What’s Your Secret to Sleeping Well?

I have a consistent bedtime routine that ensures I fall asleep each night and wake up fairly well-rested:

  • At 10:00 each night, I turn on my heated blanket at the foot of my bed so my cold feet can be toasty warm. It turns off automatically after a few hours.
  • I try to get into bed around 10:30/10:45 and read fiction for 30-45 minutes on my Kindle. This transitions my brain from work mode to dream mode.
  • I turn down the temperature to 69 degrees each night, as I’ve found I sleep better when it’s cold (I’m warm under the covers).
  • For a long time I used a sleep talk app to monitor the weird things I say at night, but it got to the point where it just picked up me snoring, so I stopped using it.
  • Biddy (cat #1) typically wakes me up around 6:30, followed by Walter (cat #2) around 7:00.

Despite that routine, I would say that I’m only sleeping about 85-90% as well as I should. Part of it is the cats, part of it is that I clench my teeth (I’m supposed to wear a nightguard for this, but it just makes me clench more), and part of it is my snoring. I’m a pretty aggressive snorer for the first hour each night.

So after watching a recent episode of Shark Tank, I decided to try to address the snoring and hopefully improve my sleep. This is where it gets a bit weird, folks. Bear with me. 🙂

The Shark Tank pitch was for a product called Somnifix. It’s a disposable adhesive strip that you put over your lips when you go to bed, and it prevents you from opening your mouth. Instead, you’re forced to breathe through your nose.

I was just as apprehensive as I was curious. It seemed pretty brilliant, as it’s not a drastic measure–it’s weird, but it’s not invasive. So I bought a pack and gave it a try for 4 days. Here are my thoughts:

  • I’ll start with the good news: Because I was forced to breathe through my nose, my throat felt amazing when woke up. Usually it’s really dry and/or irritated, but not after a night with the Somnifix.
  • The bad news is that my snoring is apparently based on my nose, not my mouth. I used the Sleep Talk app to record my second night with the Somnifix, and sure enough, the first hour was a full-on snorefest.
  • My subconscious was convinced that I had duct tape over my mouth, resulting in some weird dreams and 4 fitful nights of sleep. Somnifix acknowledges that it’s takes a while to get used to it, and I’m willing to try it a few more times, but I’m on the fence.

I was hoping it would be a magical, revolutionary experience, and it didn’t quite turn out that way. But it was worth a try.

What’s your secret to a great night of sleep? Have you ever tried any devices, apps, special routines, or other bed-related products?


6 Responses to “What’s Your Secret to Sleeping Well?”

  1. Baker Mitchell says:

    Greetings Jamey,

    Your post triggered lots of thoughts about sleep and sleep hygiene. Sleep is a more complicated process that you could possibly dream! When I was teaching medical fellows in anesthesiology, every year we had a professor of sleep medicine (Dr. Paul Ingmundson) come and give a short series of lectures on the biology of sleep. His lectures were fascinating but packed with so much information, it was difficult to retain it all.

    Some keys to sleep hygiene….avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol (should be obvious). No electronics for 60-90 minutes before you plan on going to sleep (I think a kindle is probably ok…it is MUCH better than a smart phone or tablet, even if you do have the “blue light filter on.”) Going to bed at the same time each night. Daily exercise promotes better sleep (although try not to exercise at night). Some people like to take melatonin (this is a natually occurring hormone which is released naturally by your body when your brain, via your eyes, senses that it’s dark. Taking this supplement at the SAME TIME nightly, can help create a better sleep habit). These are probably all things you know.

    Here are some things to try/think about/ponder……Snoring. Man, I snore like a banshee. Being an anesthesiologist, you become very aware of snoring in others. Snoring is both air movement (yea! the patient is breathing) and air obstruction (boo! the patient is obstructing). So, we try to do various things to reduce airway obstruction (this is key after a patient has woken up after surgery, the breathing tube is out, and you’re watching the patient to make sure they are breathing well on their own). The “head-tilt-chin-lift-jaw-thrust” is common, and very useful in the OR. But you can’t do that on yourself to prevent snoring. Looking at the anatomy of the airway, if you actually, lift the back of the head and tilt the chin downwards (towards the chest), you can get better anatomic alignment of the airway and reduce airway obstruction (snoring) (NB: this is for blog purposes only and not to be used in any life threatening situation). So try folding your pillow so that the back of your head is tilted up (away from the bed) and your chin is slightly tucked down towards the chest. See if this helps with the snoring.

    Also, I sometimes use an audio tract (visualization exercises) to fall asleep and de-stress. There is a website HealthJourney.com that I recommend to patients for guided imagery and some cognitive behavioral therapy exercises (there are lots of subjects on the website from stress, addiction etc) But, I use the “Guided Meditation for Healthful Sleep.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard the end of the recording.

    So, that is a LOT of rambling for two take away points…..Try gently tucking your chin slightly with a pillow behind your head (no duct tape over the mouth!)….second, consider a guided imagery audio track…could also help with night clenching.

    Ok, I gotta get to bed!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      This is amazing, Baker! Thank you so much for sharing it in so much detail. I’ll try out the chin-lift technique.

  2. Nik says:

    I never sleep very well but for the past 5 months or so I would go to sleep around 10 and wake up around midnight and that was about all the sleeping I was going to do for the night. I figured out that my problem was a couple of things.

    1. I was getting in bed around 9 pm since I was always exhausted. My entire I can’t get in bed until 10 at the earliest or I’ll wake up in the middle of the night. I started going to bed later.

    2. The temperature has been just right outside so my AC wasn’t kicking on. Most of the time it runs all night except for the couple weeks of winter when it’s freezing cold in my house. This was a two-parter. One, I didn’t have cool air blowing on me at night so the temperature was fluctuating and I was getting too warm. Two, I didn’t have the constant white noise of the AC. I solved it by dropping the temp a couple degrees more at bedtime and having the google hub play white noise all night.

    I still don’t sleep as well as I probably should but at least I sleep through the night, more or less. My next step towards better sleep is probably getting rid of my wife and the owl that moved in outside my bedroom window. Joking about both of those but I think those probably are my next two biggest obstacles to good sleep.

  3. I’m gonna need an update on the Somnifix. I have terrible insomnia due to ADHD and OCD, but after a few trial and errors I found the perfect set of medication through working with both my psychiatrist and psychologist. Sleeping an entire night 12-9 is amazing. Other than that, I just made sure to buy a quality bed, my favorite sheets, and the perfect firmness of pillows. I love my bed soooooo much!

  4. Joseph E. Pilkus III says:

    I wish I slept well…and with greater consistency, with regard to my bed-time. Some nights, I’m in bed by 9:30, while other nights I host a Game Night or play/DM D&D so it’s typical to be in bed well after 11:00, but my wake-up of 4:31 remains the same. I did laugh…I think you meant that you “clenched your teeth” not your “team” but I could be wrong.

  5. venron7 says:

    Jamey,

    I seem to sleep well, but the dentist seemed to think I was grinding my teeth. I found a cheap and easy solution that is comfortable and works well. They are called Plackers Grind No More. I saw single packs at Dollar Tree, and multipacks are available from Amazon or other retailers. They are labeled as disposable and say you should only use them for 3 days, but I wash mine every morning and they last more that 3 days. I like that there is no molding or sizing necessary, and one size works for anyone. Always worth a try!

    Venron aka Craig

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