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If being stressed out is costing you precious rest, please read on

About the only time I have ever come close to actually doing serious harm to another human being is when said person either interrupts my sleep, prevents me from being able to sleep, or in some way ruins the quality of said sleep.

I’ve been tempted to bury more than one boyfriend on that alone. These days there are good reasons I love being solo.

I’m ex-military. If you’ve ever had to perform night duty, probably among the most important roles of any soldier, you also know that your enemy knows damned good and well that you are likely to nod off.

Lotta wars lost because of sleeping sentinels.

I’m not going to bore you with all the research about sleep. You know damned good and well what it’s like if you can’t, and what kind of harridan you turn into after three nights of two hours each, thank-you-new-baby.

Yesterday I was exchanging a few emails with Medium buddy Gabriela Rosales, who wrote this piece that I really liked:

8 Things I Did to Sleep Better
Tried and proved

I had a few issues with that after I got home from Africa. First, my realtors removed the beautiful, tropical wood ceiling fan that I had in my bedroom.

My guess? Maria, the cleaning contractor, probably discovered about eleven pounds of Denver dust on the tops of the blades, and decided, wisely, just to lower the whole thing, dust and all, into a shipping box. That’s called delegation. Smart woman.

Anyway, it’s gone.

Problem is that the sound and the sweet (dusty) breeze it made were essential parts of my own sleep hygiene.

Depending on who you are, your history and your physical idiosyncrasies, creating perfect sleeping conditions can be rough. I’m a very light sleeper, more so as I age, so this is challenging, especially on adventure travel.

Gabriela writes about temperature. Most folks I know who are fellow campers sleep with their windows open until the last possible moment before blizzard season. We only very reluctantly turn on the AC if it gets hot enough in summer. We prefer cold, and we prefer night noises.

Mother’s milk.

Well, except for that one night in Mongolia last fall that I set up my Nemo tent in 60 mph winds. I lined the entire floor all around my bag with all my gear in an attempt to avoid waking up in the outskirts of Beijing the next morning. All night I was wide awake to a banshee howl the likes of which I have never heard before, the sides of my beleaguered tent blowing in and out like huge orange lungs.

Not a good night for sleep, that.

I’d sleep a lot better if I had a (dog/horse/cow/goat/donkey/elephant/gerbil) to cuddle. Not an option. Gerry the Ancient Teddy Bear has done the job for more than thirty years, and that includes the very rare times I’ve had male company.

Animals are a lot better cuddle buckets for me than men, but that’s a farm girl talking. I love the smell of horse manure, tolerate cow shit. But I draw the line at pig poop.

Baby pigs are just darling ’til they shit on your carpet. But I digress.

In lieu of a proper fan, I’ve had to count on white noise. Gabriela writes about this as well. I am a proponent. In fact, not only do I have four machines around the house, I’ve created a community.

Last summer I kept the sliding doors open at night. The cricket white noise on my little machine set up a call-and-response with a rather large community of what appeared to be potential suitors just off my balcony.

It’s entirely possible, if not plausible, that the folks who produced the night noise happened upon a particularly pornographic collection of cricket conversations.

All I know is that my lawn was loud last summer.

Mother’s milk.

In my work in adventure travel, I have had some real issues getting proper sleep. That can be damned dangerous if you’re making a difficult climb and have to dip into your endurance. I wake up at 3 am whether I want to or not, and than means bed no later than eight pm. Other folks are up much later, telling campfire stories and the like.

You can’t tell others to be quiet just because you go to bed early. So I started researching options. There aren’t many.

Bose made a pair of white noise headphones. For close to $300…only you had to have a working phone, a wi-fi connection. Not where I go. I ended up with a tiny portable item that fit neatly into the palm of my hand and played 24 different white noises. The down side: ear plugs. However, from being able to sleep on airplanes ( THANK YOU) to getting that critical night’s sleep in my tent, that investment was well worth it.

Other ideas I liked from her article:

Dark- while that varies for each of us- is essential. I use eye masks, for my neighbor’s safety lights are on all the time. Sunset is later now so that by the time I go to bed it’s still pretty light. Eye masks work. I have one in my backpack, my toiletry kit, my bedroom, the living room. They rock.

I love the idea of a weighted blanket. I love to cocoon, and the sense of heaviness feels womb-like and safe to me. That will have to wait. Or weight, as the case may be.

There’s more, but read what she says, and pick and choose what might work for you. Sleep- deep, rich, rewarding sleep- right now is essential. I nap once or twice a day, twenty minutes max.

When I wake up I was so deep that I honestly have no clue what country I’m in or what day it is.

Okay, okay, that’s a pretty accurate statement of my state of mind all the time. Just saying.

One final thing that might be really useful to anxious sleepers:

After my last dog died some many years ago, I was inspired to find an answer to calming my sleeping habits when I read about the extraordinary Temple Grandin. Grandin is an autistic-savant who single-handedly overhauled the cattle industry. It wasn’t what she did for cattle, it was what she did for herself in college that helped. Grandin built a sleeping box (which would later become her invention to calm cattle headed for slaughter) which allowed her to calm herself enough to get sleep.

As a survivor of serial rapes in the military, being on my back and feeling vulnerable to attack are not feel-good places to be. Having a man in my bed is uncomfortable, especially after the last rather difficult relationship. There’s been no safety there. So I built my own “sleeping bed.” Big, long, soft body pillows, which I tuck in close on both sides.

With the exception of camping, I do this in every hostel, hotel and home I sleep in. Works, too.

That, my beloved Gerry Bear, open windows, cool temps, creature symphonies.

Sleep hygiene.

What works for you?

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash