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.

How I “became” an early riser

Someone asked me once how I managed to be such an “early bird”.

And that’s a valid inquiry for a sleep site like this. Because, if you’re not heading into your day feeling well rested, then what’s the point of falling asleep in the first place? Right? See, I work from 10 – 7 at a physical therapy clinic a few days a week. And every day that I do, I get up by five or six, do a bunch’ve yoga, write an article, go for a run, clean house, clean body, clean mind (meditation), and then head out the door by 9:30. And, once I’m there in my let’s-high-five-everyone mood, my coworkers wonder A.) what drug I’m on, and B.) where they can get it. When I tell them that I just wake up early to fit in a well rounded workday already before work, then they have only one question for me: “How?”

How did you become an early bird?”

(Sorta kinda spoiler alert: I didn’t. And I *def* don’t look like this when I wake up)

Initially, I didn’t know how to answer them.

Or – at least I thought I didn’t. But the truth is, it’s hard to say, “I just do it” without sounding like an arrogant douche. So, here’s the truth. I do just do it. When I hear the alarm and just get up, my body doesn’t have a chance to enter a second sleep cycle, only to be interrupted from it, and feel ultimately tired. Also, by doing productive stuff for my body and mind alike – I head into the interactive aspect of my day with the kinda clarity that makes you feel awake and refreshed. So, that’s why I keep doing it every day. But what I forget (and thus forget to mention) which would make me sound a lot less d-baggy, is this: By default, I’m not an early riser. And I didn’t always act like one. See, back when I was on a less clean diet (also helps with sleep cycles, btw) and less active, I was also waking up early-ish, but choosing to go back to bed because it felt comfortable and sleep felt nice. Why? Probably because my desire to hide in a fleece cocoon outweighed any passion or drive to be alive and awake did. But when I started acquiring some ambition and passion and wanting to live life in the face, I had a reason to want more minutes in the waking part of my day. Being an early riser was an identity I had to acquire for myself. I needed to get up and get ish done if I wanted to fit in everything. My two runs and muay thai training. My writing and social time. The hour or two of downtime I need to not punch people outside the dojo. And, you know what? I still have some days that I languish around in bed, letting my brain have a say in whether we’re gonna get up and hit the yoga mat. That torpid habit comes back double fast, if I let it. And when I do? It tosses off my whole day into cognitive fog and mental fatigue. I don’t even mind that I let myself lapse some days, either. It’s an excellent reminder of why I’ve cultivated the kinda routine that leaves me focused and alert more often than not.

(Protip: I set myself goals for motivation, too
“As soon as you wake up and hit the mat, you can have your matcha latte”)

So, in sum. The answer to “how did I become and early riser?” is: I didn’t. I opt to transmogrify into one from my lazy default self e’ery damn day. You know, no matter what time I get to bed or how I eat or what supplements I take, I’m likely never gonna feel like a sunrise punctual pigeon. Not right when dawn cracks, at least. And you know what? I’m 100% alright with that. It gives me yet another thing to conquer. It’s what makes me a cut above. See, I mentioned that I do martial arts, trail running, and yoga. But what I didn’t mention is that I do all’a that in spite of my fibromyalgia, scoliosis, and a herniated disc. That’s lot’sve pain. It’s also lots’ve excuses I never use to be lazy. But if any of it were easy, I wouldn’t esteem it as highly as I do. In the same vein, when I choose to overcome the overwhelming proclivity to hit the five-more-minutes button and badazz my way into the day, it’s equally valuable. We all have challenges. What determines our mental clarity and – ultimately – identity, however, is how we respond to them.

From “early bird” to “late avian” – we choose.

We choose whether to hit snooze and ignore those challenges…

Or literally rise to the daily occasion.

Better bedtime headrests: which pillow’s right for you?

Still waking up feeling less than rested?

Even after getting in seven hours, an early bedtime, and no late-night blue light exposure?

Well, your fatigue might not be all in your head.

But it could be in what’s under your head.

(Less pucker, more posture-pedic next time, kaythx.)

That’s right. I’m talking pillow quality here.

