Feeling tight and tired every morning? Try this!

“Can I call in catatonic to work?”

Ever wake up like Igor?

All hunched over and barely mobile? I mean, you went to bed relatively okay. But, when you woke up, it felt like you were in a straightjacket of your own muscles. Shoulders hunched forward. Pecs invisibly stitched and cinched tight ‘til you could barely breathe. Maybe even your head felt a bit askew, your breathing – constrained, and your body and mind – tired. Ah, yes. I’m well familiar with this one. As are the litany of humans who commute and computer surf more than they should each day. We’re stuck in some awful position all day that lends itself to this awful malady. Our shoulders round forward (toward the steering wheel or laptop or phone). And, as a result, two things happen: the rear part of our upper backs (the shoulder stabilizing muscles) get all stretched out and weak, while the front part of us (our chest muscles) get vice tight. And, slowly, that’s where our muscles learn to remain. Overnight, they often tighten up even more, making mornings feel even worse than they usually do when the alarm goes off at nothing’s-happening-til-caffeine o’ clock. And it’s even worse when that pain and discomfort wakes us up intermittently in the night, interrupting our sleep cycle.

So, how can we improve our sleep and waking pain alike?

Well, some people might say, “Stretch it out, duh.”

And, that’s true in part. I’m all for a bit’ve nocturnal and morning yoga. It’s restorative, relaxing, and all that other stuff we mistakenly turn to pharmaceuticals for. However, if we hit reading rewind button for a moment, the problem wasn’t just tightness that needed to be stretched out. Sure, that’s part of it. We do (very, very desperately) need to stretch out our chest muscles. But the other half of this fix requires attacking those weak muscles at the rear of our upper body – namely the scapular stabilizers.


Simply. Alongside strengthening those muscles behind the shoulders, the aforementioned stretching’s necessary. So, let’s start with that. I prefer to do this bit of the regimen before any strengthening, ’cause I get better range of motion when I go to do the actual muscle building movements. Some fantastic go to’s I prefer are the tried and true pec stretches on the foam roller and in the doorway. But my recent latest fave is this lesser known one – what the yogis call “fish pose”:

(Protip: even if you can’t prop your elbows up, just tucking your arms underneath ‘n behind your back does thoracic sorcery for ya…)

After stretching the pectoralis major and minor, that tightness in the thoracic region will slowly alleviate.

Your shoulders should release from that protracted posture. Even your breathing may feel freer.

But, as mentioned above, the stretching’s only half of it.

Next comes strengthening:

(I love this pic ’cause she’s undoing her bad posture in the same place she probably got it.)

Just like the name (scapular stabilizers) suggests, by fortifying these muscles, you’ll help stabilize these shoulder blades ‘n plant ’em back where they belong. Between tightening these badboys back up and loosening up the front’ve your body, you’ll not only be walking around with confident posture. You’ll also feel better, rested, and more alert. (Not to mention – less like someone spent the evening Gorilla gluing your body parts into a Picasso character.)

Now, unfortunately for both you and me, this is like any other form of wellness: you don’t just do it once and then benefit forever. Much like you have to eat healthy consistently and hit the gym consistently to stay in shape, you’ve gotta do this consistently as well. Why? Well, do you just drive once in a while? Do you sit at your computer or get lost in your phone only once in a while? Nope. So, that means we’ve gotta constantly counteract the bad posture that comes with all’ve that. The good news, though? If you are following a physical fitness regimen, you can just squeeze your scapular squeezes and pec stretches in at the top or tail end of your workout (as a warm up or cool down). Then, at the day’s end, you can repeat it – saving the relaxing foam roll stretch for the very end – a beautiful segue into the serene sleep you’re about to enjoy.

So, for a more limber, comfy slumber, try this twofer out ASAP…

And wake up looking like you’re ready to conquer the day – not ring Notre Dame’s tower bell.

This inflatable fleece is a literal dream come true for public slumberers

Sometimes you can’t sleep because of stress.

Sometimes it’s ’cause you caffeinated too late in the day.

But other times? Other times it’s just ’cause you’re trying to slumber in public.

(And there’s zero comfy way to do that. Even if you’re a social media king kazillionaire.)

