sleep-maskSleep…..ah, sleep. It should be oh so simple. After a long, hard day, a good night’s sleep should happen instantly; jump into bed, and the minute my head hits the pillow..zzzzzz. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty rare occurrence in my world.

Even as a young girl I had trouble sleeping. None of the rest of my family could understand it. They’d all go to bed and instantly fall asleep. I, on the other hand, would regularly spend big chunks of each night awake, tossing and turning, and trying to get some sleep.

I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time reading every piece of information I can get my hands on about sleep problems, and have talked to several doctors about my symptoms. I’ve also made all kinds of changes over the years to try and sleep more soundly. Go to bed at the same time every night? Check. Don’t drink caffeine in the evening? Check. Get regular exercise? Check. Comfy bed linens? Check. Did these and many other changes help? Well, a bit.

Each time I’d make one change, I’d sleep a bit better for awhile, and then suddenly, out of the blue, I’d be awake at the dreaded 3:00 a.m. A few years ago I noticed that I slept better in hotel rooms with light-masking drapes than I did in my home. I did some investigating and purchased my first sleep mask (not as big as the one in the picture above). The first night I put it on, I couldn’t believe how dark everything was. It truly blocked all light in the room. I was afraid it would feel funny and actually stop me from sleeping, but it was very comfortable, and I slept soundly for nights to come. Was it a cure-all? No, definitely not, but it has enhanced the quality of my sleep immeasurably.

But for the last few months, I’ve been having major sleep-problem episodes once again. Each time I’d wake up, I would either hear my cat Princess crying for attention, or a neighbor tromping around in the apartment above mine. Finally, this past week, after more research, I picked up a package of sleep ear plugs. According to the packaging, they offer “32 decibels of noise reduction”¬† (and I have absolutely no idea what that means).

Once again, I was skeptical. The things are really odd, made out of some kind of foam-type material. You squish them to practically nothing, and then put them in your ears. They gradually plump back up to their original size, and fill the cavity in your ear. They don’t hurt, and honestly, I don’t feel them at all. And, amazingly, they block out almost all noise!

One of my friends was afraid that if I used them, I might sleep through a fire alarm. That’s really not an issue. While they block, or muffle, most noise, they don’t block everything. Two mornings this week, I actually awoke to my alarm, and yes, I could hear it through the ear plugs. What they do seem to block is noises from the apartment above mine, the sounds of the air conditioning or heating going on and off, and most of my cat’s demands for attention in the middle of the night.

So, fingers crossed that the ear plugs keep working, but in the meantime, I’m always looking for sleep tips. Any suggestions? Do you have problems sleeping, or are you one of the lucky ones who falls asleep the minute your head hits the pillow, and doesn’t wake up until your alarm goes off?