In Parts 1 and 2 of this series on Women and Sleep, we looked at:
a) Why so many women have less-than-optimal sleep
b) Why not sleeping feels so bad.
Which leads to the central question of this post:
Are there non-pharma ways for women to get the quality sleep we need and deserve?
I asked this question online. Replies poured in.
Some of the tips I received were pretty D'uh-worthy. ("Turn off the computer." Um. No. Really?).
But others were more, "Wow! Could this work?"
In the name of semi-scientific inquiry and personal sanity, I decided I shouldn't test these non-pharma sleep tips alone. I'm only one person. And, thankfully, I don't sleep badly every night of the year.
Enter: Boulder Media Women (BMW), a group of brilliant, compassionate and typically sleep-challenged professionals.
"Anyone wanna test-drive a sleep tip?" I asked.
Several BMWs (thank you, guys!) agreed. Which is doubly great. Because they all communicate really well.
Non-Pharma Sleep Tip #1: Brahmari Breath
Health coach Kathi Casey of Massachusetts suggests that sleepless women try this breathing exercise. She writes:
"The Yogic breathing practice "Brahmari Breath" releases endorphins into our system. It's easy and fun to do and children love it if you happen to have one who doesn't sleep well. Sit comfortably and lengthen your spine. It may help to sit on a pillow or folded blanket. Place your fingers on the little protrusion at the edge of your ear that will close off your ear when you press on it.
Check to make sure your shoulders are relaxed, elbows down and your tongue is resting gently on the roof of your mouth -- upper and lower teeth can be slightly apart. Now close the flap of your ear, inhale deeply and exhale making a hum noise. Keep your ears closed so that you hear the hum inside your head -- this vibrates the pituitary gland to release the endorphins. Repeat for at least 3 breaths and try to make the exhale as long as possible each time. Ahhhh."
And now, for the test-drive.
Drea of BMW reports:
I tried the exercise you sent. Here's what I found:
After trying it on my back three times in a row (the minimum suggested number of times), I felt decidedly less interested in the nonstop thoughts running through my head. I felt a little less interested in the contents of my brain, and more interested in relaxing.
After trying it six times, I felt pleasantly relaxed.
After ten times, I turned on my side and fell asleep.
It worked! The loud humming sound in my head drowned out all my thoughts, and I was able to relax enough to fall asleep."
I tried the Brahmari Breath exercise as well. And I loved it.
The hum resonated in my skull in a really nice way, akin to a head massage. Then it worked its way down my spine in a way that made me think of my fiddle as I bowed it. "Talk about good vibrations!" I thought, cheesingly punning on that old Beach Boys tune and the name of heretofore unknown-to-me adult toyshop I found while Googling The Beach Boys.
When I unplugged my ears, I felt calm, relaxed and at peace with the world. Pretty amazing results for a free, two-second exercise.
One side effect to consider, albeit a small one, is the Brahmari breath's out-loud-ness.
bb, the Brooklyn-born bichon frise, wakes up when I do this exercise at night (BMWs with partners who opted out of this exercise voiced this concern to me.). But outside of bb's complaint, I'd give the BB tip a triple ZZZ rating. It's also a great way to relax during the day.
Non-Pharma Sleep Tip #2: Put Vicks VapoRub on your feet
This tip got a response of, "Are we being punk'd?" from one of my sleep-peeps at BMW.
The note that accompanied it seemed solid enough, tho, so we tried it.
Daryl Thompson. Director of AMT Metabolics Research in Florida, writes:
I am member of a drug identification and discovery unit based in Florida. [Writer's note: This turns out to be a job that involves research into healing plants as opposed to Miami-Vice-style drug busts, in case you were wondering. Which I was.] During my research I found a sleep inducing technique...used in Mexico and Central America.
Putting Vick"s VapoRub on the bottom of your feet and then put on socks.
(they use it for children and adults who have coughs and cant sleep)
I thought it was nuts, but it works!.. we are still trying to figure it out...
Andi of Boulder Media Women gave the Vicks a try. She writes:
My Vick's experiment was pretty much a bust. I put it on my feet and covered them with socks, and the smell wasn't too bad (I'm used to strong stuff like Tiger Balm and Tea Tree Oil.) It actually felt kind of moisturizing, which was nice. But I just couldn't fall asleep after that! My problem isn't usually falling asleep, but waking up after only a few hours. So I tossed and turned for hours and finally fell asleep. I'm not sure if it was the Vick's or the Chinese food that kept me awake, so I'll try one more time tonight and let you know.
Andi's second night of Vicksing was as counterproductive as her first. So we'll rate Tip #2, a no-go for her.
I tried the Vicks on feet tip on the same night I tried Brahmari breath.
In professional circles, this kind of multi-variabled experiment is known as, "bad science." But if you're like me, when the clock glows 4:02, you'll try anything/everything. I Brahmari-hummed, I Vicks'd. The smell of the Vicks had a Proust-madeleine effect, I recall. I could see myself as a snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug (if chest congested) kid. I fell asleep.
I still felt crappy the next morning. But being able to control the night a bit more made the crappy-next-day a little better. And little is a start, ya know?
Next up, we test:
a) a new use for hot water
b) The (possibly) Sleep-enhancing watch.