Having better quality sleep can lead to so many health improvements! This is a pretty comprehensive list of suggestions and is not meant to be implemented in its entirety. Instead, pick three to four changes at a time to implement until your sleep quality is optimal.
Minimize Or Avoid Stimulants
- Avoid all alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Do not have any caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2 pm. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, avoid it after noon time. These items include all sodas, tea, coffee, chocolate and coffee or espresso- containing ice creams or desserts. Be sure to read labels!
- Avoid Sudafed and other decongestant cold medicines at night.
- Medications may have stimulating effects. Consult your pharmacist or doctor to determine whether any of them might be contributing to sleep problems. However, do not discontinue them without permission from your doctor.
- Complete any exercise ideally before 6 pm or at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Alleviate Nighttime Tension & Anxiety
- Avoid anxiety-provoking activities close to bedtime! This includes watching the news, reading anything negative, paying bills and checking financial reports or the stock market before bedtime.
- Avoid arguments before bedtime. Try to achieve some action plan or resolve to have the discussion another time.
- Avoid thinking about the fact that you are unable to sleep. Instead, distract yourself with positive self-talk phrases such as, “I can fall asleep” and “I can relax.”
- Try writing down any disturbing thoughts that are running through your mind.
- Schedule a time within the next few days to deal with the issues that are bothering you. If you are having trouble managing your concerns for more than a few weeks, consider counseling/ therapy.
- Try mindful breathing. You can find instructions for it here.
- Plan sleep time by putting it into your schedule. You should have 8 to 9 hours in bed.
- As much as possible, go to sleep and wake up at the same time daily. This will help train your internal clock.
- Begin prepping for bedtime around 30 minutes before getting in bed.
- Avoid getting into bed after 11 pm.
- Avoid any late afternoon or evening naps.
- Avoid naps that last longer than 45 minutes, unless you are sick or very sleep deprived.
- Avoid large meals and spicy foods before bed.
- Finish eating dinner at least 3 hours before going to sleep.
- Avoid drinking a lot of water right before bed.
- Take a hot salt/soda aromatherapy bath. It will raise your body temperature which helps induce sleep. It also relaxes muscles and reduces tension. Try adding 1-2 cups of Epson salt (magnesium sulfate absorbed through the skin is very relaxing), .5 to 1 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate is alkalizing to a stressed out acidic body) and 10 drops of lavender oil (helps lower cortisol levels).
Strategies For Falling Asleep & Staying Asleep
- Don’t stay in bed more than 20-30 minutes without falling asleep. It is better to leave your bedroom and go to another relaxing room to read or do a relaxation technique (such as meditation or deep breathing).
- Consider reading a good neutral book but use a dimmed light.
- If using a tablet or phone for reading, make sure it is in the nighttime setting and/ or the brightness is as low as possible.
- Avoid use of a table lamp. Instead use a HUD light or other small light that only illuminates your book.
- Try a sleep mask- especially if you awaken early because of the sunlight. Also consider darker curtains or shades.
- If you get up early because of recurrent thoughts, try journaling them. If this does not help, consider counseling as depression may be a factor.
- Turn down the light in the bathroom and in any other rooms you are in 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Use a dimmer on your lights.
- Consider using amber glasses to reduce light exposure.
- Decrease irritating noises in your space – close windows, use ear plugs, and/or use a white noise generator or a HEPA air filter.
- Turn off or remove any appliances (such as clocks) that make noise.
- Make sure your sleeping area is the correct temperature range and not too hot or too cold.
- Avoid sleeping near electromagnetic fields. Have your head at least 8 feet away from clock radios, stereos, cell phones, computers and monitors. Consider moving these devices or moving your bed. You could use a Tri Field or other meter to test for these fields.
- Do not sleep with an electric blanket on.
- Consider hypoallergenic pillows. Use an ultrafine allergy pillow and mattress cover.
- Consider using a side sleeper pillow for under your neck whilst sleeping on your side.
- Consider using a body pillow to hug and put between your knees so as to properly align your back and shoulders.
- If you have hip bursitis or shoulder pain, try laying backwards at a slight angle onto a body pillow.
- Invest in the highest quality bed linens, comforter and pillows you can afford.
Supplements Suggestions etc.
- Melatonin – Take 1-5 mg to fall asleep and/or 5-20 mg time-released melatonin to stay asleep.
- 5-HTP – Take 100-200 mg 1 hour before bedtime.
- Taurine – Take 500-2000 mg 1 hour before bedtime.
- Magnesium – Take 200-400 mg. You can try drinking it with water in a powdered form.
- Consider ashwaganda, phosphorylated serine, lactium casein decapeptide, L-theanine or other calming herbs.
- Establish an evening herbal tea habit. I suggest chamomile, lemon balm or passion flower to support relaxation and onset.