Whatever usually gets you to sleep can become something you depend on to get to sleep. We've all had at least one night's experience where the sleeping situation was just so different from your usual arrangement that you couldn't bring yourself to sleep. Maybe you were in a place that was too quiet, that smelled different, or was too hot or cold. Maybe you had to spend a night away from your partner and found yourself lying awake at night. Or maybe you just couldn't find your usual earplugs.
The crazy thing is that while there are tons of amazing ways to help yourself get to sleep, we become habituated to them. It becomes hard to sleep without them. For some people, sleep is impossible without the exact right combination of things that they built into a routine over the years. For others, there's one special item that can make sleep possible anywhere, or impossible everywhere.
Let's dive into some of these fascinating sleep habits that become surprisingly hard to break.
Most people start using earplugs as a way to cope with an otherwise not-so-sleep-friendly environment. Maybe you started using earplugs in college to ignore your fellow students in favor of sleep. Maybe your partner snores all night long. Maybe you once had an upstairs neighbor that paced noisily in the late hours of the night. Or maybe you just live near a busy road.
Whatever the reason, you started putting in earplugs to drift off to dreamland. Then, one day, you wash those earplugs, lose them, or throw them away without replacement. No big deal. Your sleep environment is pretty quiet now. But you can't sleep. Your ears pick up every little sound, including the rustling of the sheet on your body. Your mind has become habituated to sleeping in a muffled headspace, literally. And without your earplugs, your brain is sure something is wrong that it needs to stay awake for.
White noise is awesome. Like earplugs, we usually put it to use first to help block outside sounds. White noise can help you enjoy a deep and rewarding night's sleep even if your roommate is watching movies down the hall. The soft whooshing or the sound of rainstorms is delightfully ignorable so you barely even notice it when you switch on the noise to head to bed.
But the first night you are white-noise-free, for whatever reason, you just can't sleep. Maybe you're traveling and forgot to bring the whoosh machine, maybe it broke or you lovingly set it up in a child's room to help them sleep. But now you are acutely aware of the complete lack of whooshing in your sleep environment. And you just can't relax into sleep without it. Missing your white noise is like spending the night in the country when you grew up in the city. The silence can totally creep you out.
Weighted Blankets (Or Your Normal Blanket Weight)
Weighted blankets are awesome. Of various weights and warmth, you can enjoy the comforting feeling of your blanket snuggling you back all year long. But that comforting feeling? You guessed it, we become habituated to it. We like to be comforted as we go to sleep which is why weighted blankets are popular. Many people pick up their first weighted blanket when they can't sleep under their favorite comforter or duvet in the summer but don't want to give up the comforting weight.
Sleeping without your weighted blanket feels like you lack comfort, protection, and the sensation of your bedding snuggling you back. It can feel too exposed, like you're sleeping just under a sheet, and leave a person twitchy even when they are not cold.