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March 6, 2024

Episode 22: How to “Respect Your Sleep”

In this episode, Pam and Sarah discuss various strategies and habits for improving sleep quality. They share their different perspectives on sleep and their natural sleep schedules.

They share their nighttime routines. Sarah’s is more traditional with reading, magnesium, and journaling. Pam’s is weirder and includes the use of nose strips and mouth tape for better breathing during sleep. They emphasize the importance of establishing a sleep routine and respecting one’s sleep needs.

They also explore the benefits of sunlight exposure in the morning for regulating the circadian rhythm. The conversation covers the role of exercise, supplements, and engaging the brain with specific tasks to aid in falling asleep. Additionally, they provide tips for dealing with middle-of-the-night wakefulness, such as changing location and practicing self-compassion.


  • Sleep is essential for overall well-being and affects various aspects of life.
  • Everyone has different natural sleep schedules and preferences.
  • Respecting sleep and creating a consistent bedtime routine can improve sleep quality.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, lowering the bedroom temperature, and exercising regularly can contribute to better sleep.
  • Personalized nighttime routines can enhance sleep quality.
  • Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning to regulate your circadian rhythm.
  • Incorporate exercise into your morning routine to promote better sleep.
  • Consider supplements if needed.
  • Engage your brain with complex tasks, such as counting or listing items, to help fall asleep. Listen for Pam’s “weird trick” for falling asleep.
  • If you experience middle-of-the-night wakefulness, try changing your location and practice self-compassion.

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This transcript was generated by AI so please ignore any weird errors. If there is anything really terrible, let us know.

[00:00:00] Pam: When I reached out to people on social media and asked if they had any questions about sleep, I got tons of responses from people asking how to fall asleep, how to stay asleep, and how to get better quality sleep. So this is a topic that is really important to everyone and I think that you and I probably are going to have very different experiences with sleep just because of who we are, what our natural schedules are, and what our lives are like.

So I think it’s perfect for us to have this conversation and to share those different perspectives on sleep. But like, why are we even talking about sleep on a show called A Little Bit Easier?

[00:00:38] Sarah: Because first of all, life is easier when we’re sleeping. Life is so hard when we’re tired, so much harder.

[00:00:46] Pam: It absolutely is. I know when I am sleep deprived, I am grumpy. I am much shorter you know, in responses to people. I don’t have the ability to take that pause that you need to before you react to something. I’m not as smart. You know, your brain just doesn’t work as well when you’re sleep deprived.

[00:01:10] Sarah: And also a big one is I’m not as able to regulate my mood and I feel so much more anxious. So we’ve done a previous episode on anxiety and the topic of anxiety has certainly floated in and out of our episodes because it’s a common theme in life and sleeping better helps with anxiety, plain and simple.

So it’s such a great, it’s such a basic topic, but it’s so good to revisit it and spend some time thinking about it.

[00:01:42] Pam: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it is a basic topic, but with all the responses that I got, it’s obvious that this is something that everyone

[00:01:49] Sarah: Well, it’s often the basic things that are, that can become complex to live out.

[00:01:54] Pam: Right. And there are people who, may even be spending eight hours a night in bed, but they’re not sleeping well or enough. And even just minor sleep insufficiency, going a couple of days without getting quality sleep actually negatively impacts your health and minor sleep insufficiency over an extended period of time is associated with an increase in mortality.

So not sleeping well can like literally kill you.

[00:02:25] Sarah: The only reason I’m laughing is because I know these stats are true and it’s almost a nervous laughter because I know the impact for me anyways when I hear something like that is then feeling more worried that I’m not sleeping enough, which of course negatively impacts impacts our sleep.

So I think the energy that you and I both want to bring is… what are the small tweaks we can make to have a better sleep? To have a happier sleep, feel better the next day without guilt or shame for, for the fact that sometimes we do have this insomnia and we do have a bad night’s sleep, and that’s okay too.

[00:03:02] Pam: Of course. Absolutely. Perfection is never the goal. And I have luckily not had a lot of trouble with sleep throughout my life. There’s definitely been periods of time where I was more anxious and so I had more issues with sleep. But I live with someone, my partner CK had severe insomnia for the first half of our fifteen year relationship.

So I have seen the impact that it can have and the impact that, that that, that negative thought pattern about sleep can have, where you get, wrapped up in, I’m not sleeping, and so now you panic about not sleeping and it’s just, it becomes a cycle. So we definitely want to focus on simple and free things that you can do that can make a big difference.

[00:03:44] Sarah: I love it. Great.

[00:03:45] Pam: So let’s start just a little bit with our experience about sleep and kind of our different perspectives because of how our lives are a little bit different. What is your natural schedule? What, what would you like to have as your schedule and what is your actual schedule?

[00:03:59] Sarah: Yeah, so my natural schedule would be that I’m a night owl. I love staying up late. I get lots of creative ideas later in the day. I love chatting into the night, listening to music, reading, hanging out. I would love to stay up late. Love to sleep in, definitely not a member of the 5 a. m. club. I would love to sleep in, and I love naps.

Some people are not, don’t like naps, or they don’t, they say they don’t know how to nap. I could so easily take a cat nap every day. Find me a little piece of sun, sunlight, and I will lie over top of the duvet in the sunlight, and close my eyes and have an afternoon nap, an afternoon siesta. So that would be a great routine for me. I mean, my life doesn’t look like that because I’m participating in our capitalist society, where I’m waking up and going to work.