I’ve faced this mattressless predicament many a time. There was a time in my early 20’s when I’d work 12 hour shifts at the vet. Or the first half of college – when I’d travel via plane between New Orleans and home. (Gotta love the bobble head effect of trying to nap in public transit, sans turning your neighbor’s shoulder into a saliva slathered, bony headrest.) Or even road trips, where I’d crumple up in the shotgun seat on my way to wherever. (And arrive looking like a scene out’ve an exorcism flick.) Yes, for every case, there was no arguing it: an ideal position didn’t exist for public snoozing. Inevitably, the old neck crick awaited me at the termination of my journey. Especially during travel. That is – unless I brought along cumbersome, cluttery cushions I absolutely didn’t wanna tote along with my handbag, laptop, and luggage (crammed with a gazillion kicks, stilletos, and wardrobe options.) Wasn’t there a more efficient way to rest en route to Whereverville? Well, maybe not back then… but now?


Because, thanks to something called the Hypnos Hoodie, our waking woes can be assuaged.

Sure, it looks like your typical pullover. You can rock it like you would any other.

And why wouldn’t you when it looks this cool?

(Or maybe it’s the models’ matching IDGAF attitudes cloaked in that Sofia Coppola filter that makes it seem so cool?
I dunno. Either way: want one.)

But, then, the second the sandman saunters into your plane, train, automobile, or classroom, sprinkling that soporific dust of his, this badboy’s ready for action. All you hafta do is blow into the tubing in the back (not unlike I do with my inflatable ducky printed pool arm floaties). And, then, the hood magically morphs into a cushy, cranial cradle. (Not to mention, you’re in the clear if your Boeing happens to hafta make an aqueous landing mid nap and you’re rocking your own life raft.) You can go basic – and lay straight back into it, with the hood blocking out peripheral light. Or you can even flop it around and side sleep ’til you either get to your destination, your own snores rouse you, or your boss is done talking. (Yes, these’re great for bored board meetings.)

Finally, our days of ferrying ratty, horseshoe shaped pillows around like a bunch of disgusting packrat peons, is over. Now we can dress like Zuckerberg-the-early-years. And we can do it while publicly (and comfortably) performing the exact opposite of what he probably ever does much of at all (save for the instance in that viral image):


Can you erase last night’s bad sleep with your brain?

“I’m so tired…”

Ever hear yourself saying this all day long?

And then following it up with why? Kids. Bills. The insomnia. (Which is actually really self induced ’cause you’re addicted to trolling the binary corridors of Reddit all night.) Well, according to science, you might be making it worse. Sure, you didn’t get seven exact hours. And on a physiological level, sure, that’s no bueno. But, by saying you’re tired, it’s kinda like an affirmation – amplifying that effect in your body. In fact, when it comes to affirmations, many of us would do better to listen to sleep hypnoses that convince us we’re good ‘n tired and ready to draw the optical curtain closed, instead’ve playing on our phones. Why? ’cause it works. But you wanna know what’s interesting?

You can still cause that same effect – the day after.

Because, according to research they did Colorado college, believing is being. See, what they did was round up a bunch’ve students and do what any good study conductor does: lie to them. But not straight away. First, they gave a full-on Powerpoint presentation on the importance of R.E.M. sleep, followed by how a lack of it makes for slower cognitive function and poorer test performance. Then, after that truth, came the lies. The first lie? That the electrodes and gadgets they were hooking them up to could read how much R.E.M. sleep they’d gotten the prior night. This was untrue. Also untrue? The fabricated readouts they shared with the subjects moments later. Randomly, half the students were assigned to be the “not enough R.E.M.” sleep group, while the others were informed they’d gotten a gold star level of rest.

Then, each were given a test.

And, as you might expect, those who thought they’d slept better (even going on two hours of sleep), aced the quiz.

The others? Not so much…

After repeating the test with control variables for bias, the results remained the same:

“Participants who were told they had above-average REM sleep performed better on the test, and those who were told their REM sleep was below average performed worse, even when researchers controlled for the subjects’ self-reported sleep quality.”

In other words, by convincing ourselves we slumbered like lumber, we believe that we did. And, we can use this to our own benefit – beginning with what not to do anymore. For instance, instead’ve saying we slept badly, not enough, or saying “I’m tired”, we can all do the exact opposite. But, more than that, it’s crucial to feel like our sleep was restful on a restorative level. We didn’t just sleep well. No! We’re better for it. We’re alert and smarter with impeccable reaction times. Superhuman, almost. Our synapses are blasting off at a pace our cranial cages can barely contain.

