtime because it can be energizing. Nowadays, I don’t do cold training every day, but do take a cold shower a few times a week. In the “If you’re Desperate” section because not everyone is willing to subject themselves to such extremes, but I can attest, that once you train your body (and mind) to handle it, it can be really quite pleasant.
  • Earthing Sheet – If you feel that you aren’t getting enough negative ions and aren’t able to spend time earthing, they do make earthing sheets. These are sheets that plug into the grounder in an typical outlet (the third prong of a standard U.S. 3-prong outlet) that you sleep on. The idea is that you get the benefits of negative ions, while sleeping. I love sleeping on an earthing sheet and think that it gives me good dreams. We don’t use this all the time though because the sheets are more coarse than the amazingly comfortable bamboo sheets my mom got us for Christmas.

Things to Avoid:

  • Caffeine – I’m a coffee lover. Unless I’m taking a coffee sabbatical, which I do a couple months a year, I drink multiple cups a day. But I refuse to drink caffeine after 12pm. Most people can metabolize caffeine in 6 hours, so at a minimum, you’d want to avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime, but more me, a noon cutoff seems to help even more. I might be more sensitive, but I’ve even noticed more struggle falling asleep when I go crazy and eat multiple bars of very dark chocolate.
  • Alcohol – When I’m super drunk, I fall asleep (or pass out) rather quickly, but I always wake up at least once during the night, and wake up in the morning feeling un-rested (even if I’ve been in bed for 8+ hours). While it helps you to crash, alcohol disrupts your sleep cycles greatly. When I drink, I just have to go into it knowing I won’t sleep as well. If I’m just having a glass or two of wine, I do better when I finish drinking at least 2 hours before bedtime (day drinking anyone?).
  • Blue Light at Night (see above)
  • High Intensity Exercise Close to Bedtime (see above)
  • Don’t overly stress about it – Last but not least, my attitude towards sleep might be the biggest leap towards a healthy relationship with sleep. I simply don’t allow myself to get frustrated with it anymore. In the past, if I was being aggressive and tried to go to bed early, in an attempt to get more sleep, it always takes much longer for me to fall asleep and it usually doesn’t work. I end up getting frustrated that I’m not falling asleep. I’ve gone so far as to hit and yell into my pillow (sorry to my wife). This obviously makes things worse. If I end up feeling myself get frustrated, I change scenery and leave the room. I stop trying to fall asleep, and watch a mindless show, or read Fiction for a bit. After I’ve calmed myself down, I try again. On extreme occasions, I will simply just try to fall asleep in the guest bed. The point is, if I’ve been trying to fall asleep for 20 minutes or more, I remove myself from the situation, put myself into a better situation, and try again later when I’m in a more positive place.
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How to get 11 gifts for under $15 AND a free diffuser!

Split a Premium Starter KitDIY Gift Alternative:  Split A Kit

I love making DIY gifts with essential oils for the holidays!  Handmade gifts at the holidays are a great way to save money and give thoughtful gifts.  That being said, November and December can be busy and stressful and it’s easy for time to get away from us.   A great way to save time AND money on holiday gifts is to ‘Split A Kit’!

How To Split A Kit

Buy a Premium Starter Kit (which saves you 50% of off the retail price) and give ONE essential oil to each member of your family or your friends.   You can even add a little something to make it extra personal or a few DIY ingredients with recipes to make some of their own bath and body goodies.