I’ve got a couple of kids, so they go to school. I’ve got to get them ready. And then in service of living my life that way, I try to force myself to go to bed earlier. And I try to get into bed in the 10s in order to fall asleep in the 11s. That’s my goal. And then I wake, I set my alarm for seven and if I wake up in the sixes before that, I’m okay with that.

And on the weekends, ideally I sleep till eight. Those are, those are my numbers.

How do they compare to your numbers?

[00:05:33] Pam: I’m the complete opposite. I turn into a pumpkin about 8:30 at night. The, the way our schedule is, we eat dinner about 5:30 and then we play a word game together afterwards and we take our evening walk. And then I do like, you know, brushing teeth, washing face, that whole routine.

So that then when we lay down on the couch and watch an hour of TV, I’m ready for bed at that point. And I have what I call my napitizer, which is where I fall asleep watching TV before bed, and I get like… this is my favorite window of sleep. I get like really great deep sleep and just knock out on the couch for like half an hour under the pretense of watching television.

And then I wake up when the show’s over and I go to bed by 9:30 every night. And I don’t wake up to an alarm, but I typically will wake up around six o’clock in the morning.

I’m a morning person that like watching the sunrise, having my coffee… that early morning time is my favorite time. If, if anything lasts past nine o’clock at night, I’m not there.

[00:06:34] Sarah: That, yeah. That is a special time of, time of day the sunrise. And so that’s a lot of sleep you get.

[00:06:41] Pam: yes.

[00:06:42] Sarah: Yeah. So you must have some good wi, some good wisdom to share.

[00:06:46] Pam: Maybe it’s, it’s just, you know, what works for me. I don’t set an alarm. So I just go to sleep and I wake up when I wake up and some mornings that’s later, some mornings it’s earlier. I say that sleep is my superpower. Cause it’s just one of those things that like, I get a lot of it and it really does help me in other areas of life.

[00:07:04] Sarah: It really is great. And I’m thinking about your routine with, you know, the earlier dinner and then the walk. And also to put into context, just how different our daily lives are. Two nights a week, I’m teaching from 6 to 9 PM. So I’m not even wrapped up. Sometimes that’s in person. Right? So then I’m wrapping up in the classroom and driving home or if it’s online, I’ve got to wrap it up.

So then my adrenaline’s up, my energy’s up, I’ve got to sort it down. And then my kids as well are not going to sleep. They’re going to sleep at around the same time as you, right? 9, 930. So after they’re… this is a psychological thing too. And plenty of parents I know have this. Once your kids go to bed, you want to have your own window of experience. You know, some parents don’t and they’re cool going to bed right with their kids. You know, at the same time, but there can be, for me anyways, I want to have a separate experience after they’re done.

[00:08:03] Pam: Sure.

[00:08:04] Sarah: yeah, it would rarely be 930 unless I have a cold or something like that, but that does sound pretty dreamy.

[00:08:13] Pam: Well, yeah. I want to make sure that people don’t hear, my schedule and my life and think that I’m telling them that this is what you need to have because it, I do have, you know, this is the life that I’ve chosen. I chose to not have children and I chose a partner where we’re very schedule oriented and we both, you know, have agreed that this is the life that we want.

And so, our evenings are very mellow and I do have a lot of that, like downtime to get ready for sleep and it’s very conducive to that. So, everyone’s schedule is different, everyone’s lives are different, but the tips that we’re going to give are things that you can like, find the things that work for you and incorporate what you can or maybe make small tweaks to your schedule if that’s possible.

[00:08:54] Sarah: I love it. So let’s, let’s move on.

[00:08:57] Pam: We’re going to go through some sort of like low hanging fruit, some simple things that people can do. And I was talking to my myofascial release therapist this week about us doing this episode. And I asked if she had any tips for people and she’s a friend of the pod. So hi, Ruth. And she had a great quote.

She just said, “you have to respect sleep”

[00:09:18] Sarah: mm, mm,

[00:09:20] Pam: That sounds simple, but I think we take sleep for granted. It’s like we do it every night, so it should just happen. And if it’s not happening well, like, you know, it kind of feels like it’s out of your control.

But if we think about it as this, you know, this integral part of life and something that is so necessary and give it the respect that it deserves, then we can take some small steps in our day to day that can have a positive impact.

[00:09:45] Sarah: I really like that, that framing of it, even giving it that title versus the title Sleep Hygiene. It’s like, how can I choose to respect my sleep? Which is really a self respect, isn’t it? Because it’s such a fundamental part of self care.

[00:10:01] Pam: It definitely is. Yeah. So, we’ll probably disagree a little bit on this one, given our schedules, but the first is to try and have a consistent bedtime. Like you were just talking about you two nights a week are teaching late. So you couldn’t say like, I’m going to be in bed at 930 every night, but at least having kind of a window

[00:10:23] Sarah: I do have that. Yeah. I do have like the tens. Ideally I’m getting into bed in the tens and falling asleep. And I know that if I miss that window and it’s suddenly the 11s, the 12s, and I get into bed, I can miss the window of, I can start a new awake cycle.

[00:10:40] Pam: Yeah. You get like

[00:10:40] Sarah: a second wind. Exactly. So, so for me, that’s a consistent, so whatever consistent means to you listeners, it might be something more on the nose or it might be a window, but having that does, does help.

[00:10:54] Pam: What I kind of do is I start with what that window is and my day is backed up from there. So, I know that I want to be asleep sometime between 9:30 and 10. So what does that mean? Like I have to be relaxing by 8:30 so that my brain is chill by the time I want to fall asleep. And so, if I want to be relaxing by 8:30 that means I have to be getting ready for bed by 8.