So, next time your innumerable excuses make you tardy to dreamland? No worries.

Just tweak your snooze attitude.

And gobble down a dose’ve pla-sleep-bo effect the morning after, like it’s a Plan B pill.

Reverse psych yourself to sleep with this tip…

Trying your hardest to fall asleep when you hit the hay?

Well, here’s a counter-intuitive tip from the slumber pros I recently heard:

Cogitate on the opposite of nodding off. I know. I couldn’t exactly wrap my head around it, either, initially. I mean, you’re telling me that by laying there and contemplating wakefulness, I can stand to snooze sooner? My mind’s already going a million miles a minute. Wouldn’t that just make it worse? Not so, the say the experts of all things bedtime. See, it’s this thing called “paradoxical intent”. When you’re lying in your flannel lair, anxiously, internally demanding the sandman rub some’ve his dust in your scleras, something unfortunate happens.

Nothing. No sandman. No sleep. Just a whirlwind of worry and clock countdowns.

“If I get to sleep within the next ten minutes, I’ll get four hours…”

Yes, more arithmetic. That’s exactly what you’re already revved up mind really needs. (Sarcasm heavy enough there?) Actually, all that thought is the problem in and of itself. Think about what you think about when you lay awake. It’s not a list of pixie tales and happy affirmations, is it? You’re worried about what’s going on tomorrow. How crappy it’ll be ’cause you’re gonna be walking around like a zombie ’cause you can’t nod off now. So, then, we try to force it into fruition. In truth, though, that makes it worse – much like trying to force creativity. (Or pooping, for that matter. #justbeinghonest) All’ve these things are natural processes. But, when you’re tense and unrelaxed, they don’t happen so easily, do they? When you overthink it, you worry. When you worry, you’re tense. And when you’re tense, what normally happens naturally, doesn’t happen at all. So, what do you do? How does focusing on not sleeping help? Well, sure, the easiest thing to say is “don’t focus on it”. But, if I tell you right now not to imagine John Cena in a tutu, holding a teacup with his pinky out… what do you immediately imagine?

(Holy taffeta, Batman… I legit did *not* think I’d find anything like this when I Google image’d that idea….)

Exactly. Thus, rather than that, you redirect attention. Instead, you give yourself something to focus on that’s not only not sleep itself, but so far at the other end of the spectrum – that the thought of sleep (and all your worries sitting on the perimeter of it) can’t possibly filter in and hinder your hay hitting goals. So, you heard it here. Next time you restlessly wish you could sleep and dream… Daydream first. About not sleeping.

And you will.

Can never going to bed make you dead?

Sleepless nights are obviously uncomfortable.

But could never getting any shut eye, shut your eyes… eternally?

(“Great. Thanks. Fretting about that’ll *really* help me fall asleep now.”)

I’m so grateful I don’t have to worry about this.

Since I started writing for this site, I’ve had to do the kind of research that makes you learn all the ins and outs of countering insomnia. Everything from tried and true tart cherry juice to Tulsi tea and L-Theanine sit in my kitchen. Everything from deep breathing to yoga’s stocked in my noggin. I even know how to feng-shui my bedchamber into the most restful decor there is. I’ve got a whole de-consciousness arsenal of holistic Lunesta at the ready, at all times.

But, what about those who don’t?

What happens to them? The insomniacs of the world who haven’t experienced the wonder that is my website and applied it to their lives? Poor dears. What a way to live. And – aside from that – it’s not just about how bad living is when you’re without a good recharging sesh every evening. It’s about… dying. Yes. Sounds dramatic; I know. But I just learned recently that, yes, you can indeed get dead from never going to bed. And how’d they learn this? Well, while there are probably horribly Holocaust experiments that can confirm this but no one ever refers to for obvious reasons, another not so compassionate (but on rats, not people) experiment was performed to confirm this. Keeping them up for days on end perpetually led to a dead or near dead state.

And how long was that, exactly?

Between 11 to 32 days.

