I always thought a good night’s sleep was the pursuit of the rich and famous. Then I moved to the front room of a terrace of a busy street in Sydney’s Inner West and realised that I needed to get my sleep cycle in order ASAP.
It turns out you don’t need a king size bed, double-glazed windows and a butler cooking you breakky to get a good night’s sleep. It’s all thanks to a little thing called sleep hygiene, which are the habits and conditions which help you fall sound asleep.
Basic sleep hygiene is quite affordable and I – the bootleg Arianna Huffington – am here to show you how it’s done. All you need is a few things from the shops and a bit of willpower. That’ll have you sleeping like a baby in no time.
As a disclaimer, I spoke with my doctor beforehand to make sure I didn’t have any underlying medical conditions that may had been affecting my sleep. Buy ear plugs at your own risk, etc.
1. Ear plugs
Just like a decent pair of sunnies can block out the haters, so too can a decent set of ear plugs block out those ungodly noises which disrupt our circadian rhythms.
No matter if I went to bed early or late, there’d always be something waking me up in the middle of the night: randoms screaming on their phone, motorbikes, early morning deliveries, power tools, and most of all, garbage trucks.
I thank the hard working garbos for their service, but I do not thank them for disrupting my sleep.
Being constantly woken up by these various sounds made me start to feel fatigued throughout the day. I literally couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because my street was too damn noisy.
Ear plugs changed my life. It turns out there’s different grades of noise reduction, too. The ones I’ve been using have an SNR rating of 38 and that’s strong enough to block out pretty much everything.
Obviously garbage trucks don’t wake everyone, but when I used to work evenings my sleep-in was essential.
Hoo boy. My last curtains were thin as fuck, which meant I had the sun shining right in my eyes at the butt-crack of dawn.
While this is unpleasant for anyone, remember that I also worked evenings and therefore treasured my late sleep-ins, which soon became impossible thanks to a gigantic ball of burning hydrogen 1.39 million kilometres away.
To make matters worse, there’s also a street light right outside my house, meaning that I had to deal with the artificial glow after dark when what I really craved was a pitch-black abyss of a bedroom.
Oh, and did I mention that my room only came with a single curtain? Like, as in, just the one piece of thin cloth. This curtain only just covered my window, which meant plenty of light could seep through the cracks.
A quick dash to IKEA solved all of these issues.
IKEA had plenty of affordable curtains which were graded by how opaque they are. I opted for dark grey curtains which blocked as much light as possible.
Suffice to say, it worked, and I am now waking up on my own goddamn terms, rather than the sun’s.
A lot of people swear by melatonin to ensure a good night’s sleep. But I’m not a doctor so I’m not going to tell complete internet strangers to medicate. Besides, I don’t even take it myself!
What I was recommended as a first port-of-call before more serious supplements was valerian: a much milder, herbal remedy which some studies suggest can help you fall asleep quicker, and deeper.
Think back to the sleeping potions of medieval times. These valerian capsules – which are made from the ground-up root of the flower of the same name – are billed as kind of natural remedy for people who have trouble falling asleep. They also don’t make you wake up feeling groggy like proper sleeping pills can do.
Best of all, you can buy them for like $10 at the supermarket or chemist.
Around the same time, I also came into possession of some sleeping tonics which I did not (and won’t ever) purchase myself. In theory these can be slightly beneficial, if they have the right quantities of the right ingredients. I’m no scientist/apothecary/sleep hygienist, so that’s a debate for another article.
What I can say, personally, is that the word “tonic” is right up there with “elixir” when it comes to old-school words that make you feel like you’re doing something kinda healthy.
I guzzled the sleep tonics anyway and, who knows, maybe they did some good. As far as before-bed rituals go, at least they made me feel one step closer to being Arianna Huffington.