Real Talk · Uncategorized

I tried these 8 sleep tricks, here’s what worked (and what didn’t)

Sleep is such a double-edged sword. A solid night of shut-eye makes you feel like you can rule the world, while tossing and turning all night long makes you want to cry. Plus, go a few days without enough sleep, and you’ll be moody, anxious, and constantly fatigued. Not fun.

Lately, for me, getting a good night’s sleep has been a struggle. Thanks to some stressful circumstances, I had trouble falling asleep. I’d wake up at 3 a.m. with anxious thoughts, and I’d feel groggy and useless in the morning until I had three cups of caffeine.

With my under-eye circles darkening and my already high anxiety levels on the rise, I realized I needed to change how I approach bedtime. Experts call this “sleep hygiene”—the practices and habits you can do to help improve sleep quality and your alertness during the day. After doing some research, I came up with these eight tricks and tips to improve my sleep hygiene. Some are based on science, others are old wives’ tales, but no medications were involved. For one week, I put them all to the test. Here’s what worked best in my quest for more restful nights.

Turn on White Noise.

I’ve heard of white noise machines for ever but I never actually invested in one until this year. Research shows that the whirring noise can help improve your quality of sleep by providing a sort of “anti-noise” that drowns out other sounds.

Verdict:

Buy. One. Now. After a few nights, I was addicted to the soothing hum, and now I can’t imagine sleeping without it. You don’t need to spring for the pricey machine either—you can even just download the White Noise App, which is also a godsend when you travel. (I recommend the “Airplane Noise” mode, unless the sound of a thunderstorm or cat purring is particularly soothing for you.)

Wear a Sleep Mask.

I have a sleep mask that I use mostly for long flights to block out the light but it usually lives in my suitcase when I’m not travelling.

Verdict:

Maybe I need more time to get used to it or to buy a nicer one, but it felt fairly constrictive, and would fall off during the night. I did find it helped me fall back asleep for an hour one weekend morning when I wanted to sleep in, and the sunlight had already started streaming in.

Turn Down the Thermostat.

Is there anything worse than waking up hot and sweaty in the middle of the night? That kept happening to me, and waking me up. Experts suggest keeping your bedroom cool, between 60 and 67 degrees, for an optimal sleeping environment.

Verdict:

No more midnight sweats! I also found that wearing warm, cozy pajamas—baggy pants, an old T-shirt, even socks—was more comfy than the tank top and lightweight pants I’d been wearing when we kept our room warmer. I highly suggest rocking the sweatpants-chic look at night; no one’s there to judge!

Follow a Bedtime Routine.

A relaxing pre-sleep ritual can help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep. So, every night at around 9:00, I turned off the TV and shut down my laptop to start getting ready for bed. I would make a cup of hot tea, take my vitamins, and wash my face. I even whipped out some lavender-scented hand lotion, since the scent has been shown to help you feel calm and relaxed.

Verdict:

I’m not sure which element of the routine was the magic bullet or if the whole nighttime ritual was to thank, but I felt relaxed and calm by the time I got in bed at 10 p.m. every night.

Stay Away From Screens.

Checking your phone late at night is a surefire way to feel stressed—and anything but sleepy. Plus, the blue light emitted by your smartphone suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. This negatively affects your sleep cycle, as well as your brain activity and hormone production. I tried my best not to check my phone before bed, but if I had to look at it, I set it up so Apple’s “night shift” function switched on at 9 p.m.

Verdict:

The night shift mode helped by reducing the brightness of the screen if I needed to check my phone, but what helped even more: keeping my phone out of sight and out of mind by charging it out of reach. That was the only way to ensure I wouldn’t get back on Instagram after I was in bed.

Journal Before Bed.

For anyone who struggles with anxious thoughts or worries, journaling can be a great way to help clear your head before bed—especially if you write about what’s good in your life. Multiple studies show that writing about positive experiences helped people sleep longer and better. I tried journaling for 10 or 15 minutes most nights too see if it help get me into a better frame of mind—and stop my worries from waking me up at 3 a.m.

Verdict:

I loved this trick. I felt much more relaxed on nights when I took the time to write in a notebook for a few minutes. Of course, I love to write to begin with, but as the research proves, anyone can benefit from this practice. I don’t think I’d commit to it every night, but I’ll definitely reach for my journal (instead of Instagram) after stressful days moving forward.

Avoid Alcohol Late at Night.

Alcohol can seriously disrupt the overall quality of sleep by interrupting your circadian rhythm. So even though you may fall asleep quicker after a couple drinks, you’ll wake up groggier and unrefreshed. I avoided drinks all week, but had a few glasses of wine out with friends on the weekend.

Verdict:

After I drank, I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t fall back to sleep for over an hour. Plus, my mouth was dry, and I felt slightly headachy—gross. I’m not saying I’ll give up drinking for good, but now I understand how detrimental it can be for catching quality zzz’s.

If All Else Fails, Just Relax.

Experts say visualization techniques (basically, just imagining peaceful, restful places) and progressive muscle relaxation can help you fall asleep. To practice muscle relaxation, tense up your muscles then relax them, one by one. You can also try some deep breathing exercises to help your nervous system wind down.

Verdict:

This was one of my last-ditch attempts at 3:30 a.m. after I’d been lying away for nearly an hour. I tried all of the above, and while I’m not sure how long it took exactly, I did drift off to sleep within a few minutes. Sounds like this is one free and fast fix that works!

The Takeaway.