Granted, that’s not a quotable figure for anyone wondering exactly how long it’ll take. For example, an insomniac gentleman who was observed (not tested on, mind you – this was an opportunistic learning circumstance, thanks to a condition he had), took a bit longer to permanently power down. After suffering from a genetic form of insomnia (characterized by the horrible likes of hallucinations and dementia), he passed on after half a year.

But… why? Do people actually die from tiredness? Well, actually, they say that they dunno what exactly was the cause of death in each of these cases. And that’s fair enough. Not that it matters for rats, but in humans like the dude mentioned above, the possibilities of deadness are endless. It could be snoozing while cruising. Leaving on the stove (like the narrator in “Fight Club” did). Being lured into traffic by the imaginary imps your brain’s manifested. Or it could also just be the gradual effects of a lowered immune system, welcoming bad bugs one by one – and thusly not being able to recover from some exotic disease you only ever hear of happening on journeys to third world lands (or that one weird Discovery T.V. show).

(“This just in: insomniac drivers’ reaction times are akin to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent…”)

So, in sum: sure. Sleeplessness can smite you. It takes a little bit of time for that to transpire, but it can totally happen. So, if you find yourself living like Fight Club’s Norton character, take the right steps. See a doctor. Get a sleep study. And, if you hate all of those ideas, make a nice warm mug of Tulsi’s Holy Basil tea and browse my compendium of soporofic article awesomeness on this site.

’cause my writing’s something that won’t kill you – but’ll definitely put you to sleep.

Let a sleep salve solve your insomnia tonight

Anyone else planning a quiet night in for New Year’s Eve?

(Sounds pretty legit to me, TBH)

After a long Christmas holiday – possibly spent entertaining family from out’ve town – going out on the town may sound less than stellar to you. No, ma’am. You wanna stay in with your dog, toddler, lover, or all three – and binge watch Westworld. Right after a nice bath. And right before a deep, restful slumber. Only problem? You’re having trouble getting into that nice, relaxed pre-snooze state ’cause you’re still wound up from the madness of a bewildering year culminating in typical holiday craziness.

So, what to do? I mean short of champagne-ing the aches and pains away?

Why, perform a perfumey self lubing session, of course.

And by that – I mean a sweet, sleep salve.

What a sleep salve is, essentially, is an essential oil and herb elixir you warm up and apply to your body. And many can attest to its restful benefits. Sounds pretty simple (not to mention too good to be true). And, admittedly, the research on actual salves is minimal. (Mostly because no one can make money off DIY sleep solutions like they can cannabinoids or Ambien, so no one’ll fund the research.) However, if you break down the this sorcerous concoction into its individual bits, there’s really little mystery as to why it works.

First, there’s the scent.

Whether it’s lavender or peppermint, scents have a very unique effect on mood.

Once inhaled, these aren’t benign molecules bobbing around in the atmosphere anymore. They’re official chemical messages being beamed straight to your brain. The reason that’s such a big deal is because the primary target these scents get sent to is your limbic system. And that badboy helps determine your moods, emotions, and even some of what your body does in response to whatever mood modifications you’re experiencing. That’s why a tranquil, floral whiff can induce downright bliss at downtime. Second, there’s the fact that essential oils get absorbed into the skin. Granted, this’s a comparatively slower route of entry than your flowery snortable feels. However, it can still have a a drastic effect – especially when coupled with the effects of inhalation.

(*Reads image. Pauses briefly. Dunks whole head in vat of salve.*)

Then, thirdly (and finally), there’s the warmth. Ever take a warm bath (and wanna fall asleep)? Ever sip a warm mug’ve tea (and wanna nod off)? Ever warm yourself by the fire (and wanna zonk out)? You might notice a common, calming theme here: heat. And if you’re not sure how that translates – how about this: ever notice the difference between getting a massage with cold lotion versus warm oil? There’s a glaring disparity between the two, isn’t there? The latter’s relaxing – while the former’s far less so. And the reason why is simple. Heat’s cathartic. It increases elasticity in tissues, takes tension levels down, and ups blood flow to any achey areas (or stress knots) you’ve been dealing with all week. And that sanguine parade toward your miscellaneous aches means that any toxins or injury related debris get flushed out.

