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What if there was a way to completely and momentarily escape the world around us? What if there was a way to only hear what is going in our head and experience nothing else? And, if there was a way to encounter all of this, what would it be like? Would it be relaxing? Would it mend mental wounds that prevent rest? Well, perhaps we might not need to ask further. Perhaps we might have a way to experience it first hand and find another way to help us sleep at night. However, the method to experience this potential phenomenon is straight out of a Sci-Fi thriller. Your best night’s sleep might be waiting inside of a Isolation Tank.
Behold! Today’s modern isolation tank! Not quite as intimidating as the movies portray, but almost as equally mysterious as they depict. The Isolation Tank was first invented in 1953 by neuroscientist John Lilly as a way to study response in the brain to a limited sensory output. “The tank immersed the user into a totally dark and silent environment in which sound and vision as well as other sensory inputs were virtually eliminated.” writer
With everyday life there is stress. Stress of work, stress of school, stress of exercise, etc. The main point is that stress is almost inherently in each and every aspect of our everyday. This stress weighs heavy on our minds and bodies and not exhausts us physically but also mentally. Prolonged exposure to these stresses without relief and recovery can lead to more serious problems. The Isolation Tank hails itself as a way to allow the mind to relax and, in a way, begin to heal itself or, at the very least, escape the stress for awhile. When floating in the tank, the water is the same temperature as our skin, the lights are completely off, and the capsule is sound proof. All these factors leave the active mind without the subconscious processing of the senses, and in other words, leaves the floater with their thoughts and nothing else. With just our thoughts and nothing else being registered, we may be able to peer into our minds and fix what is broken or calm what is hectic. At the very least, a user can calmly float and take a well-deserved nap.
Without actually trying one yet, I cannot say that the tank is a divine gift from above that has cured what keeps me up at night. Though I must admit, the list of what tank users have reported being relieved of makes me want to sign up immediately. The image of just floating carefree and detached from reality sounds like the goal of most vacations; even if it is for an hour or so. If you are stressed, exhausted, or just need a quick getaway, perhaps looking up your local float tank center and becoming a Psychonaut could be the perfect fit for you.
In today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by constant noise and distractions. Most of us also carry large burdens of stress upon our shoulders, and look to sleep to relieve the weight. Unfortunately, all of these circumstances can end up making sleep difficult and even impossible for us at night. According to the CDC, one of out every three people will not get enough sleep each night. In a lot of cases, these people (such as myself) suffer from insomnia and other sleep depriving ailments. In lieu of these statistics and to observe Sleep Awareness Week, the Pillows.com team has decided to look into and evaluate different methods that may be the keys to unlocking that perfect night’s sleep. One such key could possibly be found within meditation to combat insomnia and general restlessness.
Meditation: Not just for monks
Since the 1970’s Americans have been gradually experimenting with the calming art of mediation. More and more people are putting aside the notion that meditation is solely a Buddhist or Hindu practice and tapping into the stress-relieving powers it holds. This practice has been coined “Mindfulness Meditation” and it’s practitioners have had great success in stress relief and deeper uninterrupted sleep. The goal of this Mindfulness Meditation is to create the release of a “relaxation response” in the mind of participants. The “relaxation response” is a term used for the deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response. “‘The relaxation response can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure. For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress,'” Dr. Benson, the creator of the relaxation response term is quoted saying. Dr. Benson further goes on explain how one might achieve this response in quick and simple steps.
Step 1: Find a nice and quiet space
Before the meditation begins, it is recommend that you find a quiet place away from the noise and distraction of the busy world around. Dr. Benson suggests that the individual should allow for about 20 minutes of time to spend meditating. So close the blinds, shut the door, and get comfy because it’s time to begin the relaxation.
Step 2: Find your Focus
“The idea is to create a reflex to more easily bring forth a sense of relaxation,” Dr. Benson says. Finding your focus with meditation will lead to release of the relaxation response. This can be achieved with very simple ways of focusing. Some examples of things to focus on are your breathing, making a sound like an “Om”, saying a short prayer, repeating a positive word, or even repeating a phrase. These can all be done silently in your head or out loud all while inhaling and exhaling slowly.
