It's 3 a.m. as I begin to write this. I should be in bed, probably. Let's go ahead and blame it on the fact that I'm stressing out about the blood tests I have to get in the morning; I always black out, not from nervousness, but from my blood sugar dropping. My eyes fill with tiny black dots if I stand up too soon after, my ears ring, my face flushes, and I fall to the ground.
So I'm sitting here going over that in my head, trying to burn into my brain that I must remember to bring juice and a granola bar to eat while I sit pressing a cotton ball to my inner elbow and try not to think about the fact that a syringe just stole my blood. Ay yi yi.
Or maybe we can blame my insomnia on the fact that I'm at my parents' house right now, and I don't have any of my sleep-inducing products on hand as I packed for my visit in a hurry. Oops.
Or per-haaaps we can blame my insomnia or, rather, inverted sleep schedule on the fact that I'm so exhausted lately (and so I'm getting blood tests to find out why, duh!) that I sleep all day and suddenly come alive at night, alert and full of ideas. I mean, I am writing right now. I'm getting work done. It just happens to be 3:03 a.m.
There are a lot of factors at hand, I guess. It's not that I'm not a good sleeper. I'm an excellent sleeper. As a child, I could conk out on the pews at church while the choir sung at the top of their lungs. Nowadays, I frequently fall asleep on planes before they even take off. It's just that I'm not great at sleeping when I'm supposed to.
I feel like a sneaky little mouse at night, coming out to play while everyone else lies unconscious. I suddenly want to paint, to cook, to write, to watch three movies in a row. I become productive! And then the sun comes out and I suddenly say "peace out" to the universe for 13 hours.
Maybe you're in the same position. Maybe you've got other reasons for sleeplessness. Perhaps it's stress, a racing and inquisitive mind, or simply excitement? I know I can never fall asleep on Christmas Eve. Whatever the cause is, I've tried many, many solutions, and I'm here to share with you the ones that have worked the best. Just ignore the ironic fact that I offer this advice in an owl-eyed state.
PRE-GAME WITH A LULLABY BATH
To paraphrase Amy Sedaris' brilliant and hilarious book I Like You, a shower perks you up, a bath calms you down. I love to take baths before bed because the warm water, the various products, and the sound of the faucet running all lull me to sleep and send me off to the Land of Nod clean and snoozy. How heavenly. Just thinking about it makes me want to X out of this article and head for the tub.
But no, I'll continue and tell you how to make the most relaxing bath possible. You've got to choose the right products with the right scents, or you'll have a disaster at hand. Hey, I love the smell of grapefruits or peppermint, but those are not what we're looking for right now. Try them in the morning when you need some zip! At night, it's all about calming lavender and comforting vanilla.
Start by running the water and tossing in a LUSH Dreamtime Bath Melt. The bath melts are great because they scent the water with wonderfully calming aromatherapy vibes, but they also pack moisturizing oils so that when you finally pull yourself from the tub and you feel too sleepy to slather yourself with lotion, you've already got smooth, softened skin just from soaking. Fan-tastic.
Since you're probably dirty from a long day of being awake and stressed out and just generally human, you need to lather up with something as calming as it is cleansing. Beecology Natural Lavender & Bergamot Body Wash is just what you need to feel clean and sleepy. I also encourage you to think about the fact that Beecology's products are made by hand by an adorable family on their bee farm. That is a soothing thought in my books.
And, FUN TIP: if you have a dryer at home (I do, and it's conveniently located in my bathroom), throw your clean towels in there so that you've got warm, fluffy towels to dry off with after your bath. If that doesn't make you want to curl up in a ball and zzzz off, I don't know what will.
GET INTO THE SLEEP ZONE
So you're clean and lavender-scented now, and it's time to hit the sheets. First up, you should try and make sure your bed and room are free of clutter. A cluttered bedroom will clutter your mind and keep you awake. If your pillowcases and sheets are dirty, wash them. If you lie in bed thinking "Ugh, I need to get around to tidying that up, and I should really organize my closet--I wonder if IKEA still has those dealie-things?" it will go on and on and on. So I can't stress enough: TIDY ROOM, TIDY BRAIN.
Also, before I recommend a few more products, a word about phones in bed. I'm guilty of this, but I'm trying to get better. You climb into bed with your iPhone, checking Facebook all la-di-da, saying to yourself "Ah, I wonder what so-and-so is up to, let me just check their profile and then I'll head to bed..."; meanwhile, your brain is basically high on cocaine from all of the science-waves your brightly lit screen is blasting at it through your eyeballs. IT'S SCIENCE.
Phones keep us awake, and if we're sleeping with them in bed or on our nightstand, we're more likely to grab them as we lie awake tossing and turning at 4 a.m. to tweet out "I CAN'T SLEEP!1!! #tired" Look, I've been there! No judgment.
My advice is to finish checking stuff on your phone before you walk into your bedroom. If you use your phone as your alarm clock, place it within hearing range, but far enough away that you have to sit up or climb out of bed to shut it off. I know that when my phone is right next to me, I'm more likely to hit snooze three times (especially after staying up all night on the damn thing scrolling through Pinterest and Wikipedia for an embarrassing amount of time).
OK, phone PSA over. Now let's get to the products.
When I was last in New York, Marci offered me the Tata Harper Aromatic Bedtime Treatment that she had received along with the stress-busting one she'd previously wrote about. Knowing my personal history of sleep issues, I snatched it up and decided to try it out.
The instructions recommend applying it to pulse points and/or your palms and then inhaling deeply for a minimum of five super-heavy breaths. I dabbed it on my wrists and brought the heels of my hands up to my sinuses one night as I huffed the magic hippie oils in. Then I began counting backwards from 100, which is something I do when I can't sleep to avoid getting songs stuck in my head. I don't think I made it past 80, or at least I can't remember doing so, because I was out like a light.
It probably helped that I had my ears stuffed with earplugs and my eyes covered in a sleep mask. If you don't use either of these accessories at night, THEN NO WONDER YOU'RE AN INSOMNIAC, DUDE.
Over the years I've tried low, mellow music and the white noise of a fan to lull me to sleep, but I've discovered that relative silence accompanied by the blood in my head seemingly pulsing inside of my ears is the most relaxing "music" I can listen to. I also require absolute darkness, and if I can't seem to locate my sleep mask, I'll tie a scarf around my face like a blindfold.
You can usually pick up earplugs and a cheapie sleep mask at the dollar store, but if you're looking for luxe, try the Catbird Cashmere Eyemask. It's like a gentle bunny lying on your face, whispering secrets into your eyes.
If you follow all of this advice and still can't sleep, turn this on, pop an effing Benadryl or two, and thank me in the morning.