Heal with Nature > Sleep Better – A Comprehensive Guide

Sleep Better – A Comprehensive Guide

Woman sleeping peacefully

How can you get a more restorative night’s sleep?

If you battle with insomnia, restlessness, mind-racing, or just can’t get to sleep, fall asleep or stay asleep, this article is for you.

The Importance of Sleep

Frankly put, getting enough sleep keeps us healthy in both mind and body. In fact, next to breathing, sleeping may be the most important thing you can do for your health. Sleep is when your body heals, and your brain re-sets, so getting enough is really important!

Sleep debt is the body’s memory of when and how much sleep we have missed. This concept has been proven by scientists such as William Dement, MD, Ph.D., a pioneer in sleep research. Sleep deprivation experiments show that the body remembers its lack of sleep for at least two weeks, possibly months.

How much sleep do you need?

That depends on how old you are and how much stress you are under. If you are physically sick, in pain, mentally, or emotionally stressed, you will need more sleep. Please see the list below for normal ranges of what people of different age groups require.

Here’s a chart of how much sleep everyone needs:

Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours

How can you make up your sleep debt and start getting a good night’s sleep every night? It is not hard! Read on to set yourself up for sleep success.

Scheduling

1) Get more sleep

If you wake up tired, it might be because you are not getting enough sleep. Try scheduling 9 hours of sleep instead of 8. Begin by setting alarms for when to stop all screen watching and get ready for bed.

2) Keep a regular schedule

Insomnia and poor sleep are associated with irregular schedules.

Do you have a regular bedtime, which you almost always follow? The human body has over 100 rhythmic cycles that relate and depend upon the sleep-wake cycle. Keeping a consistent bedtime keeps these cycles regular.

Set timers on your phone that automatically repeat every day to help yourself stay on track.

Here’s a sample schedule:

7Wake up and drink lots of fluid (make sure the first thing you drink is a big glass of water!)
Exercise (Do this after water but BEFORE coffee or tea)
8Coffee/tea and/or breakfast
12Lunch
(If you sit for most of the day set alarms to get up a move around at least every 45 minutes)
5Make and eat dinner
8Stop all screens
9Get ready for bed (Turn off your brain: stretch, bathe, deep breathing)
10Lay down to sleep

3) Eat dinner early

Do you typically schedule your evening meal at least three hours before you go to bed? Eating too close to bedtime can result in reflux of the stomach contents (heartburn) upon lying down. So, make sure that you finish eating at least 3 hours before bed, and if you have trouble digesting within this period of time, eat your bigger meal at lunch and a lighter meal with less protein at dinner. Citrus fruit and very heavy, rich, or spicy foods may also contribute to sleep disruption in some individuals when consumed close to bedtime.

PERSONAL NOTE:
Here’s the book that cured my reflux!
Dr. Koufman’s Acid Reflux Diet: with Recipes for Vegan & GlutenFree

(PLEASE NOTE: To support us in creating lots more great content for you, this page contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, HealwithNature.com may earn a tiny commission if you click through and make a purchase. You do not pay any extra! –AND– We personally use or have independently evaluated all the products below, meaning: we buy lots of stuff and pick the best of the best to use and recommend to you! Affiliate Links help support our work and allows us to continue to make content useful to you. Thank you for your support!)

Create a Conducive Environment

4) Stop the noise

Is your bedroom a quiet place all night long? Excess noise in the bedroom should be reduced as it may increase nighttime arousals and contribute to insomnia. It is common for people who have adrenal fatigue to be hypersensitive to light and noise and easily woken from sleep. The noise of television, radio, or other noise that varies in volume should be avoided.

Humidifiers, fans, or “white noise” machines are acceptable if you need them. If there is a lot of noise, from inside where you sleep or outside, Earplugs may be a good idea.

(PERSONAL NOTE: I like to sleep with a humidifier on. It provides a bit of white noise and sleeping with moist air is such a dream!  BELOW I’ll insert the best humidifier I have yet seen, not because it is very sexy looking, but because I am a clean-freak and this humidifier can be easily cleaned!  Other humidifiers get this red slime in their nooks and crannies that you can’t reach to clean, but this model is so well designed that everything is cleanable.) 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

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5) Our eyes need darkness

Is your bedroom so dark that you cannot see your outstretched hand? If your room is not this dark, the extra light can disturb the secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland. This hormone sets the circadian rhythm for many of the body’s functions.

Sleep is brought on by an increase in Melatonin. Melatonin is controlled by light receptors in your eyes. So make sure to get lots of bright light in the early morning, and slowly decrease light intake during the afternoon and evening. Set all of your devices to get dimmer and more orange as the day progresses.

A good test of whether your bedroom is dark enough is:

  1. At night, close all the window blinds, shades, and curtains in your bedroom and turn off the lights.
  2. Lay in bed and wait 3 minutes for your eyes to get fully adjusted to the darkness.
  3. While laying flat on your back (prone), extend one arm straight up in front of you.
  4. Now wiggle your fingers.
  5. If you can see your fingers move, then your room is not dark enough.

