Use Lavender To Make Your Bedroom More Sleep-Friendly

Posted by Maria on August 24, 2012 under 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days, Aromatherapy, Green Living, Ingredients, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Many of my neighbours grow lavender and I often see vibrant purple and green bushes of lavender teaming with bumble bees and butterflies this time of year.

Lavender is the ultimate Homespunspa ingredient because it’s so versatile and can be used in thousands of different ways for thousands of purposes. But have you ever thought to use it as inspiration to make your bedroom more sleep- friendly?

Lavender has been recommended for centuries as a sleep aid and if people like the aroma, than using lavender in all of its forms — from the dried plant, to the essential oil, to the colour — is a quick, easy and natural solution to help with occasional insomnia.

If you associate lavender with sleep, then try decorating your bedroom with a lavender theme by:

  • hanging sketches and photographs of lavender growing in a garden;
  • keeping dried lavender in vases on your window sills;
  • stuffing sleep pillows and sachets with lavender;
  • keeping a bottle of lavender essential oil on the night table and if you’re having trouble falling asleep, put a dab of lavender under your nose. You will feel more relaxed almost instantly and will be able to get some shut eye sooner rather than later.
  • sleeping on a bed made and covered with lavender-coloured bed linens, comforters, and throw blankets;
  • wearing lavender pajamas, bathrobes and slippers;
  • misting your room with a light spray of lavender flower water will help set a relaxing tone for the evening;
  • painting or wallpapering bedroom walls in a soft lavender palette.

Together, these small visual and aromatic cues will help remind you that this is a sleep-friendly bedroom and may in fact improve your quality of sleep. Please leave a comment and let us know if this suggestion works for you.

When was the last time you changed your sheets?

Posted by Maria on August 20, 2012 under 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days, Humour, Self-Care, Skin Care, Sleep, Uncategorized, Wellness | Be the First to Comment

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Here’s another tip on beating insomnia: wash and change the sheets on your bed, particularly if you had a fitful sleep the night before.

How often should people change their bedding and when was the last time you changed your sheets?

Housekeeping experts suggest changing your sheets once a week or once every two weeks. If doing laundry isn’t your strong suit, try sticking to a monthly schedule (whether you need to wash the sheets or not :) ).

What do sheets have to do with insomnia?

Clean bed sheets make sleeping easier. Sheets need to be changed often and regularly because our bodies naturally shed skin cells and secrete oils and sweat while we are asleep. These fluids get trapped in our pajamas and bed sheets and can cause bacteria to grow. This will contribute to an uncomfortable night’s sleep.

For those who have allergies to dust mites, it’s important to change bed sheets every couple of days because skin cells are food for dust mites and washing sheets keeps them to a minimum.

And if you eat or drink while in bed, you’re adding these ingredients to the mix. (Does anyone remember the quote, “I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers? :) ) But crumbs may make you feel itchy and can also attract insects and ants.

Of course, always wash your sheets right away after night sweats, illness, incontinence, food spillage, etc.

How to properly wash bed sheets

Wash your sheets in hot water (120-140 degrees F or 49-60 degrees C) and then dry them promptly. You don’t want the wet sheets to sit around damp in the washer for a few hours before you send them to the dryer or pin them up on the clothes line. Also, use laundry soap that is 1) compatible with your type of washing machine and 2) free of colours and fragrance (especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies). Some people like to iron their sheets and I never understood that until I bought some sheets that are way too wrinkly for my liking, so now I get it.

There’s something really inviting about a bed with crisp and clean sheets, particularly in the hot summer months. And if you’re suffering from insomnia, try to break the cycle and start off the night with a clean slate by making your bed with fresh linens. Once your head hits the pillow and the sheets cover your shoulders, I guarantee you’ll feel better and the agony from the night before will vanish into the night sky.

Let me know if you like this sleep tip in the comments. Thanks.

Less Caffeine is a Sleeper’s Dream

Posted by Maria on August 19, 2012 under 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days, Ingredients, Nutrition, Sleep, Uncategorized, Wellness | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

I like to start my day with one or two cups of coffee. It’s not that I can’t function without my morning coffee; I just like the taste.

Sometimes in the afternoon before I workout, I’ll have a cup of green tea (because apparently it helps you burn 19% more fat) though my personal trainer suggested drinking white tea instead because it would probably help the same way without the caffeine.