After night upon night of waking up with tense shoulders, taut jaw muscles, and back pain, I was never sure what to do. I spend endless pre-sleeps setting the intention of not moving from my casket pose. Why? So that I don’t end up suffering the pain of post-side-sleep posture come dawn o’ clock. See, I’m the type that oscillates between back position, side position, the anatomical Da Vinci (AKA “the snow angel”), and the dab:

And, for a time, I tried to go Chick-gyver and do a DIY mod on what I have at home – even tweaking my pillow placement.

Under the knees. Between the knees. At an angle. Bordering me in on all sides like an asylum resident with a penchant for auto-defacement. But, today, I realized my improvisation might be in vain. Because, no matter how I place my pillows – it doesn’t change the shape they take once they’re sitting under and not supporting the orb my think organ lives in. And if that’s happening, of course I won’t sleep well. It’s half the reason for the nocturnal tossing. Even if we don’t wholly realize it, discomfort wakes us in the night. Even if we only become quasi conscious before flopping into another posiche, it still steals us from our sleep cycles, forcing us to re-initiate them. When that happens, two other things do too: First, our brain and body think they’re not getting enough rest (so we wake up sleepy). And, second, even as we re-position our bodies (especially if it’s on a poorly supported pillow for our body type or sleep style), we still don’t get a good sleep. (Because it’s still a crappy pillow.) Which means we awaken, not only fatigued, but with tense necks, pecs, shoulders, and chomper muscles. When I realized this, I realized something else immediately:

Maybe it’s time to end my current relache with my cranial cushions.

And get down with something other than down filling.

(It’s not me; it’s you.)

So, I promptly started doing some hunting until I finally found my mail order bedroom groom to be.

However, before declaring who wins prince charming to my sleeping beauty goals, I’ll go through my whole (it’s brief, though, really) Goldilocks search scenario. (Ya, know for the sake of catering to all body and sleep types reading this). That way, you can see why each bear’s pillow porridge is a poor or perfect choice for you. (Even if it wasn’t for me.) See, for me – as mentioned above – I’d need something that allows me both to lay face up, as well as on my side. So, I started my search.

First thing I encountered?

This “Therapeutic Deluxe Memory Foam Pillow”:

What’s it do? Well, by bridging the space between your neck and shoulder, this pillow locks your backbone into alignment. How much’s it cost? $60. Not bad – but it’s namely for side sleepers. And if I’m going to invest in an upgrade, I need something that also accounts for my supine proclivities.


The “Splintek”.

This one’s tough to turn down because it promises to deliver on a long term problem of mine: relieving TMJD flareups conceived during the night. Especially at only $81. It allegedly alleviates all that jaw and neck and head tension by cradling my cerebral bowling ball and taking pressure off my jaw and ear. The pleasant side effect? That you even breathe easier. Admittedly, I’m intrigued. But I needed to keep reading.

Yet another pillow for side sleepers?

Okay. Fine. I’ll bite with my ubertight jaw from nighttime grinding. But only for you folk who catch a case of Coldilocks syndrome at night. Too cold? Too hot? This “Iso-cool memory foam pillow” – while also for side sleepers – uses “Phase Change Material” to alter its temp, depending on your body’s. And it’s only $47.

Then, I found it:

The “Symphony Pillow” by Tempur-pedic for back sleepers.

Built from pressure-relieving materials, its foam’s meant to impart support on both your head and neck as you rest, belly up in bed. The plus? Exactly what I need: it’s said to be equally supportive, should you switch to your side mid-slumber. The un-plus? (Of course, there’s always one.) Much like anything I ever desire, it’s the most expensive of any of these cephalic supports. But when you’re investing in a new relationship with your long term bedmate…

Can you truly put a price on unconditional support?

Apparently, the answer’s yes. That price is $100.

Sure, I’ve got mixed feelings about finally finding an overpriced pillow prince to kiss me back to sleep.

But if his vow is to gimme my best beauty snooze?

Pshh… Homeboy can take my tiara, too.

Snore no more with Nora

Of course you want your beloved bedmate to have blissful night’s sleep.

But when that means interrupting yours with their abhorrent snoring?

Less so.

(She’s only smiling ’cause them dreamless evenings got her daydreaming about putting an eternal end to his noise.)

