a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Jan, 2014

Those precious sleep hours

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Energy begets energy. If you have a little bit of extra energy, you can put it to good use. Maybe that tiny bit of extra gas in your tank means that you find yourself taking the dog for an extra long walk, playing with your kids more, or spending 20 minutes on the treadmill every once in awhile. Then, something great starts to happen. You discover you have more energy. You feel happier, and better able to cope with stress. Pushing the grocery cart around the store doesn’t seem so taxing on your mental and physical reserves. Nor does spending a bit of extra time preparing dinner. Then, amazingly, you find yourself wondering if it’s a good day to go skating on the canal or taking up tennis lessons…

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important it is to get a good night’s sleep.

The concept of “a good night’s sleep” really hit home when we first had kids. Suddenly, there was nothing MORE IMPORTANT than a few hours sleep, preferably a few hours in a row.

Sleep deprivation isn’t healthy. It makes us grumpy and slow. Our brains become foggy. We forget things and make bad decisions. We eat badly, and cry at odd times (er, or maybe that’s just me). And that’s just what we see on the outside. What’s happening INSIDE a weary body is a whole other ballgame. Chronic sleep loss can put us at risk of a host of medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It can also cause premature ageing and depression too.

When I’ve had a good night’s sleep, the effects are immediately obvious. I feel GREAT if I’ve had a solid, uninterrupted sleep; totally refreshed. I have more energy. I’m happier. And I feel more prepared to take on whatever challenges the day throws my direction.

And we all know that if MUMMY IS HAPPY, EVERYONE IS HAPPY.

I’ve done a few things to help myself get a better night’s sleep.

First, I got a new pillow. Pillows are too important, and those ten dollar pillows bought on sale at the grocery store haven’t done me any favours. I bought this pillow at Ikea before Christmas, and although it may not be the solution for everyone, I have found it to be very comfortable. Next up: a new mattress. We need one, bad, but it’s sadly beyond our budget at the moment.

Second, I choose to read books instead of reading something on my iPhone. The light that comes out of it is disruptive to sleep. And reading makes me fall asleep.

Third, I have been sporting one of these to bed every night:

I have been sleeping with one of these lately, and I think it's made a huge difference.

It’s a very lightweight sleep mask. I don’t even know where I got it but it had been kicking around our bedroom for awhile and I decided to try it. IT.WORKS. It’s lightweight, not tight, and doesn’t slide off my face while I’m sleeping.

Have you read about the amount of darkness you need when you sleep? Studies have shown that humans need it to be dark – very dark, like BLACKOUT dark – while we sleep. This degree of darkness is difficult to achieve in urban areas, and it may surprise you to know that it doesn’t take very much light to mess with your body.

“Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.” (From www.health.harvard.edu)

Our bedroom is bright at night, especially when there’s a bright moon or snow on the ground. We have blinds on our larger windows (pictured here), but they’re not “black out blinds.” We have smaller windows over our bed, and they are no blinds or curtains on them because they’re higher up and no one can see in.

Hence, the sleep mask. I alternate between feeling like a total dork and a movie starlet with it, but it works. My sleep isn’t as “broken” in the mornings, and when I take it off I’m blinded by the light.

What I haven’t addressed yet is late bedtimes. I should be in bed by 10:30, but often find myself up late watching TV with Mark. Oh well. One thing at a time, right?

What about you? How do you make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

7 Responses to "Those precious sleep hours"

1 | Valerie

January 21st, 2014 at 11:56 am


wow, your blinds really don’t block much! (pretty, though). I have the same problem with going to bed late. And the more tired/depressed I get, the harder it is to convince myself to go (I veg in front of the computer).

2 | Louise

January 21st, 2014 at 2:29 pm


OMG!! I must run to IKEA stat and get one of those for my hubby who will no longer be able to complain about his shoulder when I’m poking him to tell him to roll on his side to prevent snoring (and the disruption of my precious sleep)

3 | jenn

January 21st, 2014 at 4:04 pm


Same as you! I have been using an eye mask for years. I read before bed, no TV or iPad and no matter where I go (to sleep that is!!) I take my pillows. I can’t sleep well without them. As a kid I used to secretly mock people that would show up at our house with pillows for the weekend. I get it now. I also never have coffee after 3 pm. Keeps me up if I do. And if I have had a night or 2 of not being able to sleep well I will spend extra time outside or exercising to knock me out. I get very grumpy if I don’t get a full night sleep.

4 | Sarah McCormack

January 21st, 2014 at 6:45 pm


I think you would find this CBC/Nature of Things episode very interesting, Andrea. We watched it this summer & it really makes you think about darkness and its impact on the quality of your sleep.


5 | Lisa from Iroquois

January 22nd, 2014 at 2:03 pm


We live in the country so no streetlights but eventually I had to put up a heavier curtain which only gets used in winter because of reflections off the snow or in summer during full moon. Works wonders. Now I just need to find a solution for the cat that wants to sleep on my head at night.

6 | Lisa from Iroquois

January 23rd, 2014 at 9:55 am


Just had a thought re that window with no curtain. There are some wonderful peel and stick skins these days. You could turn that window to a stained glass window like accent and at least mute some the light from that source.

7 | andrea tomkins

January 23rd, 2014 at 1:56 pm


Sarah: I’ve seen that documentary! It is a real eye-opener for sure.

Lisa: What I failed to mention in the post is that we have a totally different situation in the summer. Light coming in isn’t as issue because the street light is blocked by a maple tree. It’s only when the leaves are gone that the light becomes a problem!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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