Occasionally, I like to drink a can of diet cola or have a piece of chocolate. But that’s as far as I go with my caffeine intake. I don’t buy energy drinks and wouldn’t know which brand to choose if I wanted one.

Caffeine and other stimulates can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. Drinking caffeinated beverages can make it more difficult to fall asleep and reduce the quality of sleep. If you drink a caffeinated drink at night, you’ll likely wake up more often and will have limited deep sleep and REM sleep. All in all, less caffeine is a sleeper’s dream.

Cut down on your caffeine if you can

If you suspect that caffeine is keeping you up at night and is contributing to your insomnia, try drinking fewer caffeinated beverages in your day. But cutting down on caffeine can be easier said than done. If you go cold turkey, you may experience severe withdrawal headaches. It’s best to reduce your caffeine intake gradually. If you are having trouble sleeping at night:

  • Avoid energy drinks;
  • Try to limit yourself to 3 or 4 cups of tea a day;
  • Try to limit yourself to 2 cups of coffee a day (and drink them earlier in the day rather than later);
  • Try decaffeinated tea or coffee to see if you like the taste;
  • If you’re relying on coffee to give you energy, try drinking a glass of water first because your fatigue may be related to dehydration instead;
  • Replace one of your daily teas or coffees or colas or energy drinks with something like herbal teas, orange juice, or smoothies;
  • Instead of drinking caffeinated beverages, go for a snack like a banana, or a few pieces of dried fruit or a granola bar.

A note on energy drinks

Saying to avoid energy drinks may sound harsh, but they are loaded with caffeine and sugar. Energy drinks are popular (especially among young people who feel they need to stay up late to study in school) because they are formulated to boost mental and physical energy. (Coffee, tea and soft drinks are not considered energy drinks even though they contain caffeine).

Energy drinks are generally made with ingredients like carbonated water, acai, ginseng, gingko biloba as well as vitamin B and other herbs. They also often contain guarana and yerba mate which are hidden sources of caffeine. Ultimately, energy drinks contain more than 3 times the amount of caffeine than a can of cola and are served in larger cans which also increases their potency.

Although drinking energy drinks can improve mental alertness, excessive consuption can cause agitation, anxiety, irritability, nausea, nervousness, abnormal heart rhythms, increased urination, sleeplessness and insomnia, especially if two or more cans are consumed in a day.

So, if you’re at a loss of why you have insomnia, look at your daily caffeine intake. You just might be able to improve the quality of your sleep with this one change. As always, write a comment and let us know your progress.

Do you have Insomnia?

Posted by Maria on August 16, 2012 under 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days, Mobile Spa, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Wellness | Be the First to Comment

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Raise your hand if you consistently get 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day?

Hello, my name is Maria and I’m an esthetician and the owner of Homespunspa Mobile Spa where we bring the spa experience home to you. We specialize in the art of relaxation and getting a better night’s sleep.

In today’s blog post, I’d like to explore one of my all-time favourite topics, insomnia. The word “insomnia” comes from “Somnus, the Roman god of Sleep” with the prefix “in” added to negate the noun. Insomnia is defined as the “chronic inability to fall asleep or stay asleep without interruptions for an adequate amount of time” and an “insomniac is a person who suffers from insomnia.”

You have some degree of insomnia is you can say yes to either of these questions:

  1. Do you have trouble sleeping?
  2. Do you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for several hours?

According to my research:

  • We spend around 1/3 of our lives sleeping or an average of 24 years out of 75! (you’d think we’d be really good at it :) )
  • If you suffer from diabetes, hypertension, depression, or are obese, you may also be experiencing poor quality sleep.
  • 20-40% of all adults suffer from insomnia at some time during the year.

Insomnia is obviously a huge topic and I’m going to explore it as best I can over the next 30 days as part of a series. I’m going to uncover some of the mysteries and myths that surround sleep and offer tips on how to sleep better. And if you have any tips of sleeping that you’d like to share, by all means, leave a comment. I hope you join me on this journey and maybe we will all improve the quality of our sleep soon.

Got Insomnia? Try Smiling.

Posted by Maria on March 19, 2011 under Humour, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Wellness | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Do you remember that TV jingle, “Pack up your troubles in a Glad trash bag and smile, smile, smile?” Have you ever thought of applying that sage advice to your insomnia? Is it possible to simply smile your insomnia away?

Smiling sheep.

