Princess and the Pea: Hypersensitivity and a Good Night’s Sleep

Remember the old story? To test whether a young girl really was a princess, a crafty old queen had her sleep on piles and piles of mattresses with one little hard pea on the very bottom. The princess’s sensitive skin was so tender that she felt that single pea even under all the soft mattresses and was awake all night, tossing and turning. She proved herself to have the delicate constitution of royalty—but it was no consolation to the groggy, grouchy girl in the morning.

Are You the Princess (or Prince) on the Pea?

Hypersensitivity is a widespread, very real issue. It can be linked to a range of medical issues, including ADD/ADHD, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue, interstitial cycstitis, and the rarer Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. If you are hypersensitive to pressure, temperature, noise, or the positioning of your clothing, getting a good night’s sleep can feel like a daunting task. To the hypersensitive, being alone in the dark with our sensitivities, unable even to do something to distract ourselves, can be a nightly nightmare.

Don’t Wake Up As Groggy As the Princess…

Hypersensitivity and sleep don’t make great bedfellows, but there are ways to get a good night’s sleep with hypersensitivity issues. It will probably take some practice and trial-and-error experimentation, but it can be done. Here’s how:

  • Minimize external stimuli. Move the ticking clock to another room, turn the TV off, and use heavy drapes that will block ambient light from seeping through your windows. If it has a history of waking you or making it impossible to sleep, go on the offensive and find a way to neutralize it.
  • Use sound to your advantage. If sound pollution is a problem, invest in a white noise machine or a bubbling fountain. Whether the “noise” comes from outside your window or inside your own skull, white noise can help relax you and give your racing brain a focal point—lulling you to sleep when you least expect it.
  • Get comfortable. Acknowledge and accept what is comfortable for you and what isn’t. Pick comfortable, well-fitting pajamas and remove the itchy tag. Invest in bed linens that are soft and fit your bed well. If the weight of your covers makes you uncomfortable, consider a thick microfleece blanket that will be soft and warm without the bulk. Again, know your triggers and neutralize them.

Even after a bedroom “makeover,” it may still take some training to get to sleep comfortably. Use good sleep hygiene and stick religiously to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every morning—try it for at least a month before you judge.

The result will be a “reboot” of your natural circadian rhythm that helps you feel sleepier at the proper time and more alert when it’s time to get up. A well-maintained sleep schedule can combat a range of sleep woes, once your body has fully adjusted. Even the fairy-tale princess may have slept a little more soundly if she’d been sleeping in her own surroundings on her own schedule.

Author Bio: +Michelle Gordon is a sleep expert who researches and writes about sleep and health, and is an online publisher for the latex mattress specialist