Since making the move to morning workouts about 18 months ago, I’ve struggled with sleep. Thanks to my nutrition counselor, Traci, I’ve solved that problem, and it was as simple as buying a sleeping mask.
Before I started morning workouts, I often stayed up past midnight, but to get up at 4:24 a.m., however, that wouldn’t cut it. As I tried to adjust my bedtime, the major issue was the comings and goings of my sister/roommate, a diehard night owl. Often, she was just getting home as I was settling down; between the lights and her bustling, I just couldn’t settle. As hard as I tried, I was only averaging four to five hours of sleep.
When we did the full court press during my few weeks with Traci, one of the rules she laid down was six to seven hours of sleep a night. Turns out that sleep not only has a lot to do with overall health, but also weight loss. Simply stated, when you don’t sleep enough, hormonal changes take place in your body that lead to weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight. She suggested a sleep mask wand ear plugs when I told her of my problems.
I’ve tried a lot of things to help me sleep over the years, but the sleeping mask has worked like a charm! Generally, withing 10 minutes of putting on the ask, I’m asleep, even with lights on, TVs going, even sister puttering around the house. Wearing a sleeping mask, I have experienced virtually no sleepless nights, which used to be fairly common.
I wondered if the mask was that helpful or if perhaps it was just psychological, so I consulted my trusted research partner, Google. I learned that our natural sleep cycle begins with the onset of darkness. Special photosensitive receptor cells in the eyes signal the brain when light levels diminish to convert the brain chemical “serotonin” (the chemical of wakefulness and activity) into “melatonin” (the brain chemical of sleep and restoration). The onset of darkness triggers a release of melatonin in the brain that helps you to fall asleep; sleep masks work by fooling the body into the production of melatonin by simulating the onset of darkness.
Before you rush out to buy a sleep mask, here are a few tips. Don’t get the first sleep mask you see. Look for parts that cover from the edges of your eyes to the edges your nose; this will block out more light. Stiff fabric may not be the best, either. A sleep mask should conform easily to your face, cover your eyes well and be comfortable as you fall asleep.
I so wanted a mask like the one Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I bought a simple black contoured mask from Walgreen’s. It’s a molded foam eye mask, contoured for pressure-free, smudge-free eye comfort. While I don’t look like Audrey Hepburn, I’m sleeping quite well.
The only drawback? Sometimes I sleep TOO well. I’m writing this post in lieu of my morning cardio because I actually overslept this morning! (I’ll get my cardio in after work today!)
By the way, I’m able to monitor my sleep with my Fitbit. It records the time I go to bed, the amount of time it takes me to fall asleep, the number of times I’m awakened and the amount of time I sleep. Using this information, it also gives me a sleep quality percentage number. It’s been quite a handy tool.
Have you ever tried a sleeping mask? How did it work for you? Do you have any “must do” tips for a better nights sleep?