And, kind of back it up from there rather than it being like, you know, you rush through the day and you get up to the end of the day, and then all of a sudden it’s nine o’clock. Like it, it has to be something that you have intention around and that it’s, it’s part of your schedule rather than it being an afterthought.

[00:11:33] Sarah: Yes, and I like that you’re reminding us that it, it’s not an immediate thing, done my day, go to bed, there’s, there’s… we need a buffer. And I think, again, that’s individual for different people. Some people are able to fall asleep right away. I have a bit of a process before I fall asleep and that involves turning my brain off from the day. And relaxing it and then getting it ready for sleep. And so I think that self awareness piece comes in to think, how much of a buffer do I need to build in before the end of my day and the beginning of my sleep? And that’s a really important part of that respect.

[00:12:12] Pam: It is.

There’s a lot of talk about whether you should be, looking at your phone or watching TV and being exposed to artificial light before you go to sleep and all of that. And That may impact people, but I think what’s more important is what you’re consuming and having, you know, even if you’re looking at your phone or if you’re watching TV… being intentional about what you’re watching, what you’re looking at, so that you are watching or consuming things that are relaxing to you and not amping you up.

Like you don’t want to be arguing on Twitter before you’re trying to go to bed, right?

Like it’s, it’s more about what the content is doing to your mindset and to your anxiety level and whether it’s actually letting you relax or if it’s just winding you up more.

[00:12:55] Sarah: agree. I agree. And I love… I love content before bed that feels uplifting or that feels funny. I love reading funny things. I love watching funny things. And some people, I’ve read that for folks who do suffer from anxiety, re-watching television shows. You’ve heard that too, can be really soothing. And so if you have a series that you love watch it again and watch the reruns of it.

Something that makes you laugh, something that you, that you can predict what’s going to happen. And that can be a really soothing way to wind down.

[00:13:30] Pam: Okay, so this is a pretty obvious one that I think everyone knows, but it’s a good reminder, which is to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Some people may be able to have a glass of wine with dinner and have it not impact their sleep, but this is specifically for people who are struggling to get quality sleep.

Alcohol… it makes you feel like you’re falling asleep faster and better because it knocks you out, but chemically and physically you’re not actually sleeping with the same quality that you are without alcohol. So, it’s just something to think about if you are struggling to get quality sleep is to try not to have alcohol in the evenings. Alcohol and caffeine are both things that will interrupt sleep make you wake up more or have lower quality sleep.

[00:14:17] Sarah: Yeah. That’s a, it’s a good point about I’m, I’m thinking about tracking sleep. And this could be, if you’re trying to get to the root cause of why some nights you’re sleeping well and some nights you’re not, this is when a tracker could also be useful to better understand, do these substances impact me?

And if so, in what way? And if so, is it worth it? And then you can make a choice from there.

[00:14:40] Pam: Yeah. And I know I’m someone, I could have an espresso after dinner and fall right to sleep, but the quality of sleep is not the same. So that tracking and that awareness could definitely have a positive impact. And I know when I used to drink even if I would have one glass of wine or one drink, My sleep that night would not be as good.

I would wake up, with like a little bit of anxiety of like more of that, like, did I forget something or did I say something that I shouldn’t have said? Like that sort of like weird, active brain anxiety. I would just wake up multiple times throughout the night with that even from one glass of wine.

So, Alcohol is definitely something that can have an impact on anxiety levels when you’re sleeping.

[00:15:25] Sarah: Yep. So figure out for you what the substances do. Right? What impact do they have? And do you like that impact? Do you not? And what, what might you want to look at?

[00:15:37] Pam: Another one is to lower the temperature in your bedroom. Our bodies need to be a little bit cooler to trigger sleep and to stay asleep. We need a core body temperature drop of one degree Celsius or a couple degrees Fahrenheit to have that quality sleep. So, if your room is warm, you don’t trigger those natural processes of cooling down.

So we actually drop our thermostat to like 63 degrees at night. It’s pretty, pretty chilly in our room, but it saves money and we sleep better.

[00:16:13] Sarah: I love it.

[00:16:14] Pam: Do you, do you adjust your thermostat?

[00:16:16] Sarah: I do and I also use a fan at night and I enjoy a cool room and then I also, I also like to have a heating pad. So, in the winters here, I like to have like maybe a heating pad on my tummy or on my legs. So all of that is just controlling the temperature to make myself feel more comfortable. But it’s, it turns off the heating pad, it turns off after an hour. But I find that’s when, and I’m going to talk more about some of the, some of my sleep routine. Which I think is fairly high maintenance, but it works for me. But one of the, one of the items is I bought this really nice. I had the oldest heating pad in the world.

It must’ve been, I feel like it was around 20 years old. I mean, it was one of something I bought in the drugstore that just lasted forever and ever. And I finally upgraded it to this really nice heating pad that it will turn off after an hour and it’s all fuzzy and soft and lovely and it’s quite joyful to use.

So yeah, it was a good upgrade.

[00:17:23] Pam: Nice. I was thinking about my heating pad as you were talking about that, and it’s like one that my mom gave me that she had, so mine is probably just as old as yours.

[00:17:34] Sarah: Like it really feels like this ancient artifact that really stood the test of time, which is great. And the technology has improved.

[00:17:44] Pam: I worry about starting a fire every time I plug mine in. Like, it doesn’t look shady, but I’m like I don’t know. This thing’s pretty old. That’s funny. Yeah. Okay.