But, really. On a night like this, after the month (or year – if we’re being honest) that you’ve had, who wants a science lesson? Especially when we’re just trying to rest? All you need to know is that this shiz works when you wanna move from work mode to your sleep setting. So, if you’re trying tirelessly to unwind your way into the New Year, fear not. Try out one of the popular recipes (like this one – which I’m doing tonight), and let this blissful sleep salve save the day night.

Apologies in advance, though – when you fall asleep long before the ball falls.

Five “fall back” sleep tips for time rewind torpor

Anyone else feel a little off when the alarm went off this morning?

Especially now that we’ve officially “fallen back” an hour with our clocks?

“Wouldya just ‘leaf’ me a alone?”

What a difference an hour makes. And what a difference perspective does, for that matter, too. I mean, here everyone’s telling you that “you get an extra hour” of sleep. But, if we’re being honest, doesn’t it kinda feel like we all got exactly the opposite of that? And a lot of that’s got to do with our circadian clocks. (Like the sun suddenly rising when you’re still in sleep mode – sending your body machine the message to activate awake mode.) The bummer? Some studies have shown that it can take up to a week to adjust to that.

So what do we do to hack the fall back?

Surprisingly, a lot of the suggestions are similar to your typical sleep tips. Get a regular rest schedule. Don’t go overboard on your cup’ve caffeinated uppers. Minimize the imbibing. Exercise. However, with some simple tweaks, some of these can be catered to the autumnal torpor you’re feeling this week.

1.) Light

As mentioned above, light guides your cycling of sleep status versus seize-the-day mode. That’s why they suggest not to be around blue light after dark. (It sends the message to your brain that it’s not zonk o’ clock after all.) The best thing to do? Take advantage of that. If it’s getting darker earlier, try to get to bed earlier (but not too early just yet – more on that in number four). Likewise, rise early instead’ve opting for that extra hour they lied and said we could use to sleep in. Trying to sleep as those sun rays are staging a B&E through your blinds is a surefire way to eff up your day. Treat them photons like paintball pellets. As soon as they hit you, you’re out of the game. (And by game, I mean bed.) Get up and move. Come into the light.

2.) Exercise outside, early

As a yes-and to number 1, moving is crucial. And it’s preferable to do it outside. By exercising early on, you get a great endorphin rush to wake and carry you throughout the day’s remainder. What’s more, by doing it outside and exposing yourself to natural light, you allow your melatonin levels to adjust so that your sleep this evening will A.) come on more quickly once you lay down, and B.) be less fitful.

3.) Nap

Now, I’ve heard seemingly conflicting advice on this one. Some aficionados of dozing will tell you to listen to yourself and lie down if your body’s demanding mattress time. Others will chastise naps. But, the general consensus is this: so long as you keep it to 20 minutes or less and don’t do it too close to bedtime, you should be good. If you’re like me, though, and wake up bewildered whether that nap’s 5 minutes or 50, you might wanna rely on a punctual pillow time each night instead.

4.) Increments

And how punctual should that bedtime be? Not too many hours after sundown (preferably). But, for moving back the clock? The pros say to make it a bit later. Before rewinding your Rolex for fall, you should do a bedtime time taper. Make your bedtime about fifteen minutes later each night up until the change and you’ll be all adjusted by the time it comes. Granted, it’s a little late to try that now, but it’s nonetheless a great tip for next year. (Also, you’re welcome to try it on for size after the fact and lemme know if it speeds up your body’s seasonal synchronicity.)

5.) Enjoy your caffeine but end it earlier

Anyone else roll their eyes when they see the “put down the caffeine by noon” commandment from the rest experts? I mean, it’s good advice. Having the stuff too late in the day’s what keeps you bug eyed in bed for hours later and swatting the alarm clock come morning. But when you work until after 7 P.M. and have to be on point for patients for that entire time like I do, quitting that mocha or matcha before noon’s can be beyond challenging. You can pry the mug of green tea I’m gripping from my cold dead hands. (Or, ya know, after three or four, which is when I’m willing to quit sipping it.) But what I could do is make this one adjustment they suggest we should be doing: whatever your caffeine cutoff point was before, just move it up an hour as well. Or a half hour. Or fifteen min-…

(Or maybe I can ride out this November lethargy/bedtime zest rollercoaster ’til spring?)