  • Lavender– give it to your favorite person in need of good sleep and relaxation. Add a sleep mask and a ½ pint mason jar filled with Epsom salts with a note to add 8 drops of their Lavender essential oil to their Epsom salts for relaxation bath salts.
  • Peppermint– add a package of gourmet hot cocoa with a note to add a drop of peppermint for the perfect steaming cup of minty hot chocolate.
  • Lemon – include a glass water bottle for enjoying essential oil infused water
  • Frankincense – perfect for the meditation or yoga enthusiast in your life, include a yoga block or yoga socks.
  • Thieves – give to your favorite teacher, perfect for keeping immune system boosted!
  • Purification – perfect for the dog lover in your life, include a holiday themed dog collar.
  • DiGize – know a foodie? Maybe they over indulge on occasion – give them the gift of good digestion with DiGize.  Include some empty veggie capsules for easy consumption.
  • Copaiba – gift to your favorite tea drinker. A drop of Copaiba in your tea makes every cup the perfect wellness drink.
  • R C – a drop of RC on the throat and chest makes for a comforting end to the day, throw in a pair of fuzzy socks for the ultimate end of day coziness.
  • Panaway – for the athlete, the cubicle dweller, or anyone with joints and muscles. Include a mini bottle of your favorite carrier oil, like Almond oil, and a note to combine a few drops of Panaway with a few drops of carrier oil and massage into neck and shoulders.
  • StressAway – pop the aromaglide roller fitment from the kit on this bottle and give it to your most stressed out friend, with a note to roll it over wrists and neck.

That’s 11 gifts for only $160, only $14.50 per gift!  You can add the extra items, or not, or add different items specific to the recipients – use your imagination!

But wait, what are you going to do with the diffuser?  Gift it to someone who needs it, or keep it for yourself, no need to play favorites 😉

I hope that you can see this is a great way to give unique, useful and thoughtful gifts that are truly natural and support your friend and family’s wellness!

You can grab a Premium Starter Kit to split right here:  Young Living Premium Starter Kit

Thieves Household Cleaner – Non-toxic & Headache-free Cleaning!

Thieves Household CleanerDo you ever feel like you are going to pass out from cleaning your bathroom?  Not necessarily because you haven’t cleaned the bathroom in a really long time (that would never happen), but simply because you are holding your breath to avoid breathing toxic chemical cleaner fumes?  Even while running the bathroom fan and holding my breath as much as possible –commercial chemical cleaners are sure to leave me with a headache.

This is one of the reasons I’ve recently turned to Thieves Household Cleaner. Thieves Household Cleaner is a natural and healthy concentrated product that can replace a variety of the chemical-laden cleaners in your home.  Thieves Household Cleaner is a green, ecologically friendly, plant-based cleaner containing Thieves essential oil blend plus additional therapeutic-grade lemon oil for extra cleaning power.  It is concentrated so a small bottle will go a long way.  It also can be used to replace a variety of your household cleaners, saving you money and storage space!

These are my top 3 Thieves Household Cleaner recipes:

All-Purpose Cleaner – I use this for counter tops, kitchen appliances, refrigerator, bathroom sink, kitchen table, etc.

  • 1 capful Thieves Household Cleaner
  • 16 oz water

Mix together in a spray bottle

Glass Cleaner – perfect for mirrors and glass sliding doors

  • 1 capful Thieves Household Cleaner
  • 24 oz water
  • 5 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Mix together in a glass spray bottle

Tub and Tile Scrub – I use this when the bathtub starts to go that dingy gray color

  • ¼ capful Thieves Household Cleaner
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 5 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp water

Mix together Thieves cleaner, baking soda and Lemon – add water until a paste forms.  Slather this on all grout, tile, tubs that are less than sparkly.  I let it sit for a few minutes and then scrubbed down with a sponge.  The difference was amazing!

Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner

*** Learn more about Young Living Essential Oils and how to become a wholesale member (which means you can get your oils and other natural products at 24% off retail!).  When you become a wholesale member through me, I send you a FREE sign-up gift with great reference materials and other oily goodies!  Click HERE

Top 10 Uses for Coconut Oil

coconut oilCoconut oil is a staple in my house.  Coconut oil has many proven health and beauty benefits.  I use it for everything from skin care to cooking – so we use A LOT.

Here are my top 10 ways to use coconut oil, and a chance to get a FREE jar of coconut oil from Thrive Market!