[00:17:53] Sarah: lower your temperature and if you like a heating pad, use one.

[00:17:57] Pam: Do what works for you, but but try and make it a little bit cooler in the room so you can get that body temp decrease.

Another thing to think about is if you’re eating like a huge meal right before you go to sleep, for most people, that is going to have a negative impact on sleep because your body is digesting and dealing with all of that food before you’re going to sleep.

I think most people know that, but if you are eating like something sweet before you go to bed, that can cause a blood sugar spike and then crash. And a lot of people have that like three o’clock wake up time in the middle of the night, it’s actually because we have that like blood sugar increase and then decrease through the night.

So you get down to like having low blood sugar in the middle of the night and that causes your nervous system to wake up because it’s like, okay, we gotta, we gotta deal with this. We need to have some food. So, not eating sweets, right before you go to bed, have your dessert a little earlier.

Or if you do find that you have that wake up in the middle of the night. Some people even wake up hungry in the middle of the night. If you eat something that’s high protein and high fiber before bed, that will sustain you through the night. So, try to make it not something that’s high sugar.

You want it to be high fiber, high protein so that it will digest slowly.

[00:19:17] Sarah: Like a cracker and peanut butter kind of thing?

[00:19:19] Pam: Maybe more like fruit and peanut butter or vegetables and peanut butter or beef jerky and fruit, something like

[00:19:26] Sarah: gotcha. Okay.

[00:19:28] Pam: Yeah.

[00:19:28] Sarah: do you know the ideal number of hours to eat before you go to bed? Like how long should it be between when we eat and when we go to bed? Do you know?

[00:19:39] Pam: I’ve heard that for a full meal, you actually want it to be a few hours before you go to bed.

[00:19:44] Sarah: Yeah, this one I struggle with because when I’m teaching at night… ideally my food is ready and then during the break I eat it. Doesn’t always work out that way and sometimes it’s a later, a later meal, which isn’t ideal. And so again In real life, we have different kinds of schedules and conditions, so we work with it.

[00:20:05] Pam: Do you find that that has an impact on your sleep?

[00:20:07] Sarah: I’ve never noticed.

[00:20:09] Pam: Maybe for you it doesn’t have an impact. Yeah, these are all things that it just, you know, if someone’s having an

issue, it’s things to be mindful of.

[00:20:17] Sarah: Yes. It’s not saying you have to make all these changes.

[00:20:20] Pam: Exactly. Yeah, just think about how, what you do during the day impacts how you sleep because I a lot of times there’s almost this disconnect. It’s like, okay, well, that’s the day and that’s night. And like, and there’s, there’s no correlation from my behavior during the day or what I do during the day to how I’m sleeping and it’s all

connected, right?

[00:20:43] Sarah: You’re the same person.

[00:20:45] Pam: Exactly. You’re the same person, same body, same brain.

[00:20:49] Sarah: The one thing that I always notice and it helps me tremendously is when I’ve exercised.

[00:20:54] Pam: Yes.

[00:20:55] Sarah: And I feel it. My body feels tired. My legs feel tired and there’s this kind of feeling of relief when I lie down in my bed. Maybe this sounds so obvious, but it’s a reminder to myself.

Every time I feel that way, Oh yeah, it’s really good to exercise. I’m really, I really don’t regret that I did that. So that’s, that’s another good thing we can, another boost for exercising. Yeah.

[00:21:23] Pam: Our bodies are not meant to sit in front of a computer all day. We are built for movement. We’re built really to be walking for probably hours a day while we were, tracking food or, or hunting and

[00:21:36] Sarah: and gathering. Yeah.

[00:21:38] Pam: yeah, to expect your body and your brain to sit in front of a computer all day and then be tired and, and sleep.


yeah. It doesn’t

[00:21:50] Sarah: And, and consume information that probably triggers anxiety.

[00:21:54] Pam: Yeah, absolutely.

We’re going to go into some, some more next level tips in a second, but talk me through your nighttime routine because this, this looks pretty intense. It’s, it’s,

[00:22:06] Sarah: Yeah, well in point form it looks very intense and I did write in our, in our little notes. It is a bit of a slog when I’m traveling but it’s just part of, it’s part of my self care and we’ve talked about morning routines having an imperfect morning routine. I also have an imperfect evening routine.

But it helps me reset from the day into the night. So first of all I am picky about my pillow. I have a really great pillow. I travel with it. I will travel with just a carry on and I still manage to shove that pillow in there.

[00:22:42] Pam: Yes. We also travel with our pillows. Do you want to shout out the brand

[00:22:46] Sarah: I don’t remember the, I don’t know the brand, but it’s cause it’s like a medical grade pillow, but it’s one of those very firm foam ones.

So it’s for, and then it has like a little divot in the head. So it feels very hard and it really helped with shoulder tension. My doctor recommended I get one cause I was getting shoulder tension and it’s been a game changer and it’s so comfortable.

Now if I forget one and I’m in a hotel and it’s one of those fluffy pillows, I think, what is this? This is just crap. I can’t, I can’t sleep on this. I feel my head go through it. So how about

[00:23:17] Pam: It’s true. We were just in a hotel the other night, and we both regretted not bringing our pillows because they were awful. We use a brand called Coop, C O O P, Home Goods, and their pillows are, they’re foam, but it’s like little pieces of foam, like chopped up and stuffed inside there. So you can add more or remove it to make it the thickness that you want.