So, that’s it – your five point clock hack.

Now, get out there ‘n show that inimical little circle living on your wrist it doesn’t dictate your wakefulness.

Best’ve luck curing your own fall-tigue symptoms!

Why eight hours isn’t eight hours – if you hit the hay late

Ever notice how getting to bed before ten (versus midnight plus) doesn’t cut the gusto mustard?

(“So glad I set an extra fifteen minute snoozer to sit here and try to remember how to life.”)

Like, even if you get eight hours in, the latter lay down time leaves you with significantly less zest?

Me too. So, I did a bit of research into this. And what it all boils down to is our circadian rhythm and melatonin levels. Most of us are aware by this point of the effect that late night blue light exposure has on us. We stay up late – and what do we do? We watch T.V., we mess with our iphones, and we turn on the light in the loo. Because most indoor and electronic lighting is blue (the kind our bodies are acclimated to experiencing during waking hours), the exposure trolls our brains into believing we’re far from ready for bedtime. Blue light suppresses the melatonin production we need to nap, making amber light the only kind we should be around at nighttime.

(Stock image of a man committing sleep-icide in his own bed – the ultimate F.U. to the Sandman.)

However, this is only half the problem behind a tardy bedtime. The other issue’s what similarly happens – except at the other end – when the sun comes up. Short of having a blackout style room fit for the likes of Christian Grey and his torture chamber, it’s tough to snuff out sunlight come morning. (Especially with my cruddy Venetian blinds.) All those disgustingly gleeful photons come raining on in through the windows once we’re finally out. And, yet again, serene slumber’s under attack. Typically what’ll happen is that we’ll do these quasi wakeups, try to go back to sleep, wake again, rinse, repeat… And what’s the end product? That we’re not actually even getting in a legit seven or eight hours. We’re getting in maybe four or five – punctuated with interrupted sleep cycles. That’s super bad news because starting a new sleep cycle and ending it prior to completion leaves you groggy. There’s no bookmark to go back to when you wake up, hit the alarm, and roll back over. You end up waking up about fifteen minutes – or even an hour later – feeling crappy and a half – because your body thinks it was robbed of a full rest.

The fix?

As you may’ve guessed… it simply lies in lying down earlier. Say, before ten-ish.

Sound tough?

Trust me, I’m totally with you. In fact, I’ve recently gotten hooked (pardon the pun) on this drama about boxing (anyone else here seen “Kingdom”?). And, though night after night, I tell myself I’ll hit the hay by ten, I never do. I end up rolling into bed by 11:30 at the earliest, with cliffhangers on the brain. And, morning after morning, I wake up looking like my new favorite show’s alcoholic protagonist (and feeling a bit like it, too). Now that I’ve watched the last episode of the season, I’m finally going to try and break my bad habit (emphasis on the “try”). I’m willing to give it a go because I looked (and felt) far, far better several months ago when I was sacking out nearer to sunset o’ clock. Naturally, I invite you lovely perusers of my page to try it as well. But not without a plan of attack. And that’s as follows: See, seeing as I’m still addicted to an evening routine of mindless entertainment, my plan’s to cook up a P.M. itinerary that compromises with my downtime needs by comprising exactly a half an hour long decompression session, a sprinkling of fifteen minutes to walk the dog, and another cup o’ quarter-of-an-hour for my nightly ablutions and dish washing duties. Boom. A dish of in-bed-by-ten delicousness. So, let’s try this, you and I: we’ll give this new, crazy practice a go for, say, a week.

And if – after that – our mutual, newly concocted, nocturnal repertoire souffle leaves a bad taste in your mouth?

If you don’t love waking refreshed and looking schmexier?

Well… more for me.

Can’t fall asleep? Rise and unwind instead.

You’ve probably heard that getting out of bed earlier in the morning makes you more alert all day.

But what about getting out of bed way earlier?

Like… the night before?

