Sleep Tips from a Light Sleeper Living in NYC

I am a light sleeper. This is how I came about starting a company built on what seems to be a random item: the sleep mask.
It took 10 years of living in NYC to finally discover the fact that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. After yet another sleepless night because of my neighbors’ loud footsteps above us, I asked my boyfriend if he could hear what I heard. He could not. Somehow it took me until 2018 to classify myself as HSP. After living in probably 15 different apartments, I always wondered how I happened to choose the noisiest place to live. I finally started to wonder if the common denominator was me. I then went down a rabbit hole and discovered that Highly Sensitive People can literally see, hear, smell, taste things that other people can’t. This can be a wonderful gift, but in a place like NYC, it is a curse. 

I used to just call myself an indicator species (like frogs who are the first to show that there is an environmental issue), or canary in the coal mine. But now I know I actually have a genetic trait that makes me more physically sensitive, empathetic and attuned to my surroundings than 80-85% of the population. Knowing this only helps me feel less crazy when I experience things that most people do not. It certainly hasn’t helped me sleep better. Which is why I have so many great sleep tips. If something works for highly sensitive me living in NYC, it may just work for you!

I assume if you are reading this that you have some sort of trouble sleeping, so I will save all of the facts about how vital and amazing sleep is for a later post. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting sleep and not being able to get it. So many sleep articles are all about how great sleep is for you, as though most of us sleep-deprived people are purposely avoiding it and all of its wonderful benefits! I know it’s good for me—how to do I get more of it!?

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Below are some products and practices that I have used that help me. A good night of sleep really starts when you wake up, so I’ve organized this list by time of day.

Starting in the Morning (7-12): 

-Get at least 15 mins of sunlight if you can when you first wake up or as soon as you can in the morning. This sets your circadian rhythm up for the day.

-Exercise in the morning or afternoon, not in the evening. I find that I sleep better on days I exercise, but not if I do it in the evening or at night.

-I stopped drinking all caffeine, but if you drink coffee or caffeinated tea, don’t drink anything after noon.

Afternoon (12-5)

-I like to eat my biggest meal at noon or 1, when digestion is naturally strongest, and then I have a smaller dinner.

Evening (5-8:30)

-I like to eat dinner as early as possible, like right when restaurants open early bird special style. Obviously this doesn’t happen every night. But ideally I am going to sleep at least 3-4 hours after I’ve eaten my evening meal. Sleeping with a full stomach can impede your sleep and the detoxing and regenerating that your body does while sleeping. 

-And then, to be extra annoying, contrary to the above, you don’t want to go to sleep starving either. It’s a delicate balance that you’ll have to find for yourself. According to Beekeeper’s Natural’s Founder Carly Stein, who recommends having some honey before bed: “Slow release of glycogen stores in your liver. A lot of people will wake up because glycogen stores are low or depleted and it disrupts their sleep cycle. Honey causes slow steady spike in insulin that allows triptophan to cross the blood brain barrier where it’s converted to seratonin and in the dark melatonin.” If I’m feeling slightly hungry I have a spoonful of almond butter and it does the trick for me.

-Use candles, amber bulbs and change your screens to warm setting. In a perfect world, my screen time would end when the sun goes down. But since we live in reality, a great alternative is to use the warm tone screen setting and be mindful of finishing all computer, phone and TV time at least an hour before you are trying to be asleep. The earlier you make your space dark, the more easily your body will produce sleep-inducing melatonin. I find this step to be the hardest for people to heed because we live in a culture with such a pill-popping mentality and we don’t think something as ethereal as light could be important. A lot of people actually take melatonin pills which are not great for you, instead of doing things which will help your body make it for itself. 

-I like to make a cup of tea after dinner. It signals to my nervous system that things are winding down and it’s time to relax. Some herbs that are helpful for sleep are Passionflower leaf (my fave for its effects, not flavor), Lemon Verbena, Peppermint, Lavender, Milky Oat Tops, Chamomile, and California Poppy.

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-Taking a bath is a wonderful way to relax your muscles, soothe your nervous system and unwind thoughts that may otherwise keep you up in bed.

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Getting Ready for Bed (8:30-9:30)

-I plug my cell phone in in the kitchen and turn it off. We got a battery powered alarm clock that we keep in the bedroom. Not having my cell phone in the bedroom has been a bedtime game changer,.

-I take a couple teaspoons of the Magnesium calm. I tend to get really tight muscles so this helps with that as well as with sleep. It relaxes the whole body.

-I also take CBD before bed. This has been a game changer for sleep and also for my often sore back and neck. I love Luce Farm Hemp Infused Oil because I can take it internally and can use it topically for aches and pains.

-If I’m going through a period of having extra trouble falling asleep, I use Hit the Hay which is a strong herbal cocktail that can really help

-I unplug the router which emits high EMFs (jury is still out about safety of EMFs, but I’ve read enough that I take this measure at bedtime). Our router is a few feet from our bed (small apartment problems) so I just feel better knowing I’m not being exposed to concentrated EMFs while I sleep.

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Bedtime (9:30-11)

-Once I get in bed, I like to give myself a foot massage with an herbal balm that I’ve made or this one from Free Verse Farms. This helps me seal the day and give thanks to my feet for getting me around all day. It’s a very soothing self care practice. 

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-Your bedroom should not be hot or even warm. The ideal sleep temperature is about 65 degrees. Sometimes I crack my window in the winter and it makes a big difference in my sleep.

-There should be no light or blinking lights from a computer or phone anywhere in your bedroom.

-I sleep with a sleep mask every night (duh)

-I keep ear plugs next to my bed so in case there is a noise disturbance I can use them without making a bunch of noise rummaging around trying to find them

-I love my silk pillowcases for their temperature regulating properties, as well as the feel and effects on my skin and hair. These are especially great if you are a side or stomach sleeper. Much less friction on your face = less wrinkles.

-In terms of bedding and mattress—I need to do more research because what we have going on is not ideal. We currently have a V1 Casper mattress that I think is slowly breaking my body. It is so soft and comfy when you first get on it but I often wake up in pain. It gives no support. For bedding we have a thin quilt (my boyfriend calls it a Moving Blanket, like what gets wrapped around furniture, to give you an idea of how comfortable it is...), and two old down comforters. One is way too hot and the other is mildly too hot. Bedding, and mattresses, are serious investments and I am a deep researcher, so they are in the works. Recommendations welcome! And obviously blog post once I’ve figured it all out!

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Sweet dreams, friends! I hope this helps anyone who is looking for to get more sleep or better quality sleep. And please feel encouraged to share other things that work for you or any sleep struggles you have in the comments!

XO,

Susanna