And you can scoot it around so you can make a dip for your head and make higher parts if you’re a side sleeper and it’s really customizable. So we em.

[00:23:44] Sarah: Yeah. Listen, pillows are, and any kind of bedwear, it really is now like a luxury goods kind of marketplace out there. But I do think it’s worth finding a great pillow and investing in it.

So I need my pillow. I have pajamas that are really comfortable for me. So I have a couple of pairs of pajamas that I love.

I have various lotions and potions that I keep beside my bed. Basically my bedside table has a number of items to try and entice me to go to bed because as we shared, otherwise I’ll find lots of reasons to putter around and stay awake till two o’clock in the morning. So I need to lure myself. So I’ve got various lotions and potions… really nice cream.

I have fresh lavender or dried lavender that I can smell an eye pillow. I have novels galore as you know, I’m an avid reader. I love the way novels look. I love the way they feel in my hand. I’ll go to the library. I’ll buy a bunch of books at the bookstore and have a number on the go.

Because sometimes I’m reading one and I’m like, Hmm, this. I’m not liking the emotion that this is giving me right now. Maybe it gets too creepy or it gets too sad and I think I want something else. Then I can pull something else I’ve got going that I know works for me. I have certain authors that I read on repeat.

That’s almost just like, just it’s soothing for me, like watching those TV shows. So I’ve got a whole bunch of books by my bedside. I’ve got my five minute journal, which I use in the morning. And then I use at night. It’s always beside my bed. I’ve got a couple of nice pens. And then of course my, oh yeah, I also, I have a notebook to jot down ideas for the next day.

For me, this is a really important for falling asleep because I’ll start, even though I have an agenda, obviously, where I have all my appointments and my to do list on it downstairs. I, I might think, oh, did I remember this? Or certain ideas are popping into my brain right before bed. So I write them all down.

On a, on a nice little…

get them out of my head. And I like buying a nice notebook for that. Actually, recently when we were in New York and at the Strand, we went to the Strand bookstore and I bought a couple of nice little notepads. And again, this is just a small upgrade that can feel enjoyable.

So I have that. My humidifier is running. I’ve got white noise, certain kind of white noise, the sound of a river and rain, nothing else. And then I just need some time, just need some time, do my writing, do my reading, drift off.

[00:26:23] Pam: It could not be more different than what I do.

[00:26:27] Sarah: So what do you do after you watch, you watch your show? And then.

[00:26:32] Pam: Yeah. So I’ve already brushed my teeth and washed my face at that point. So I literally walk upstairs put in my earplugs. That’s one thing. I sleep with wax earplugs. I’m very, very sensitive to sounds. So I don’t want to hear anything. I don’t want to hear it raining. I don’t want to hear CK come to bed.

I don’t. Like, I can’t have any sounds, so, I put in earplugs, I wear a nose strip, like you see football players wearing, like the plastic ones, so I can breathe better through my nose, and then I tape my mouth closed, which we’ll talk about as well, take off my clothes and get in bed. That’s my routine.

I don’t,

[00:27:10] Sarah: You don’t read.

[00:27:11] Pam: anything. No, absolutely not. I would not… turning on a light

would not be good for me. Yep.

[00:27:19] Sarah: Okay. Let’s talk about this nose strip and, and the

mouth… mouth tape?

[00:27:25] Pam: Yes. So, nose strips. That’s just something I started doing because I have like a fairly thin nose, so I don’t breathe very well through my nose, but nasal breathing is one of the best things that you can do for your respiratory system, it, it humidifies the air properly.

Whereas breathing through your mouth does not. Nasal breathing releases nitric oxide, which is really great for your cardiovascular system and calming. There’s tons of benefits for nasal breathing.

I wear a nose strip when I’m sleeping so that I can breathe better through my nose. I’ve always done that for a very long time.

But CK started taping his mouth. You use medical tape and you just put a little piece of tape right in the middle of your mouth, across your lips and, and tape it so that you’re forced to breathe through your nose. And I gave him a hard time about it for a while ’cause it seems so silly, but there’s actually some evidence that it can be beneficial.

So I tried it and it helped me not so much to breathe through my nose more ’cause I already did that. ’cause I’m a, I, I say that I’m a very intense sleeper ’cause I clench my jaw when I’m sleeping. So my mouth was already closed anyway. But it helped to not, you know, like wake up with a, with a dry mouth if you’ve been breathing through your mouth or maybe like when you wake up and you’re like drooling on the pillow and you’re like, ugh, like it stops that from happening.

Cause your mouth is, is taped closed. It freaks a lot of people out. Cause they’re like, I don’t want to tape my mouth closed and suffocate when I’m sleeping. But it’s something, something to try. It works for us and I have noticed a difference.

[00:29:04] Sarah: Wow. How long have you been taping your mouth?

[00:29:07] Pam: Probably about a year at this point.

[00:29:09] Sarah: Okay. And does it ever feel uncomfortable or strange?

[00:29:14] Pam: No, it did when I was sick because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. But now I actually would probably have trouble falling asleep without it.

[00:29:22] Sarah: Right. Right. And I think that that’s the thing about habits. As we’ve talked about, whatever becomes your habit, whether it’s you categorize it as something that’s good for you, or you categorize it as something you want to change. If it’s become a habit, it feels weird not to do it.

Even medical tape on your mouth while you sleep.

[00:29:40] Pam: Yes. Yeah,

I always joke that I hope that nothing ever happens to me and CK while we’re sleeping, because if someone found our bodies, I would have Invisalign retainers, my mouth taped closed, the nose strip and earplugs in, and he would have his mouth taped shut, earplugs and a headband with earphones.