If such a counter-intuitive suggestion seems confusing, don’t worry. I too was perplexed until I heard this little nugget snooze news mindblow out. But it actually makes a lot of sense. See, if we go to sleep when we’re not exactly knackered (only to lay there counting cottony creatures and ruminating about tomorrow’s to do list), we develop this Pavlovian association with mattress time. And that’s one of abject anxiety. For one night we can’t sleep, so we stay there in bed, training our brains for an hour or two to link pillow o’ clock with nighttime nervousness. Then, the next evening when we slip under the covers, our mind says, “Wait. I’ve been here before. This’s where I spent forty straight minutes dreading deadlines and bills, and another twenty spiraling into the subsequent nightmare fantasy said dread induced…” Like a dog watching you pull out the Apple Bitter mid bark, your brain freezes into fear. Your breathing changes. Your heart races. Your muscles tighten. These are the exact ingredients for an opposite of soporific cocktail. And unfortunately, many an insomniac gives into the insanity of believing that this is the solution. Just lay here and let your own mind torture you till it tires itself out. That’s the best option there is. Right?

Wrong, says science.

In lieu, the solution they propose is as simple as it is quizzical:

Just… get up. And leave the room.

Getting out of bed may seem like the antithesis of the answer. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time to get up and do breathing exercises or yoga or read a book.” Why? Because the story you keep telling yourself and everyone else is that you have to get to bed. You have to get some sleep. And while the latter’s true for sure, the problem is – you’re not getting any sleep anyway. You spend a good hour staring at the pale lunar light bathe the ceiling. All you’re truly doing in there is schooling your cephalic organ on how to hate hitting the hay – so that you can’t fall asleep again when tomorrow night arrives. By departing the bedroom altogether, however, you actually have a chance to halt that sleep smiting marriage you’ve made between tension and bedtime.

In fact, according to one study done in 2011, less time in bed correlated with superior slumber habits. What they did was divvy up test groups of insomniacs – one of which was distributed info on how to better rectify their sleeplessness, and another who actually changed their behavior (like waking up earlier or getting out of bed if they couldn’t fall asleep).

The results?

At the end of four weeks, the behavioral treatment group was significantly more likely to show improvements in sleep than the printed-materials group. By that time, 55% of those who received behavioral treatment no longer met the criteria for insomnia, compared with 13% of the group that got educational brochures.

Now, the massive yes-but to this is gonna be what you should do when you get up.

(Protip/Spoiler alert: this isn’t one’ve them.)

As you may’ve guessed from the above paragraph, there are indeed some top notch nocturnal activities that can act like tranquilizers. The problem is, heaps of people who do get up when they can’t sleep are spending that fifteen to thirty minutes partaking in activities that might as well be a trip to Starbucks. Like working, using their cell phones, or watching T.V. By getting into work mode, your reticular formation gets activated and your brain starts going into solution and productivity mode. By watching T.V., something similar happens – especially if you started G.O.T. and realized this is the kinda show where adults shove kids out’ve castle windows. And, as for cell phones? Well, after dark, their use should be limited because the blue light they emit suppresses melatonin – the hormone that’s the wind in our sleep sails.

Instead, the pros will suggest spending that time doing deep breathing exercises, meditation, or rolling out the yoga mat. And if you absolutely cannot tolerate sitting with your own thoughts (after giving it a solid try), there are still other options. For example, a good book can put you to sleep. Slow and ambient soundtracks serve as excellent lullabies. And, if your thoughts are still assaulting you, jotting them down can help tremendously. Then, if all else fails, see if that one friend is still awake who has as many problems to talk about as number of times she says “you know” or “but um” in a single sentence. Believe it or not, that’s a nice symbiotic relationship you’ve got there. She gets a venting board. And you get to sleep like a board when you’re bored in a few minutes. Which is probably a generous overestimate of time it’ll take.

(Or: housechores. Nothing fatigues me more than a pile of linen demanding to be folded.)

Indeed, there are plenty of options out there.

So, the next time the Sandman bogarts his pillow pixie dust, the solution’s simple.

Rise and unwind tonight so you can rise and shine tomorrow.

Should I take 5-HTP for sleep?

I’ve got a lot of au naturel sleep-aid go-to’s.

But, after my dog died, nada worked. I was getting zilch on the Z’s.