TOP 10 USES FOR COCONUT OIL

  1. Cooking: Coconut oil has a high-smoke point and is great for baking, frying or as a dairy-free butter replacement
  2. Make-up remover: Keep a little jar in your bathroom and use to quickly wipe away eye make-up
  3. Lotion: A perfect basic lotion, I like to add essential oils to mine – like this Joy Body Balm
  4. Diaper Balm: A soothing, non-toxic option for your baby’s bottom – increase the soothing factor by adding a little Lavender essential oil
  5. Lip Balm: Rub it on straight for a soothing natural chap stick – or kick it up a notch by adding some essential oils to your homemade lip balm
  6. Oil Pulling: Support oral health with a daily oil pulling practice – make refreshing oil pulling chews by adding some peppermint oil to your coconut oil
  7. After Shave: Coconut oil is soothing to freshly shaven skin – use it plain or add skin supporting essential oils and make your own After Shave Balm
  8. Metabolism Booster: Coconut oils high Lauric acid and Medium Chain Fatty Acids can help boost metabolism
  9. First Aid Ointment – Dab some coconut oil on scrapes, cuts, and scratches to speed up healing time
  10. Dry Skin – Rub into dry, flaky elbows or cracked heals to soothe and moisturize

So many uses for coconut oil! How would you like to get a free jar of coconut oil?? Thrive Market, essentially the Amazon Prime of healthy foods and wellness products, is offering all new members a FREE full-size jar of Nutiva Coconut Oil (only available until June 24th), along with several samples of favorite products (valued at $25). Just click over to Thrive Market, enroll in the free trial and search Nutiva Coconut Oil to find the free sample box!

Want to make all natural skin care products using coconut oil and essential oils?  Find out how to buy essential oils at wholesale, (24% off retail!), and get a free sign-up gift.

Simple DIY Peppermint Oil Pulling Chews

Peppermint Oil Pulling Chews 1You’ve probably heard about oil pulling by now — maybe from a friend or on the evening news.  Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that involves swishing a bit of oil in your mouth, preferably on an empty stomach, for about 15 minutes. This action is supposed to draw toxins out of your body, primarily to improve oral health but also to improve your overall health.

With regular oil pulling, studies have shown benefits such as reduced plaque, cavity prevention and stronger gums for individuals who already have a healthy mouth.  For people with current plaque build up, I teeth cleaning first is a good option, then a regular oil pulling practice to maintain the cleaning.

I’ve been oil pulling on and off over the past couple years and find that when I am consistent, my teeth maintain that fresh from the dental hygienist clean feel.  To make it easier to maintain the habit and be consistent, I made these Peppermint Oil Pulling Chews.  You can make a batch in no time and keep them in your fridge.  Popping a minty coconut oil chew in my mouth is a refreshing way to start the day – I like to pop one right before jumping in the shower.  By the time I’m out of the shower, I’m ready to spit out the coconut oil.

Peppermint Oil Pulling Chews

peppermint oil pulling chews materialsIngredients:

  • Coconut oil – My preferred oil, the lauric acid in coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, including the ability to fight off bacteria, viruses, and yeasts.
  • Peppermint Essential Oil – A refreshing and energizing flavor for my morning oil pull.  I only use therapeutic grade essential oils, learn how to get them HERE.
  • Candy mold
  • Pipettes – I use these 3-ml pipettes, and fill each candy mold with 2 pipettes worth of oil

Directions:

  1. Melt coconut oil in double boiler – I use a glass jar in a saucepan of water
  2. Use pipette to fill candy mold with melted coconut oil, I use two pipettes full of oil per candy mold
  3. Add one drop of Peppermint Essential Oil to each individual candy mold
  4. Place molds in refrigerator to harden
  5. Once hardened, pop out of molds and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator

To use:

  • Place one Peppermint Oil Pulling Chew in your mouth and chew until melted (this is the hard part, don’t swallow your chew!)
  • Swish melted oil around mouth for 10-20 minutes, I try for 15 minutes.
  • When done pulling, spit out oil in the trash (you don’t want to clog up your pipes with hardened coconut oil, and you don’t want to swallow the bacteria that has accumulated in the oil).
  • Now brush and floss like normal and enjoy that straight-from-the-dentist fresh, clean mouth feel!