[00:30:03] Sarah: Yeah,

[00:30:05] Pam: So we would look pretty silly.

[00:30:07] Sarah: so you’re a high maintenance sleeper in a different way.

[00:30:11] Pam: Totally different way.

[00:30:12] Sarah: different way.

So find your own way of maintaining, of doing what you need to get a good night’s rest. Full permission from us.

[00:30:20] Pam: Yeah, be weird..

[00:30:21] Sarah: Yeah, be weird. Do what you gotta do to feel relaxed and get that sleep.

[00:30:25] Pam: Yep. So some people might have just heard me say the headband with SleepPhones there and wonder what those are. So CK likes to fall asleep listening to podcasts.

Wearing headphones to sleep is extremely uncomfortable. So we found these things that are called SleepPhones and they’re actually completely flat discs. And they go inside of like a headband that you just kind of put over your head. And then, so those earphones lay flat on the outside of your ears and you can still sleep on your side with the headphones on and it’s really comfortable.

So if people like to fall asleep, listening to something to shut off their brain, or if you’re used to falling asleep, watching TV I would recommend trying SleepPhones instead and maybe doing a so you can turn the TV off and not have that artificial light.

[00:31:08] Sarah: Interesting. That’s quite amazing that it does that he doesn’t feel the pressure on his ear that it’s so flat

[00:31:15] Pam: they’re felt, so they’re a little spongy and yeah, they’re really comfortable. And you can just get them on Amazon.

[00:31:20] Sarah: So many things out there.

[00:31:23] Pam: Yes.

[00:31:24] Sarah: Identify the problem and then maybe hopefully you can find some kind of solution on Amazon.

[00:31:31] Pam: Yeah. Yes. Okay. So one of the things that is scientifically shown to help kind of regulate your circadian rhythm and help you have this schedule of being able to wake up and go to sleep at a certain time every day, is to get sunlight exposure on your eyes.

First thing in the morning, if you can, or, within an hour or so of waking, if first thing isn’t possible, or if you get up before the sun comes up, just going outside and literally getting sunlight on your eyes is, it, it starts the release of chemicals that tell your body it’s wake up time.

Like now, like it’s the beginning of the day. There is real science here. This isn’t just woo woo. This is actual science that chemical reactions take place when the sunlight hits your eyes and it tells your, your body to start kind of like start your clock, like this is the time that we’re going to be up and your body has a clock that then, you know, says, okay and in a certain amount of time from now is when we’re going to need to be tired and go to bed. So. Getting that sunlight, getting actual outdoor sunlight, not staring at your phone light, like real, real sunlight on your eyes can start your day. It can wake you up. It can have a positive impact on your mood.

It can just really start your day on a positive note, but then that’s one of those things that connects to the end of your day. So you’re starting your day with this sunlight and it actually will set you up to be tired and fall asleep easier at the end of the day.

[00:33:07] Sarah: I love that tip. I’m wondering if you’ve done research on those sunlight, like, lamps that mimic the sunlight, like happy lamps what, what your thoughts are on that? Because I was thinking, I mean, another thing is that Pam and I are in different climates. Pam is in sunny California, and I’m in Toronto, which at the moment is cold and gray.

So I have been thinking about getting one of those lights.

[00:33:30] Pam: Yep. Absolutely. They do work there. You know, if you can’t or, or don’t want to, for whatever reason, get sunlight in the morning, if it’s freezing cold or if the sun’s just not out then yeah, they absolutely do work.

[00:33:43] Sarah: Yeah. So get that sunlight.

[00:33:45] Pam: yeah. And it’s something that you can kind of stack, something you already do in the morning so you don’t have to add time to your schedule.

I like to just take my coffee or tea outside and stand there and, and, watch the sun come up. Sometimes I will put on some sort of nourishing content. Like I like, meditations from the Waking Up App or something about mindfulness, something that just starts my day off on a positive note.

So getting that positive content while I’m Watching the sun come up is just a really nice start to the day.

[00:34:17] Sarah: I love, I love that tip.

[00:34:18] Pam: On the flip side of it, if you can also add in exposing your eyes to the sunset at the end of the day as well, that is another indicator to your body that it’s the end of the day and we need to start winding down. So the most important one is that start of the day with the sunlight, but kind of bookending your day with seeing the setting sun can also have a positive impact.

[00:34:42] Sarah: Great.

[00:34:42] Pam: You can stack another thing under that, which is morning exercise. So if you could get out and take a walk while you’re getting that sun exposure. Having exercise in the morning has been shown to also regulate that circadian rhythm and help you be tired at the end of the day. So like we were saying movement helps you feel more tired at night. Doing it first thing in the morning can have an even bigger

impact and stacking it with sunlight would just be even more powerful.

[00:35:10] Sarah: And even if you’re not able to do your full workout, if you do a full workout, whatever that means to you, if you’re not able to squeeze that in, in the morning, because a lot of people I know who I work with, they don’t wake, they don’t wake up in time if the day, work day starts at nine. And I’m one of them.

I’m one of those people. And I tend to work out later in the day. Even if you stack with the sunlight and a quick walk, five minute walk around the block, that can still trigger those, that positive impact and give you some of those benefits.

[00:35:45] Pam: absolutely.

[00:35:46] Sarah: So it doesn’t have to be your full workout if you do one.