My Holy Basil was failing me. My chamomile didn’t work. Even my Valerian was a bust. So, when I saw my friend Beth’s recent post about how she cured her own sleep disorder with some over the counter supplements, I was open minded. See, Beth is a Jill of all trades. She’s a grad student, a yogi, a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember, and she also recently hiked the Appalachian trail. She has a heaps of stress and takes to the woods in between to re-calibrate. Thus, since I’m also a forest-phile, trail jogging addict that I am, I figured her recent woodsy excursion might have been the snooze inducer. I mean, it usually leaves me serene, too. But, actually, she said – that wasn’t really it. What she did do, rather, was cut back on caffeine (from four to one cups a day – finished before 2 P.M.), start meditating again at night, and began an evening regime of supplements and vitamins – namely magnesium citrate and something called 5-HTP.

Now, of course, there was a bunch of great advice here.

Cutting down the caffeine was one. So was the P.M. zen sesh suggestion.

But, of course, the first thing my mind jumped to were the last two listed options:

Organic miracle orbs I can suck down to take down my stress for me.

“It’s like eating your feelings – minus the calories! Or narcotic-y after effects!”

While Magnesium Citrate is great (although – don’t take too much, it gives you the runs) and helpful not only for bringing you better rest but also longevity, I wasn’t sure about the 5-HTP. It’s said to be a precursor to serotonin – which helps stabilize your mood and sense of well being. (Which sounded great to me.) But I did about as much research on it as hours I’d gotten of sleep the night before. (Which, if you’re reading, wasn’t very much.) In my insomnia fugue, I bought it anyway. And I took a supplement last night. And…? Well, while I was a little bit calmer than usual, heading to bed, I still tossed and turned for a little while. I did admittedly sleep. Yet, I realized this morning I was being kindofan idiot by blindly taking this thing and not looking it up myself. So I did today. The results? Well, the Amazon reviews from customers seem to be overall five-starry. However, as I delved into interweb results on the topic, I read that while it’s stellar for ushering you into slumber-land, it also “makes blood serotonin levels much, much higher than brain levels,” and that that could yield long term side effects science has yet to determine. Other long term side effects 5-HTP might possibly cause? Per WebMD:

“When taking by mouth appropriately. 5-HTP has been used safely in doses up to 400 mg daily for up to one year. However, some people who have taken it have developed a condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia).”

Now, as ever, correlation does not mean causation.

It could be that these people were already having some somatic sort’ve issue that was hampering quality mattress time in the first place (like fibromyalgia – which I also have) that was gonna progress over time regardless of what pharmaceutical missile they catapulted into their oral orifice. That’s totally possible. However, it made me realize – when I’ve already got so many other body problems going on to address on the daily, do I really wanna risk it? It could be 100% harmless, sure. But why make myself wonder, somewhere in the back burner of my brain all day, whether I’m causing long term damage?

Sounds to me like just another stressor that… you guessed it… will keep me up at night.

That is, when I finally drag my reluctant rump to bed.

And that’s when I realized it. I’m tallying a whopping nada in quality mattress hours because I’m making a cardinal mistake. I’m hitting the mattress too late. See, I keep myself busy all day as a distraction to forget how sad I am about my dog. And I up my caffeine intake to fuel said busy bee activities. Then, by the time nine or so rolls around, I’m resisting rest in favor of Netflix for another hour. And I’m resisting it for the same reason I stay occupied all day: so that I don’t have to think or feel or be sad as I lay there in bed for fifteen minutes, still awake. What I need to do is a revised version of Beth’s method. I’ve gotta A.) cut the caffeine down. (So that I become slumber-prone enough to wanna go to bed). B.) Cut the dumb streaming series time down. (So my brain’s not lit up like a Hallmark Christmas tree while I’m trying to log it off). And C.) Add back in some P.M. meditation. Oh, yes… that last one’s tough if you’re in hate with your brain’s default thoughts; but much like hiking or jogging through the muddy woods Beth and I love so much – the only way out of that mess is through. So, in part, I’m on board with Beth’s latest M.O. But, seeing all the strange side effects this serotonin precursor thing potentially has… I realize I don’t need another side-effect body-problem. I’ll start up the Magnesium citrate for sure. But, instead’ve reaching for an organic feel-good pill, I’m suddenly willing to do the harder thing. That thing that many of us (myself included, most of the time) aren’t willing to do: change my comfortable albeit chaotic habits instead.

After I’ve tried those three au-natch hacks – if I’m still wide awake – then maybe I’ll research this 5-HTP further.

But I have a pretty good feeling I won’t need to.