Fear not, my fellow sufferers of constant, nocturnal, auditory assault imparted by your partner. There’s no need to have that uncomfortable talk about equally uncomfortable sleep studies. (Where they squeeze you into a machine.) There’s no need to discuss acquiring a nap time accessory that looks like something Batman’s Bane might don. Nay. Instead, tonight all you have to do is wait til your partner nods off. Just like you always do. But, this time, when he (yes, he, ’cause I’m a princess without any flaws wholly incapable of emitting respiratory farts) starts log sawing like a Paul Bunyan of slumber – you get to work. Work that finally doesn’t involve initiating a muay thai match on your mattress.

Indeed, tonight, instead’ve backhanding homeboy awake and straight into flailing anger, you can employ… Nora.

Nora’s this widget that looks like an old school computer mouse minus buttons. And it’s said to put an end to snoring. What you do, is set the little white orb near your partner’s pillow and place an inflatable mat beneath the pillow itself. Then, when the face hole flatulence commences (and gets too loud), the egg gives the mat the green light to inflate til your lovey S’s TFU.

And the beauty of it? They claim nobody – not even he (okay, fine – or “she”) awakens:

The idea’s that the elevation frees that block – indicated by the squiggly line – in your air passage.

And now, for a list of inane inquiries: When ambient sounds-like-snoring construction noise initiates at zero dark early, is this gonna wake his cranky azz up? And does it keep movin’ on upward Jeffersonian style if the snoring doesn’t stop? Until either his breathing does altogether – or it pops? Waking him up? Won’t this put a crick in his neck? Wait – who stays on their back all night? Most apne-acs I know are thrashers….

Sure, I’ve got a lotta dumb questions about Nora.

Fortunately, this video was able to answer some of them:

(So it doesn’t just inflate – it keeps moving both ways ’til you snooze silently.
Yet, I’m still skeptical about this “any posiche” business.
And curious to know what the comment section reaction to a skit with manbun punching *her* instead would be.)

But, unlike my bed bud’s airway, I’m open to this laryngeal spasm activated egg sphygmomanometer. ’cause if there’s any chance this mattress gadget gags my sleepmate sans me having to handle a midnight domestic dispute or call a coroner in the morning (or both – in that order), I’m all for trying. Especially if it means I get to practice my ninja-esque, stealth skills, slipping it under his pillow. And see if his reaction’s more Princess and the Pea or or Sleeping Beauty.

So, if you’re tired, don’t expend extra energy on throwing haymakers in the hay. Your loud, inconsiderate, lover who sleep-breathes about as peacefully as a machine gun doesn’t deserve what reserves of effort you have left after they’ve already kept you up all night. With Nora, no more sleepless weeks. Get her do do the dirty work. Just bury her under his memory foam headrest like the sick lovechild of the Toothfairy and Sandman that you are. And then, wait and watch for-… well… hopefully nothing.

’cause you’ll be finally getting a good night’s rest.

(And then come back here, obviously, and tell me if it’s worth me wasting my own money on it.)

Are your nightly hygiene habits the reason you can’t sleep?

It doesn’t make any sense.

Here, I’m half asleep on the sofa after a soporific supper and cup of chamomile.

Yet, not five minutes into scouring down my mug and molars in the bathroom, I’m ready to go for a night run.

What gives? I was literally as alert as a roofie’d coed moments ago. Now I couldn’t sleep if I tried.

What happened in that handful of minutes?

Is it all in my head?

Well, kind of, says science. But not in the “mind over matter” way you might be thinking. See, when you’re sitting in your dimly lit living room in the post meridian, something happens. Your pineal gland (which sits in your brain) bakes up batches of the torpor hormone (melatonin). But its levels only really rise as light falls. The workaround? Amber lighting in your house. (I’ve written an article on this before). That, in essence, means that any hues of blue light (like T.V. or iphones) can mess your melatonin levels, rocketing your consciousness back into full throttle. Knowing this, I thought I was in the clear. I mean, all evening long, I’m sitting under the glow of an orange-y overhead lamp, with my laptop set to f.lux (an amber filter) settings. I’ve adjusted all the lights in my decompression chamber to be melatonin friendly.

So, what’s mistake?