It can be something short, but something outdoors, fresh air, sunlight and movement, pretty soon after you start your day.

[00:35:58] Pam: There are a lot of supplements that people use for sleep. People use melatonin, magnesium, and CBD, which are all ones that you listed as things that you take. Are they things you use regularly or is it


[00:36:11] Sarah: yeah, when I feel that I need it, so I have them as in my little kit beside my bed. So I have… I tend to take magnesium most nights and then if, if needed, I would take CBD if needed, if I want to, right. If I’m feeling like, oh, I’ve got a lot on my mind. And same with melatonin. I do melatonin less often.

If I feel like it’s going to give me some kind of comfort, I’ll use them. And I think it’s, for me, the payoff of thinking I’m going to have a better sleep is worth it. I don’t know if it’s placebo or actually if they’re supporting me in that way or not, but I do have those beside my bed, as I said, as part of my kit.

[00:36:55] Pam: And I think what you just said is what’s important because a lot of the science that’s coming out is saying that magnesium and melatonin probably don’t have as big of an impact as we think that they do. But if you think that they do, and so then they do, then that’s all that matters.

[00:37:11] Sarah: Exactly.

[00:37:13] Pam: So the thing that people asked about most was how to fall asleep or if they wake up in the middle of the night, how to get back to sleep.

[00:37:19] Sarah: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:37:21] Pam: We all experienced this and I call it busy brain where as soon as my head hits the pillow, all of a sudden it’s like, I get a whole bunch of great ideas. And I wonder if I responded to that email or, did I say something weird? Or like, all of a sudden, like your brain is just like, Oh, let’s think about everything that I could possibly think about.


[00:37:42] Sarah: Oh,

[00:37:43] Pam: It happens, I think in large part, because we’re so busy and so distracted throughout the day that at night, when you go to go to sleep, that’s the only time that your brain, you know, gets to be

heard. You know, it’s, it can finally, it’s quiet enough for your, for all of those thoughts that you have been avoiding or suppressing or, or didn’t have time to think about to come out.

[00:38:08] Sarah: Yeah. And also I think your brain is like, wait, am I safe to fall asleep? Or is there one other thing I need to worry about…

[00:38:14] Pam: that’s a great point.

[00:38:14] Sarah: …before I let myself relax?

[00:38:16] Pam: Yeah. Kind of typical relaxation tactics can help here. I like to do a little diaphragmatic breathing before I fall asleep. So, that’s, you know, a big word for basically just breathing through your, your abdomen and, and taking deep, slow breaths. I like to do a count of five in and out a few times.

That’s sort of, like, how your nighttime routine is all about, like, signaling to your body that this is time to go to bed and, and having that the breathing for me is that. So if I know that I’m not going to be able to fall asleep right away, I can do a few of those five in and out count breaths.

And that’s just sort of like a, a downshift

[00:39:00] Sarah: mm-Hmm.

[00:39:01] Pam: for my body and my brain. And it sort of starts to relax me and lets me chill out. So I would definitely recommend people try that. Just, just breathing if you are having trouble falling asleep.

[00:39:13] Sarah: Yeah.

[00:39:13] Pam: But I have one weird trick to fall asleep.

[00:39:17] Sarah: Yeah. This I was like, I’m gonna need you to explain this because I read it in the notes and I thought, okay, this is going to come off better if

[00:39:24] Pam: okay.

[00:39:25] Sarah: them.

[00:39:26] Pam: Yeah, so it’s sort of like the extreme version of counting sheep. Cause like counting sheep, it’s kind of a joke, but it doesn’t work because we can all count and think at the same time, right? That’s, our brains are capable of that. So what you need is something that you can think about that you can focus on, that takes enough effort that you can’t think about anything else while you’re doing it, but that is not interesting enough to keep you awake.

[00:39:56] Sarah: mm-Hmm.

[00:39:57] Pam: So, what I do is I have… you have to pick. Something that there’s a finite number of items that you can list in a defined order. I will do NFL teams ranked in alphabetical order by city. So there’s a finite number of teams, so I know how many I need to count

[00:40:20] Sarah: Uhhuh.

[00:40:21] Pam: and I can list them all in alphabetical order.

So if I’m trying to fall asleep, I do my breathing and then I start going, one arizona Cardinals, two, Atlanta Falcons, three, Baltimore Ravens. So I’m focusing on what number am I on,

[00:40:39] Sarah: Mm-Hmm.

[00:40:40] Pam: do I have them in the right alphabetical order, have I missed one? I’m keeping all of these really banal, boring things…

I’m having to keep track of multiple things. So it’s not interesting enough to keep me awake, but I’m keeping track of so many things that I cannot think about anything else. And rarely do I get halfway through the list before I have bored my brain to

[00:41:02] Sarah: That’s so funny. So how many NFL teams are there, by the way?

[00:41:07] Pam: 32.

[00:41:07] Sarah: All right. So, but here’s the thing. Couldn’t you do this with something that’s not finite as well? Cause I’m trying to think of what do I know that, like, for example, could I just start with, you know, the alphabet and think of like a food?

So A, apple, B, banana, C, celery, D, like

[00:41:28] Pam: You definitely could. That’s how I started it. What I find is that, that that’s, that’s not enough to keep track of. So there you’re only keeping track of letters and number. So,

[00:41:42] Sarah: this is kind of three things.

[00:41:44] Pam: yeah, exactly. Yep. If you’re doing that you’re not keeping track of, like, whether you did them in the right order, because, you know, A, B, C, you can do that, but if I’m doing, NFL teams, for instance, and I forget Baltimore Ravens, I’m going to be off.