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, attitude is everything. If you dread going to bed, then falling asleep won’t be the pleasant, restful experience that it’s meant to be.

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet you haven’t come across this tip for insomnia before. I thought of it after reading two unrelated articles on the Internet and in print and then I put two and two together and came up with this idea. I’ve tried smiling myself for the last couple of nights, just when I shut the lights off, and I really think it makes a bit of a difference.

Benefits of smiling yourself to sleep

  • it’s free
  • it’s simple
  • it’s quiet
  • it can’t hurt
  • what do you have to lose?
  • no one can see you doing it, so they can’t think you’re weird.

Smiling isn’t just a superficial gesture

So the next time you’re tossing and turning in bed, remember to smile. Instead of thinking negatively and saying things to yourself like, “I can’t sleep,” over and over again, change your thoughts to ones that will serve you better. And the best way to flip that switch is to smile.

“But what if I have nothing to smile about?” you ask. That’s easy. Picture yourself out with your nearests and dearests having fun and then somebody says, “Let’s take a photo of us.” Just pretend you’re standing arm and arm with your goofy friends, smiling and posing for a picture. We’ve all done that before, right? That’s it. That’s all you have to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re re-living an old memory or imagining good times in the future, your brain will respond by releasing serotonin into your bloodstream which will automatically uplift your mood.

And then before you know it, you’ll start feeling better and then you’ll fall asleep sooner.

Humour Me

I invite you to try smiling just for fun and let me know if it works for you.

300…297…294… A New Spin on Counting Sheep

Posted by Maria on January 11, 2010 under Homespunspa, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Yoga | Read the First Comment

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Last week, I caught a few minutes of the Dr. Oz show and he was talking about insomnia, one of my favourite topics. As you may already know, Homespunspa is all about sharing information on how to relax, take care of yourself and get a good night’s sleep and I thought I’d tuck in a tip I learned from the Doc into my blog today.

The segment on the show covered many aspects of insomnia including the definition, possible causes and consequences of sleep deprivation. If you are interested, go to Dr. Oz’s website and get the rundown on the discussion here: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/secrets-behind-your-insomnia.

One tip I learned and have tried in the last couple of nights myself with some success (which isn’t specifically mentioned in the above article) involves counting backwards from 300. The guest Doctor, whose name I didn’t record unfortunately, who said he uses this technique himself, put a new spin on the old counting sheep advice. He said to count backwards from 300 in three’s. Picture three sheep walking away from the herd at a time.

He said a lot of people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep often say they just can’t turn their mind off. They feverishly and anxiously replay the problems and events of the day, and can’t seem to turn off the switch. Counting backwards in three’s acts as a distraction and takes your focus off of your unsettling thoughts but keeps your mind busy.

These are the numbers you should hit along your countdown but if you make a mistake, who cares. I ended up at negative one the first time I tried.

Countdown from 300 to Zero in three's.

Countdown from 300 to zero in three's.

Counting down is relaxing. (Counting up, on the other hand, is energizing). Have your ever wondered why anesthesiologists ask you to count backwards from 100 when you are about to go under for surgery? It’s common practice because it lets them know if the anesthetics are starting to work and because it helps you relax and get into deeper, more restful brain waves.

On occasion in my yoga class, the instructor had us count each full breath backwards from 25 (for example, 25, breathe in and out, 24, breathe in and out etc., etc.,) and if we lost our place, we were supposed to start from 25 again till we got all the way to zero. You’d be astonished to hear how often that happens. He also joked that if we fell asleep during this meditative breathing exercise, that was a good thing because we probably really needed the rest. I’ve heard snoring more than once!

So next time you find yourself tossing and turning in bed with no relief in sight and the clock is ticking toward sunrise, try counting backwards and let me know the next day how it goes. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Christmas Carols are Lullabies to My Ears

Posted by Maria on December 2, 2009 under Books, Magazines, Music, Pop-Psychology, Self-Care, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Spirituality, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Wellness | Be the First to Comment

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Sometimes I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and other nights it’s a bit of a struggle. Last night, even though I was tired, I was having trouble with the drifting off phase — until I had an idea.

I selected my “Christmas” playlist on my iPod, and lo and behold, it did the trick. I was asleep in no time. I liked listening to the songs because they embody hope and optimism and after not hearing them for a year, they were fresh to my ears. I’m listening to more carols now while I write this post.