It’s what I do when I’m finally ready to bid my couch adieu and head to bed. See, first, I mosey on into the kitchen to clear away my dishes. Boom. Light goes on, sniping my melatonin levels for every second they burn above me. Next, I head into the loo – to loofa my face free of makeup and free debris my dentin. Automatically, I turn on the coruscating, fluorescent light. Boom. Another photon shot, straight into my slumber hormone’s heart. Sure, washing your flatware, face, and fangs seems benign enough. (Admirable even, considering I used to leave my dishes laying around in a sink all night and fell asleep with Sephora war paint caked on my face.) Great as those habits are, though, they’re detrimental when done under a shower of melatonin murdering illumination. Because, all the while, your circadian rhythm spirals into schizophrenia, sending your snooze juice back into hiding. Here, I knew blue light was my P.M. enemy… but I didn’t realize that just a few minutes spent suffering my disgusting kitchen or lavatory lighting could mess up the lovely dose of doze hormone I’d accrued all evening.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, you could alter the light levels in all the rooms of your home.

(Admit it: this lighting’s basically a Barry White lullaby for your pineal gland.)

Sure, it’s an extra expense, but it just might be worth the investment. If it’s not, though (or if you just want to try something new ASAP), fear not. There’s another option: a nocturnal boycott of bulbs. And, no, I don’t mean cleaning in pitch blackness, necessarily. (Otherwise, you’ll be applying Tom’s toothpaste to your Chi and scorching your tongue.) Rather, I mean keeping the door (to your more dimly lit room bathed in an amber glow) open just enough for you to carry out your nightly ablutions without making your brain think it’s wake o’ clock again. Need a testimonial from a fellow restless snoozer? I finally tried this just last night, and am happy to announce I actually had a better rest than I’ve had in ages.

So, if you’re finding your lamps amping your mind up and hampering sleep, try these tips, if you like.

Because having tidy china or pearly whites shouldn’t equal surly nights.

Keep your Z’s and $’s with this DIY Snoozeenie.

There’s this scene from the romcom “Trainwreck” that’ll likely resonate with those of you who share a bedspace.

Especially the ones who fail at keeping our mattress comrades happy – and vice versa.

Here, Schumer’s just trying to get some sleep.

Yet, something about the breath and sweaty flesh of her bedmate is making that about as possible as, well, John Cena being her (or my, for that matter) boyfriend IRL. To be courteous, homegirl’s decided to stay the night (instead’ve going home – which is what she truly wants to do). However, she makes it perfectly clear that should she remain, some sleep style tweaks will required from her pillow pal. Like… a fluffy fortification between them. Him laying supine. Him laying at an angle. Him breathing “toward the sky”…

And that was immediately what I thought of the second I saw the “Snoozeenie” ad.

It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you love or someone you just put up with reluctantly. Annoyance with noise and vexation with illumination doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re the Dalia Lama during daylight hours. ’cause, if you’re disturbing my carnal robot’s recharge time at night, some part of me is secretly seething and – as Miss Schumer puts it – “resenting you”.

And, as the old adage goes, none of us want to go to bed angry.

That said, considering that Snoozeenie doesn’t pay me to push their products (and considering that these are made of mere fluffy stuff – not noise or light kryptonite), Saint Ashley’s here with the free sleep fixes, yet again. And here they are. A few free Snoozeenie shoe ins of the DIY variety to shove between the love or un-love of your life and you. Like: 1.) Perpendicularly arranged serving trays. 2.) That massive keyboard you bought the kids that they never use. 3.) The plasma screen. 4.) Two empty Papa John’s boxes. 5.) Two not-empty Papa John’s boxes. (Because: nocturnal snack.)

All jokes aside, though, this could literally be replicated with ten minutes, fifteen bucks, and a trip to Target.

How? By just cutting two rectangles of foam roll-out mattress padding and sewing them together with a cloth hinge.

(I also like how the foam is pointy. This will really reinforce your end game of quiescence. Because while logically, your bedmate knows it’s soft, subconsciously, we’re reminded of danger when we see dagger-esque shapes. And we tend to STFU and mind our P’s and Q’s so everyone can get some Z’s.)