Find out how to buy essential oils at wholesale, 24% off retail, and get a free sign-up gift.

Peppermint Oil Pulling Chews 2

The Best ‘Paleo’ Dessert Ever – with Lemon Essential Oil!

lemon blueberry coconut barkYou don’t have to give up dessert just because you are committed to eating real foods.  Sometimes you just want a little treat, and that’s ok (really, it is).  I think I’ve found my ultimate guilt-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dessert.

Bonus, this dessert is not only delicious — it’s actually good for you.

Blueberries – contain antioxidants, which work to neutralize free radicals linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other age-related conditions. These little powerhouses provide tasty ways of staying healthy.  Anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, not only give blueberries their blue color and help improve heart health, but they may also help attack cancer-causing free radicals and possibly even block tumor cells from forming, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which focused on the effects of blueberries on prostate cancer.

Lemon Essential Oil – contains d-limonene, an antioxidant that has been linked to healthy immune system function.

Lemon Blueberry Coconut Bark

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 cups Coconut Cream Concentrate
  2. Frozen Blueberries
  3. 12 drops Lemon Essential Oil*

* I only use therapeutic grade essential oils from Young Living, you can get them here

Directions:

  • Warm coconut cream just until it has a creamy consistency.  I place the jar of coconut cream in a small saucepan of hot water, if you have a warm kitchen – that may not even be necessary
  • When creamy, remove from heat and add Lemon essential oil
  • Spread the coconut cream out on a piece of parchment paper or silpat, to 1/4-1/2 inch thick (if it got too warm and runny, let it cool a bit before spreading out)
  • Generously sprinkle with frozen blueberries and wait 8-10 minutes. You can pop it in the fridge/freezer to harden faster
  • The frozen blueberries help harden the coconut cream, break apart into bite size pieces and enjoy!

Any leftover bark (haha) should be stored in the refrigerator, especially if you are in a warm climate or season. This is a great light, summery treat.  If you are looking for something with a little chocolate to it – there’s always these amazing double chocolate peppermint brownie bites.

Find out how to buy essential oils at wholesale, 24% off retail, and get a free sign-up gift.

DIY Foaming Hand Soap with Thieves Essential Oil

Thieves foaming hand soapMake your own foaming hand soap with Thieves essential oil blend from Young Living – it’s cheaper and safer than the store-bought stuff!

Thieves essential oil blend includes Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils.  According to Young Living, the Thieves essential oil blend was inspired by the legend of four 15th-century French thieves who formulated a special aromatic combination composed of clove, rosemary, and other botanicals.  They used this blend to keep them healthy while robbing the dead and dying.  Thieves supports healthy immune function, and it includes Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil, which supports a healthy respiratory system.

Making Your Own Thieves Foaming Hand Soap is SAFER

Triclosan is a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps and personal products.  Triclosan was first used in personal products in 1970, and since 1974 the FDA has maintained a regulatory limbo regarding whether or not triclosan should be considered safe and effective in hand soaps.  Although there seems to be some consensus on the question of effectiveness:

In fact, there currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water, says Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA.  “New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits,” Rogers says.

There are several risks associated with triclosan.  Laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, essentially the creation of ‘superbugs’.  Animal studies have also shown triclosan to be a hormonal disruptor and linked triclosan to the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice.  Although the FDA still has not definitively ruled on the safety of triclosan, there are enough alternatives that ensure I will not expose my family to this antibacterial agent.

Making Your Own Thieves Foaming Hand Soap is CHEAPER

It is very easy to make your own, safe and effective foaming hand soap – and I love the spicy scent of the Thieves blend!  All you need is:

Safe, effective, and great smelling foaming hand soap for less than two dollars!  Simply fill dispenser about 2/3 with water, add castile soap and Thieves essential oil – swirl together and pump away!

** I only use therapeutic grade essential oils from Young Living.  Learn how to get started using essential oils here.