You are never too old to enjoy a lullaby

Lullabies are soothing songs that are sung to send children of all ages to the land of nod. They have been around since the days of yore and before and can be found in every corner of the earth, from ancient times to modern. The tunes are simple, melodious and comforting.

It’s in the science

Studies show that listening to music that you like can help you fall asleep faster. Not only does the music lower your heart rate — which can be escalating during this hectic season — it can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels. It has been shown that once your brain registers pleasing sounds, it responds by sending out instructions to the rest of your body to calm down. As a result, your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure become more even and your muscles relax. Meanwhile, your brain waves will gradually shift to slower, more sleep-inducing rhythms. And you get a little endorphin boost in the process.

‘Tis the season for Christmas carols

Because of their tone, lyrics and melody, some Christmas carols can be considered lullabies. Have you ever noticed that Christmas carols often talk about “night,” “rest,” and “peace?” Christmas is about the birth of the baby Jesus after all.

Here are the lyrics from some of my favourite, classic Christmas carols.

Away in a Manger

First published in 1885.

Away in a manger,
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing,
The poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side,
Until morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care,
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

This carol was written by American, Edmund Sears and first published in 1849.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold.
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

O Holy Night

A carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem Minuit, chrétiens, or Midnight, Christians, written by Placide Cappeau.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night , O Holy Night, O night divine
O night , O Holy Night, O night divine.

Silent Night

The original German lyrics for Stille Nacht were written by Austrian priest, Father Josef Mohr with the melody composed by Franz Haver Gruber. The English translation was published by John Freeman Young in 1859.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born!
Christ, the Saviour is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

I hope everybody has a wonderful month of December and Christmas season this year. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, try listening to some Christmas lullabies.

Sleep Concierge on Duty

Posted by Maria on July 13, 2009 under Dear Homespunspa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Photo gallery, Self-Care, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 8 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa Sleep Concierge

Hi. My name is Maria and I am the owner of Homespunspa, a service that specializes in teaching people how to create their own home spa treatments to relax and improve the quality of their lives. My main focus is on stress management, self-care and sleep.

Homespunspa is a services that teaches recipes for sleep and beauty.

Homespunspa is a services that teaches recipes for sleep and beauty.

The concepts of sleep and relaxation have always interested me. As a child, I worried a lot and slept little and have spent my life looking for ways to calm my nerves and sleep through the night.

On my quest to relax, I’ve also learned that establishing a regular sleep pattern in your life is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Alternatively, the consequences of sleep deprivation can show up in your appearance, quality of life and relationships and be very ugly.

The worst bout of insomnia I had was back in 1996-1997 while I was living in downtown Toronto. I was house-sitting for some people for several months and somehow acquired a terrible mouse problem. It really grossed me out to the point where I was on red alert for any signs or sounds of mice throughout the night. I won’t go into the gory details because I don’t care to think about them. Let’s just say it was awful and I was running ragged. I would even go to work several hours early just to get out of the house.

So I can relate to anyone out there who is experiencing some problem with their sleep. And even though I’m writing this several years later and am living in a different province and I have a cat to protect me from anything rodent, I can still clearly remember the agony I went through during that time in my life.

But I guess everything happens for a reason and maybe, just maybe I had to experience that episode to plant the seeds for Homespunspa. And now I think I have the listening skills and the compassion to help people get through their own insomnia trials.

So, with that said, I am opening up a new category in my blog called, Dear Homespunspa. You can ask me any questions that you might have in regards to getting a better night’s sleep. Just like 5-star hotels have a sleep concierges on duty to help you find the perfect pillow, I can draw on my own (non-medical) expertise to get you back on track to sleeping through the night.

Dear Homespunspa:

To ask me a question about sleeping, snoozing, slumbering, dozing, catching your zzz’s, or whatever you like to call it, you can contact me in several ways.

  • Checking out the rest of my website is a good place to start at: http://www.homespunspa.com;
  • You can also read through the archives of this blog for tips: http://www.homespunspa.com/blog/;
  • You can leave a comment anywhere in the blog;
  • You can buy a copy of my book, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa Way ($24 CAD plus shipping) for unique, sweet-smelling home spa treatment recipes; and
  • You can email me at homespunspa at shaw dot ca.

There’s no reason for you to toss and turn another night. You owe it to yourself to get some answers. Please contact me and maybe we can sort this out. I’m on Pacific Time.

Sweet dreams and sleep tight.

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