Boom. Snooze-free-nie. Well, not really (unless you’ve already got some foam). But compared to the actual price, kind of. Because, instead of breaking a C note for a family pack (yes, each one is $40 bucks), you can plant your poor man’s still effective version in every room for less than the price of a single Snoozeenie. Don’t get me wrong, the idea’s totally a great one. And, had I thought of it first (and the patent money, and all the other funds that go into invention related stuff), I’d be capitalizing on America’s laziness and prizing your jade paper you slaved to make from you too. But since I’m just a chick with a digital quill and a quasi-conscience, I’m giving you these complimentary tips so you can sleep better – and not just ’cause of the foam fortress; but because of one less poor choice you made that won’t leave you poor.

Despite Amy’s antics, by the end of Trainwreck, Hader doesn’t hate ‘er.

But for the rest of us who can neither nab Cena or sleep partners who are half as understanding…

…looks like either this pillow partition (or one of my amazing homemade variations of it) might be our best bet.

Why does my body hop when I’m nodding off?

Your body can be a real jerk sometimes.

Literally , I mean. Especially while you’re trying to fall asleep and your it decides to have a sudden case of twitchy Tourette’s-esque tics. Maybe this has happened to you too. Ever end a long day – and then attempt to slip into blissful subconsciousness for the next several hours – only to abruptly awake to your own somatic spasms setting off like flesh infested firecrackers? This happens to me all the time. Like, I’m just on the cusp of being lulled off, when dream-me grabs hold of some an imaginary electric fence, blasting f’real-me straight back into reality. I come crashing reluctantly into consciousness. And, suddenly, my formerly sedated state from all of sixty seconds ago is over. Now, I’m under full body assault – compliments of my currently disturbed nervous system. The rapid cardiac percussion. The labored respiration. The racing brain.

(Familiar quotes from the douchebag living in my dome.)

Ah, yes.

I know it well. But this phenomenon, known as the “hypnic jerk” (AKA “hypnagogic jerk” AKA “sleep start” AKA “there are far too many terms in circulation for such an undeserving inconvenience that ruins my favorite time of day”) is common among many. Even those anally abstemious about their health. (Hi.) In fact, it’s said that it happens to anywhere from 60 to 70% of us humans. Why? Well, because of when we humans used to be more primate-like, surmise some scientists. It’s only one theory. But the evolutionary supposition is that when we were mere monkey hominids, the reflex served us well to help us react quickly if we were falling out of a tree or something. But, TBH, I’m not sure how much I believe that. Seems like a bit of a reach, doesn’t it? Especially since my dog (yours probably, too) does the same damned thing. And the only thing she knows how to climb are my nerves. Which actually is the premise of the alternate theory: misfiring nerves. The idea behind this hypothesis is that your meat machine rides the struggle bus when traversing from the alert world to slumber central. It’s a bumpy transition. And, as a result, our befuddled nerves misfire in a final act of retaliation.

Alright, so these quasi-conscious convulsions are normal.

That doesn’t mean I like them, though.

So, what can I do to cure a case of the sleep starts?

Well, just to name a few, you can:

1. Nix late day caffeine.

(Tough to tune out when you’re still stimulated)

2. Fret less.

(Stressing about the body shudders will only make ’em worse)

3. Keep a sleep routine.

(Apparently your mind/body connectch craves consistency).

4. Meditate prior to pillow time.

5. Try some sun (moon?) salutations – adopt a short yoga flow to do before bed.

(Both’a those contributing to tranquil, full body calm.)

6. Imbibe infrequently and not before bed.

(While it might K you O at first, you’ll wake up more frequently mid sleep, setting you into a dozing deficit (AKA sleep deprivation), and setting you up for more mattress flailing tomorrow evening.)

7. Exercise earlier.

(Go to bed too excited and your brain really won’t wanna relinquish its awake state some say. I’d also add no blue light – like laptops and T.V.’s – after sunset, for the same stimulating reason.)

8. Eat earlier.

(To much blood in your tummy can spike your adrenaline levels – a perfect jerk instigator.)

9. Try a chillout CD

(Like white noise, forest recordings, or that slow and depressing soundtrack from your favorite indie flick)

But – helpful though those are – if you’ve read anything else of mine, you know I’m bigger on testimonials than lists (People tend to be honest when they’re carping about their maladies.) So, naturally, I scrolled southward on the sleep disorder site where I nicked these tips to see what the sleep deprived peeps of earth were saying in the comments about their nocturnal tremors. Most of it was complaints. However – of the few that actually came back to post the cure that worked best for them – the winner seemed to be… number 10 on this list: Magnesium supplements. Strange, right? But apparently, a magnesium deficiency can indeed induce this unprecedented sensation of pre-dream electrocution. In fact, as one anonymous commenter claimed: “I had this problem too – it was dementing as I couldn’t get any sleep. I tried supplementing with magnesium and the problem subsided”.

