Person sleeping

Slumber Solutions: Exploring Effective Props and Techniques for a Better Night’s Sleep

You brush your teeth, wash your face and do a couple of gentle stretches. Turning the light out, you set the alarm on your phone and place it beside your bed. Pulling the covers back, you ease into bed, yawning. Moving around, you finally get comfortably settled. Closing your eyes, you remember that you have a busy day tomorrow. Suddenly, your mind is racing with tomorrow’s tasks while the clock ticks away mercilessly. Or, if you’re like me, I care for a special-needs young adult while working full-time, and that leaves me little time to think about much else during the day. Instead, I hop into bed and start pondering things like the meaning of the universe or whether there’s life after death. It drives my husband crazy! He’s one of the rare few who are asleep within minutes, not waking until morning, and needing about 6–7 hours to be good for the day.

Does the difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep sound familiar? We’re not alone. Millions of people wrestle nightly with the elusive art of falling asleep. Others find themselves waking repeatedly through the night, often due to bathroom trips. Still others wake up unrefreshed, feeling as if they’ve been running marathons in their dreams rather than resting. This nocturnal narrative is all too common, with the stress and pace of modern life, excessive screen time, and night lighting wreaking havoc with our natural sleep rhythms. Sleep challenges are a universal tale, narrated differently in every bedroom.

Peri-menopause and menopause have further challenged my ability to sleep, and in desperation, I started looking at options other than medication to help me sleep. I’ve tried a few things, and while some didn’t work overly well, I was surprised with what did. I thought I’d go through them in this article in case anyone could benefit.

Nightly Bedtime Routine. I admit, I’m not one for routine at all. I actually struggle with it. Journalling? Nope. Gratitude? Yes, in my head when I settle into bed. Regular bed time? No, bedtime depended on what I’m doing as the late evening hours are generally the only ones I have to write and be creative. I’ve had to learn to manage my sleep hygiene, and not going to lie, it’s been hard to stick to it, but definitely worth the better sleep.

Ear Plugs: If you’re sensitive to night sounds like traffic, trains going by, sirens, etc., you may benefit from wearing ear plugs or a nighttime headset. You can use simple foam ear plugs for an inexpensive, noise-reducing option or pay much more for noise-cancelling ear buds or headsets. Some play music or white noise, if that’s what you need to help sleep along. Starting with foam ear plugs might be a good way to start to see if you can tolerate having something in your ears overnight. Ear plugs have been a sleeping game changer for me, personally. I use inexpensive, reusable foam ear plugs that reduce most noise, and I find these exceptionally helpful. I now stay asleep for longer stretches.

Ear Plug Image by Anke Sundermeier, from Pixabay.

Bedroom Environment/Comfortable Bedding and Pillows: Ensuring a restful, uncluttered sleeping area can go a long way towards peaceful slumbering. Things like having the room dark and at a lower temperature can contribute to better quality sleep. Experiment to see how you like the environment. Make sure you have comfy pillows and a comforter that suits your preferences — not too heavy/light or warm/cold. Don’t underestimate the value of clean bedding; there’s nothing like easing into a freshly-laundered set of bed sheets! A fan or quiet air purifier can also add to the sleep environment and create a bit of white noise in the background, which can be soothing for some.

Bed beside windows with two lamps.

Aromatherapy and Sleep: Some scents, like lavender or chamomile, can have a calming effect and may help in improving sleep. Lavender essential oil can be placed on a cloth tucked into a pillow case, for example. You can diffuse chamomile essential oil into the bedroom for a calming scent, as well. There are option that you can research online for essential oil sleep patches that can potentially help you sleep. If you have allergies, you should be cautious and check with your doctor about this. Otherwise, you can use a carrier oil and calming essential oil to gently place on the skin to encourage relaxation and sleep.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Gentle Stretching and Relaxation Techniques: A consistent routine of gentle movement before bed can be beneficial in moving the muscles and promoting circulation before sleep. This shouldn’t be fast-paced or strenuous! Suggestions could include touching the toes a few times countered by straightening up and arching the back, followed by easy neck, wrist and ankle rotations. You can even lie in bed, then hug the knees to the chest, slowing the breath and then stretching out as fully as possible. The options are limited only by your imagination. Intentionally slowing the breath and relaxing each part of the body might help ease you into sleep, as well.

Digital Detox: Reducing screen time before bed can reduce blue light emission, which interferes with our sleep patterns. Alternatively, you can find glasses and screen covers online that will help block blue light, if you enjoy playing a game or two before bed. Keeping the lights low and using nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom will help keep things calming before bed.

Apps and Music: I know this sounds counter-intuitive after what I’ve written about digital detox above, but sometimes, calming music helps keep your mind just occupied enough that the hamster wheel of thoughts comes to a halt. Some sleep headsets have speakers for this purpose, Alternatively, apps such as Calm have music for sleep, and sleep stories narrated by people with soothing voices. I’ve tried Calm, and have yet to hear the end of the sleep story, “Wonder”, narrated by Matthew McConaughey! While this isn’t for everyone, if you’re having trouble sleeping, a music playlist or a relaxation app might be a useful tool to have available.

Other Kinds of Sleep Aids: Sometimes, having a cup of soothing herbal tea made of up herbs helpful in promoting sleep can be a nice way to treat yourself in the evening. There are herbal sleep tinctures you can try, or other things such as melatonin or sleep medications. I’ve used herbal remedies to help me sleep, but have never tried melatonin or other sleep medicines, so I can’t comment on their effectiveness. Medicine should always be taken under the supervision of a healthcare profession, so be sure to consult with one if needed (see next section).

Consulting Healthcare Professionals: Make sure you consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before trying new sleep aids with scent (in case of allergies or sensitivity) or medications, to make sure they’re safe for you based on your current health picture. If your sleep challenges are ongoing, it’s also good to speak with your physician to make sure that there isn’t another reason for your sleep issues, such as sleep apnea.

Last Suggestions: Some other simple things that can help with sleep that aren’t listed above include:

  • Raising head of bed/sleeping on more than one pillow to elevate head.
  • Reduce fluid intake a few hours before bed to minimize bathroom trips at night.
  • Opening a window for fresh air.
  • Having separate comforters for people sharing a bed.
  • Using a sleep tracker, such as Apple Watch, Oura Ring or Whoop wristband to help you track your sleep patterns and tweak bedtime routines.


Adequate sleep is important for so many reasons — cognitive/memory functioning, mood regulation, hormonal balance, cardiovascular health, metabolism, and physical functioning, just to name a few. Yet sleep issues are a global issue, impacting millions of people. ChatGPT, when asked about sleep statistics worldwide, found some significant numbers:

Sleep problems are widespread globally. Recent statistics show that about 62% of people worldwide have issues with sleep. This includes a range of sleep-related problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep. The situation is particularly acute in the United States, where about 35% of the population gets less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. Sleep disorders are prevalent, with an estimated 50 to 70 million adults in the US suffering from one. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly three out of every five people globally experienced some kind of sleep disturbance, highlighting the significant impact that external factors can have on sleep quality. (The GoodBody, StudyFinds websites).

Many of the suggestions in this article can be easily implemented and don’t cost a great deal, making them easily accessible. I’ve tried many of them, experimenting to see which work best for me. My personal favourites, so far, are ear plugs, clean bedding, opening a window for fresh air (and cold temperature, as it’s winter), and darkness.

After reading this and doing some experimentation, I hope you find what helps you get quality sleep. Don’t give up. Speaking from experience, the benefits of good sleep far outweigh the frustration of finding just the right solution for yourself, even if it takes time. Sweet dreams!