My count is going to be off. And then I’m going to have to be like thinking about it. Yeah.

Your mind will still wander when you’re doing this. So the rule is as soon as your mind is wandering, you have to start back at the beginning.

[00:42:14] Sarah: Gotcha. Now, did you make this up?

[00:42:17] Pam: I did. Yes. This, this came out of necessity because there was Yeah, there was a time in my life where I was not sleeping very well.

It was before we dealt with CK’s anxiety. I was carrying a lot of his anxiety. Well, we actually didn’t know that he had it yet. So I was carrying his anxiety, not knowing that that’s what was happening. I hadn’t done some emotional work on things that were bothering me. So I had a lot of, of other anxiety going on.

So then I was having trouble falling asleep or I would wake up at night and have trouble getting back to sleep. So I started out with doing what you were just saying, which I would just do colors in the alphabet and that worked at the beginning. But once you, once you learn how to do it, your brain needs more to focus on.

[00:43:03] Sarah: Okay. Thank you. So I think the key learning here, the key point is you need to find a way to engage your brain and think about something other than the fact that it’s saying to you, you’re not sleeping. Oh my gosh, you’re going to feel so terrible tomorrow. Right? And, and find different ways to do that.

And you’re right. If something is too easy, then your brain will think about it and then go away, like go back to the worry thought. I love your idea. A simpler one, and it does work for me, is, is counting my breaths and then I’ll count, I’ll do box breathing, which is inhale for four, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four, and then that one, and then…

And then two, right? So you’re just counting the breaths, but there’s, you’re, you have to count also all of the fours. So I’m thinking that’s another way to engage the brain. These are granular ideas. The point is, if your brain is running amok, you have to find a way to like rein it in and get it to think about something on command.

[00:44:04] Pam: Yeah. And I just wanted to give another example so people can think about things to use as their list if they want to try this because it doesn’t have to be something in alphabetical order. It’s, it’s literally any order. So the other one that I use is Formula One Teams and Drivers. I do them in reverse order of how they are doing in the Constructors Cup.

So if there’s any F1 fans out there. Using last year’s results, I would start with, like, Team Haas. And then I say their drivers, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. It was number 10. And then number 9, Alpha Romeo was Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas. And then Number eight was AlphaTauri with Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda.

So I, I have these, you know, I have to remember the teams and the drivers and where they were in the rankings and it’s very nerdy, but it’s, it’s detailed and it’s something that I have to think about intensely. So I can’t possibly think about anything else and keep my place in that list.

[00:45:06] Sarah: So how long do you think you would do that before you would drift off?

[00:45:10] Pam: With that I would probably make it to like fifth place. I rarely ever make it through the entire list without falling asleep.

[00:45:18] Sarah: Super cool. And I’m very impressed with your, with that knowledge. You would do really well in, in key trivia categories.

[00:45:26] Pam: Yeah. So certain

[00:45:28] Sarah: Certain sports, if you make it to Jeopardy and they happen to ask those, you’re just going to do so well.

[00:45:35] Pam: Yeah, I’m trying to think of something that that somebody would do that isn’t sports. I’ll try and come up with some of those ideas and share, because I’m sure not everyone is that into sports.

[00:45:46] Sarah: Yeah. Or, or yeah. Remembers all of those details, but you know, it’s a, it’s a good exercise to think about what are the categories that we all might know well enough to develop an exercise like that. Cool.

[00:46:01] Pam: You had one more note here about what you do in the middle of the night if you have trouble falling asleep. Do you want to talk about that?

[00:46:07] Sarah: Yes. So for me, I will go back to my book. If I am having trouble and I start reading my book again, I can typically fall back asleep. I might need to get out of my bed and go downstairs. It doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes in my life when I am, if I’ve got something on my mind, it will happen. And a key thing for me is telling myself when it happens, this isn’t a problem.

And I, and I will do a self compassion exercise, which is saying to myself, this isn’t a problem. You’re feeling worried right now. All people feel worried sometimes. All people have nights where they don’t sleep well. It’s not a problem. Give yourself some love. And I find that reframing, telling myself, it’s really okay.

I’m going to be fine. Or I’ll tell myself I’ve been tired before and I’ve been just fine. That’s not a problem. I can do everything even if I’m tired. Right? Then that, then the anxiety about the not sleeping can, can lessen and then I can go back to, okay, how can I just help myself fall back asleep without the additional burden of feeling bad about the fact that I’m not sleeping?

[00:47:19] Pam: hmm. I do the same thing. If I lay in bed for 45 minutes and I’m not able to go back to sleep in the middle of the night, I will get up and play like a word game. Sometimes I’ll have some whole milk that helps calm my system down, get a little bit of, fat and calories in there. And I agree about the change of location.

Sometimes that helps to just get up and to move out of bed. So you’re not just like laying there, rolling over and shifting and just getting spun up about the fact that you’re not sleeping. So I’ll move to the couch and chill out there for a little while. Maybe I’ll sleep there or just, wait a little bit until I start to feel tired again and then move back to bed.

And it definitely helps.

[00:47:56] Sarah: So good. Yeah. I think this is wrapping up the conversation.

I wanted to share that we’re going to continue the conversation about sleep, but take it into a slightly different direction, related direction, in our next episode when we’re talking about rest more broadly, what does rest mean? Sleep is certainly one part of rest, but how can we think about rest in a more fulsome way?

And explore that together. Okay everyone, goodnight!


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