(Or, if you’re like me – and loathe choking down supplements – acquire it the au natch way with some’ve the above.)

So, if sleep starts are stopping your sleep…

1.) Try shuffling around the nine above things to see which one’s the culprit causing corporeal quakes.

2.) Seek a doze doc to see if your Magnesium’s on the fritz.

3.) Come back and comment which ones worked for you.

4.) Close said comment, obviously, by reminding me of how awesome I am, how I put “art” in article, and how you’ll volunteer to sub in for the nearest honor death the day I decide to relinquish the quill and quit my escritorial endeavors. Ya know, in the off chance that I’ve forgotten.

Best’ve luck, my fellow tic ridden pillow drifters.

Why I’m wishing you all salty – not sweet – dreams.

Waking up gasping every night?

Maybe you just need breathing room.

No, seriously. A breathing room, specifically. In what’s now becoming a long list of “shiz Ashley never knew ’cause she’s outta the loop”, we can apparently add this soporific form of therapy called: “breathing rooms”. Or “salt breathing rooms”, if you like. Or “halotherapy” (“halo-” means salt, btw #themoreyouknow). Whatever you dub it, the point of this spa based respiratory remedy is to alleviate all those breathing related maladies we suffer that make sleep an exercise in vexation.

(When you’ve gotta halotherapy client at ten, and an Illuminati sacrifice ceremony at noon…)

And what is it exactly? It’s basically just a room infused with salty air. (Although, I personally like how exotic it sounds when they make sure to call it “Himalyan Pink Salt” – it makes you feel like it’s just been flown in from a mountain that afternoon, specially Fed Ex’d just for you – instead’ve scooped up from last year’s pile in the stockroom). What you do is simply go inside, marinate amongst the vapors for about half an hour, and then put it to the test of rest later. And what’s it meant to do? Basically knock off all those nocturnal oxygen ingesting issues you’ve been enduring – from wheezing to sneezing to snoring. That said, while you’re in there, the immediate effects are less pleasant, according to some. In fact, one woman reported a “tightening” in her throat and chest area. Naturally, the profeshes working there told her, “Oh, that’s just a sign it’s working.” And, while my immediate knee-jerk, eye-roll reaction was to think, “Psssh, yeah, that’s what Cady told Regina about the Kaltene bars and now she wears sweatpants and neck braces”, this is apparently one of those cases where it holds true. Because, despite the discomfort mid-treatment, peeps sleep soundly post halotherapy. The same chick who’d complained about constriction was dozing delightfully that night.

So, that’s all fantastic news.

Now, all I need to know is when I can install one of these rooms in the mansion I don’t have. That way, I can lounge around all day, auditorily dining on spa tunes emanating through my P.A. system, and probably making myself sick when I overdo the recommended dose of exposure. Lovely as that all sounds, unfortunately, that might be slightly cost prohibitive. But what you and I can do is buy one’ve these breathing bongs:

“What, Shaggy? It helps me sleep…”
“Duuuude, haha, so does miiiiine.”

The idea’s essentially the same as the place you pay to sit in for half an hour. You still get the antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects to protect epithelial cells. You still get the inflammation reduction (by grouping mucus to be ejected out super-sexily later). And, in some cases, folks with everything from asthma to endocrine issues saw improvement post therapy. The possibilities are apparently endless – whether you do it at home or at that candle-lit, pan-flute tune playing place down the road. The only diff? Well, in my shizzy apartment, there’s none of the pampering or napping or mental holiday away from my hovel filled with bills and to-do lists just a half foot away from where I’m having a panic attack into a buzzless peace pipe packed full’ve Morton’s organic cousin. That’s all. If you’re good with that, then you’re golden settling for the poor man’s version.

So the next time your less than stellar sleep’s got you acting like a salty satan, get your “halo” back.

And try sucking a salt pipe…. or forking over a couple’ve Tubmans for the spa experience.