Photo of Megan McCarty for Wit & Delight
Sleeping, either at night or for a nap, has never been my strong suit. I always joke that I sleep with one eye open as to not miss anything, and having a kid has most certainly only exacerbated this challenge. But in the same vein, never have I ever so appreciated the backs of my eyelids more than I do now. The first time my son slept through the night was four days shy of his first birthday, on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I felt myself hit REM in entirely too long and I cried legitimate happy tears—it was a Christmas miracle.
Sometimes it helps to view periods of time in life as seasons. It feels a bit easier to assimilate and far less daunting than an ambiguous idea of when you’ll be out of the woods, because you know it will eventually pass. Personally, this season of life is one of keeping my head above water. Of putting one foot in front of the other and thinking of life in smaller increments, helping my psyche from going awry. Of running three businesses that are all what I call in “professional puberty”—not new, but also rounding a (positive, somewhat under construction) corner—while raising a young kiddo, showing up for my girlfriends, taking care of my health, and, when there’s time, being an attentive wife. (I kid of course, but actually: Who else sometimes feels like partners can get the short end of the stick? Working on that too. Love you, patient one.)
Sometimes it helps to view periods of time in life as seasons. It feels a bit easier to assimilate and far less daunting than an ambiguous idea of when you’ll be out of the woods, because you know it will eventually pass.
Life is hard enough, and then throw in trying to excel in your career while also making room for that happy hour, sending the birthday card on time, going to therapy, and, heaven forbid, meal planning. We all know that sleep is paramount to keeping the circadian rhythm running smoothly, but if we’re all being honest with ourselves, it’s often the thing most readily sacrificed. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is something that’s come out of my own mouth for far too long and I am willing to bet you’ve uttered the same words.
It’s sort of a vicious cycle—we all know we need more sleep but there is trepidation because of all there is to do. We know that it would vastly improve our health and well-being, but if we don’t get XYZ done on our list, who will? Well, the answer is this: Someone else will, because we will crash and burn sooner or later.
This worry alone predicates just how vital sleep is, but how do we get more of it? How, when time is limited and there’s way too much to do? How, when we live in a culture that celebrates burning the midnight oil? Let’s start by tweaking the language around it ever so slightly and focusing on quality versus quantity, at least when we’re in a season where an abundance of rest is not always an option.
Here are five simple ways you can help improve the quality of your shut eye (and make it count) when you’re able to snag it:
As trivial as it may sound, get yourself a new, comfortable PJ set
It can feel like a silly notion, but it’s sort of that same old “dress for success” adage. I recently bought a new PJ set at Target with unexpected Grandma birthday money (which makes me sound like a tween but I am so bad at buying things for myself like this.) And let me tell you—they’re heaven. I look forward to putting them on every night. Even though my 8-year-old sweatpants and (probably my ex-boyfriend’s) crewneck have always sufficed, there is still something about the ritual of changing into pajamas that are not only insanely comfortable but are also meant solely for bed. It helps switch the brain’s gears into sleep mode.
Try CBD oil
This one has been a tough train for me to hop on because it has always felt overwhelming and I over research just about everything when it comes to supplements and medicines. However, once I found my favorite brand of CBD oil (Populum) and gave it a solid month before affirming how much I already loved the company’s mission and branding, I am forever hooked. The cold gel has been wonderful for migrating joint pain to help rest, especially around the neck, but the tincture is what I will attribute for my deep state of sleep, and without disturbing dreams or feeling groggy when I wake up. And if my son gets up in the middle of the night—because small humans don’t care if you’re in a blissful slumber—I don’t feel like I am fumbling around on heavy narcotics. It aptly allows my vagus nerve to take a damn break and activate the parasympathetic nervous system so it can slow down while still being able to function. A win in my book!
Develop a skincare ritual
Because the theme here is around the idea of lack of sleep, let’s just say this particular lack has caught up with me in my 30s and is most specifically visible on my face. Gone are the days of my undereyes not being a direct indication of my schedule, of not washing off my makeup and moisturizing properly in the dead of winter. I am also someone who, loves a good ritual but finds that consistency can fall to the wayside if I’m not diligent about a task at hand. So after I slip into my PJ’s, I head straight for the bathroom sink to love up my skin.
My only regret is that I didn’t start this consistent regimen sooner, but better late than never. I am investing in products that work for my skin type, will not pump my body with foreign invaders to damage the work I’m doing on the rest of my system, and it feels cathartic to wash away the day at the end of the evening. Again, I’m sure this is something most grown-ups have been doing thoroughly for a while, but we’re focusing on moving forward here, people. Baby steps.
Take an Epsom soak or take Magnesium supplements
Ahh yes. Magnesium. That pesky mineral that a majority of the population is deficient in. Luckily, magnesium is a relatively easy thing to get back into your body and will aid in a restful sleep and combating fatigue. One way to add more magnesium to your routine is through an old-fashioned Epsom soak. This is always my preferred course of action, but again, this time in my life is not one that always allows for much time in the tub. If you only have 10 minutes and can’t fully submerge, another option is just soaking your feet so you are at least absorbing the mineral. If neither are in the cards for you that night, a good Magnesium supplement will do the trick! Be sure to talk to your health care provider before taking any new supplements, and ask if Citrate or Glycinate is best for your bod.
Spray essential oils on your pillow or use a diffuser
As a major sucker for all things sensory (especially by way of scent), there are fewer things I find more comforting than taking a whiff of something that physically allows you to feel comfortable. We all have those favorite scents and there are some that are indeed perfect for sleeping. A simple lavender spray on your pillow can make a huge difference. I also love diffusing anything along the lines of clove or sandalwood in my bedroom to ease a hamster wheel mind. There’s a reason it’s called aromatherapy, I suppose!
Sweet dreams, friends.
Sarah Hrudka Behlke is a gal with big feelings, even bigger hair, who’s never met a stranger. She is the co-owner of design brands linyage and velvet raptor, as well as a lifestyle photographer. When she is not spilling coffee on her white tee, you can find her at the park with her husband and toddler son, where he is likely wiping his sticky hands on her back-up white tee.