Over a week later, I’m happy to report my sleep schedule is back on track, and I’m logging 7 to 8 hours per night. I think it’s a combination of all of the strategies above, but I believe that following a relaxing bedtime routine and keeping my phone away from my bed delivered the most benefits. Plus, they’re totally doable and don’t require any big purchases. There have been a couple times when I woke up during the night, but overall, I feel way more rested today than I did one week ago—and I only had one cup of tea this morning.

Food & Drink · Uncategorized

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread.

Alright, we’re back on the pumpkin wagon today! If you have missed my recently pumpkin recipes, you’re going to want to pause and check those out: soft oatmeal pumpkin cookies and pumpkin spice coffee cake.

pumpkin bread2

If you’re looking for an easy, delicious pumpkin recipe for fall – then this pumpkin bread with chocolate chips is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s soft, tender, extra-moist and packed with flavor thanks to the pumpkin and chocolate chips.

For the longest time, I actually wasn’t too sure about the combination of pumpkin and chocolate. I had seen so many pumpkin chocolate recipes on Pinterest that seemed super popular, but I wondered if it would be a bit of a flavor overkill with both flavors combined. Delicious on their own? Absolutely. But pumpkin AND chocolate together? I wasn’t quite sure.

But, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to try it. Let’s just say that I wish I hadn’t waited so long because pumpkin and chocolate are so delicious together!

If a bread isn’t your thing…

Can I make muffins with this recipe?

Yes! Muffins are a great way to get an easy grab and go snack instead of having to slice the loaf. This recipe will yield about 12 regular sized muffins.

How to store pumpkin bread?

  • To store pumpkin chocolate chip bread or muffins, place them in a plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
  • To freeze, wrap bread or muffins in foil then place them in a freezer bag and keep frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight, and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes if desired.

Pumpkin bread

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.

Fashion · Uncategorized

clothing care: 4 ways to make your sweaters last longer

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably getting really excited about sweater weather right about now. But before we unpack all our warm and fuzzy clothes and rush into it, let’s take a moment to show our sweaters some appreciation by giving them a bit of proper care. Taking good care of our clothes is one easy and inexpensive way we can be responsible consumers.

In this post, we’ll chat sweater care and proper storage. We’ll cover everything from pesky pills, to hand washing techniques, to how I store my sweaters.

Ready? Let’s jump in!

1 | Say hello to the defuzzing comb. (and goodbye to pills)

sweater - 1

No matter the quality of your knits, you’re bound to run into some pills. High quality knits, low quality knits — most all of them pill at some point in time.

The good news is that there’s an inexpensive solution: A six dollar defuzzing comb. This little guy will easily eliminate your pills when they pop up. Battery operated fabric shavers exist too, but personally, I think the comb is easier to use.

So, give your sweaters, knits, and coats a once-over with a defuzzing comb and they’ll be ready to go.

Tip: It can feel like a time-consuming task, so I like to break it up by defuzzing a few sweaters at night while we watch TV and relax— I bring four or five sweaters to the couch with me, cozy up, and start defuzzing.

2 | Sanitize with a steamer, hand wash, or dry cleaning.

The best way to preserve sweaters is to simply clean them before storing. However, it’s all too easy to skip this step, especially if your knits don’t look dirty.

But looks can be deceiving — even if sweaters don’t look dirty, tiny food and skin particles can attract moths. And, speaking as a girl who dealt with a moth infestation years ago, I don’t want to mess around with them ever again. (RIP three favourite sweaters.)

The best way to clean your sweaters is to take them to an eco-friendly green dry cleaner, but that can get expensive. If you don’t want to go the dry cleaning route, you’ve got three other options:

  • STEAMING: When you think of steaming clothes, the first thing that probably comes to mind is removing wrinkles. But! It does so much more. Steaming sanitizes clothes by actually killing any bacteria that might be lurking in the fibres. Because of that, it can even remove faint odours. I use a small travel steamer, like this one, but I’m thinking of upgrading soon to a larger steamer. It’s an excellent way to “wash” your clothes between washes.
  • HAND WASH: If you want to hand wash, start with a clean sink or bathtub (avoid using a bleach cleaner on the sink beforehand). Fill your sink up with water and add a mild detergent. Gently agitate any stains or smelly spots with your fingers, then let it soak for about 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly, then roll it up in a towel to get extra moisture off — don’t wring it out. Finally, lay it flat to dry, gently reshaping if needed.
  • GENTLE CYCLE: If hand washing isn’t something you want to do, try putting your sweater in a pillowcase or in a lingerie bag and running it through the washing machine on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent. Note: I rarely (if ever) do this because putting a dry clean only sweater in the washing machine is a big risk — it can shrink or possibly ruin the sweater. Make sure you research the fabric content of your sweater first and proceed with caution.

Some sweaters can look wrinkled after a wash, so give it a quick steam to release the wrinkles and fluff the fibres.

3 | Repel moths with a sweater spray

sweater - 2.jpg

Finally, take one last step against moths by spraying your sweaters with a sweater spray. I use Wool + Cashmere spray by The Laundress. It removes odour and it’s got antibacterial properties.

All of my sweaters get a light mist of this stuff when they come out for the season and when they go back into storage at the end of the season. It’s powerful, and a little goes a long way.

4 | Store properly

sweater - 3

I’ll say it again — proper storage starts with clean clothes. The cleaner the clothes, the less likely they are to attract moths and bugs that might ruin them.

After I’ve defuzzed, cleaned, and sprayed my clothes, I fold everything and put them away nicely in my closet. Try not to jam everything in too tight so the fabric has room to breathe.

And there you have it! Four steps to ensure longevity for your sweaters.

Now it’s your turn — how do you prepare your winter clothes? What do you do to ensure the longevity of them? Got any tips to add to this list? I’d love to hear all about them!

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.