Step 3: Just. Let. Go.
One of the biggest and most crucial technique to use is letting go. When meditating, there shouldn’t be any worry about how you are doing and if you are doing it right. Just breathe. If your mind starts to wander away from the meditative focus, take a deep breath and begin refocusing on what you were doing before. The idea of meditating as a whole is to let go. Let go of the stress that keeps us up at night. Let go of the weight that drags our energy down throughout the day. Let go and fade into a sleep that is calm and carefree. There is no wrong way to meditate if you are achieving this weightless relaxation.
Step 4: Repeat daily
The results may not come immediately. Like most good things, patience is key. But! If you can keep this up and create that Relaxation Response on a daily basis, there just might be the best night’s sleep of your life waiting to be found in the focus of your meditation.
Inhale. Exhale. Just let it go.
We all have our own unique bedtime routines, but some are more “out-of-the-ordinary” than others. Below we will explore how these techniques might help you relax and fall into a deep sleep.
Use A Weighted Blanket
As babies, our parents swaddled us tightly in blankets. This feeling helps babies sleep because it simulates the tight space of the womb. It also prevents babies from restless movement and twitching, promoting a deeper sleep. The same concept applies for adults. Weighted blankets are filled with a variety of things from rice to poly pellets. The weight that these blankets apply to your body simulates the feeling of being swaddled. It is especially good for adults who experience continuous restless nights.
Text Source: Reader’s Digest (http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/sleep-tricks)
Try To Stay Awake
This may seem counterproductive, but trying to force yourself to stay awake can trick your brain into getting drowsy. Sort of a reverse psychology on yourself. Studies have shown that keeping your eyes wide open and keeping your body completely still with no electronics or lights on can actually help you fall asleep faster. I tried this method a couple of times this last week, and sure enough, the longer I tried to stay “wide-awake” the faster I fell into a deep sleep.
Text Source: Life Hacker (http://lifehacker.com/you-may-actually-fall-asleep-faster-if-you-try-to-stay-1693693901)
Watch And Listen To ASMR
This is probably one of the most interesting relaxation techniques out there, but over the past few years, it has been gaining in popularity over social media. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and is defined as, “a feeling of euphoric tingling and relaxation that can come over someone when he or she watches certain videos or hears certain sounds” (Sleep.org) These responses can be triggered by very simple sounds that we hear every day such as the tapping of rain on a tin roof or the sound of writing with a pencil on paper. These sounds start a tingle at the top of your scalp, and as it travels down your body, your mind relaxes and you can drift to sleep. Now, this hasn’t been proven to work for everyone, but for those of us that it does, it is a great way to relax. If you are interested in listening to ASMR videos there are hundreds of them on YouTube. Below is an example of one of the popular ASMR videos by ASMR Darling.
Text Source: Sleep.org (https://sleep.org/articles/what-is-asmr/)
Video Source: YouTube (https://youtu.be/WX6SPJxurLo)
Roll Your Eyes
Research has shown that this simple trick can trigger the release of melatonin in your brain. All you need to do is close your eyes, and roll your eyes down and then back up. Do this a few times. Rolling your eyes like this mimics the beginnings of REM (Rapid Eye Movements).
Text Source: Restful Insomnia (http://www.restfulinsomnia.com/eye-roll/)
Text Source: Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/unable-sleep-eleven-ways-you-2300449)
Make A To-Do List About Your Next Day’s Tasks
If you are like me, you worry about what needs to be done the next day. One way to ease your concerns a little is to write down your to-do list on a piece of paper. Writing each task down makes you feel like you are more in control of your day. So, you can rest easy at night knowing that you have a plan of attack for the next day.
Text Source: Huffington Post: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-kushnick-psyd/5-rarely-seen-tricks-for-_b_10153342.html)