If you want to make it darker, Room-darkening curtains are the best. Click here to find curtains that fit your windows.

(PERSONAL NOTE: A cheap, easy way to get total blackness is a sleep mask. This works really well if the other person sleeping in the room with you likes to read in bed or play on their phone. There are 3 keys to a good sleep mask. It should:  1) TOTALLY block out all light. 2) Be breathable.  3) Be comfortable and have no velcro to get stuck in your hair, or to your clothes. Here is the one I like. The eyecups are amazingly comfortable and adjustable! )👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

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6) Temperature

Most people are most comfortable sleeping at temperatures between 60 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Personally, I have found that temperature can play a real role in how well I sleep. I have noticed that it is very difficult for me to get to sleep if I am cold, so in the Winter putting on a hat (I use a skull cap/helmet liner cap) and organic cotton socks usually does the trick.

Another thing I noticed is that if I am too hot, I won’t be able to fall asleep either. First of all, I need 100% cotton sheets. I always try to buy organic cotton, since I want to support farmers who do not spray pesticides on the land. I have tried those new, cheaper microfiber sheets, and while they are soft, they also make me feel hot and sweaty.

I also discovered while traveling that I can’t sleep under a comforter. I am much better off with cotton and wool blankets (here’s a hypoallergenic and breathable, non-itchy Alpaca blanket. And apparently, my perfect set up is all the blankets on my torso, only one blanket on my legs and only a sheet on my feet. I encourage you to experiment with your sheets and blankets to find the perfect set up for you.

7) Mattresses and pillows

Do you think of your bed, particularly the mattress and pillows, as the most comfortable place in the world? Sagging, aged mattresses and pillows can make it hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, can cause restless nights, and cause back and neck pain and soreness upon waking.

But before you run out and buy a new mattress or pillow, know this – new beds and pillows can off-gas toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Most mattresses have foam in them and most foam releases toxic gasses for years, so you don’t want your face in that for 8 hours a day!

Instead, choose a mattress and pillows that are non-toxic. Here are a few choices:

8) Scent

Our sense of smell is an unsung hero for relaxation and restful sleep. It is well documented that Lavender essential oils are a relaxing scent. Some people even take it orally as oil in gel caps, but I have found that this is hard on my stomach and gives me Lavender burps!

My favorite use for Lavender is to make it part of my bedtime ritual (see more on this at the end of this article below.) But you can use it anywhere you feel stress, like in the car or at work. Here’s a big 4oz bottle of my favorite Lavender, a cute way to wear it, and a simple, elegant essential oil dispenser with a yellow nightlight.

(PLEASE NOTE: I do NOT ever use or recommend scented candles. Almost all scented candles use toxic chemicals as a scent, the wax is usually a petroleum product and sometimes candle wicks contain Lead! Not to mention that candles are a fire hazard, and you especially don’t want to fall asleep with a candle burning!)

Stop Working Against Yourself

Many of the behaviors we do every day keep us from getting a good night’s sleep. Here are a few tricks that use your body’s natural rhythms to have the most energy during the day and get the best sleep at night.

9) Ensure adequate day-time exposure to sunlight

Exposure to natural light and darkness helps to regulate healthy sleep-wake cycles. Allowing natural light in the house and spending time outdoors during the day, help synchronize the body’s circadian rhythms. Here’s the trick: get bright sunlight as early in the morning as possible to kick-start your energy.

(PERSONAL NOTE: If you get sad during the Winter, or have a tendency to be a “Night-Owl” as I do, I would recommend a “Happy Light”. I just sit in front of it for 20 minutes in the morning while I sip my Jasmine Green Tea and not only does my sleep cycle benefit, but I’m also happier throughout the day. I used to recommend the Verilux brand who were the original makers, but I like this new one better, as it raises the light up to be closer to your face. Here’s the light I recommend (below).) 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

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10) Blue Light only in the morning

Blue light is the end of the light spectrum that most resembles sunlight. Remember how I said it’s best to get sunlight first thing in the morning? Sunlight in the morning is great, but as the day moves on, getting Blue Light will confuse your Circadian Rhythm. Blue light in the afternoon, evening, or nighttime throws your sleep cycle into chaos.

And guess what has a LOT of Blue Light? Screens! cell phones, tablets, televisions, and computers all have Blue Light.

Luckily, there are simple ways to fix this:

  1. Go into the device settings and make sure that “Night-mode” is on.
    • On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Brightness & Display > “Night Shift” and select “Sunrise to Sunset”.
    • On Android: Swipe down twice at the top of your device’s screen to expand the Quick Settings menu. Tap Edit. Scroll down to the Night Mode toggle at the very bottom. Long-press the toggle and drag it up to the dark gray area at the top of the menu.
  2. Install better light bulbs in the bedroom and where you relax at night. The light color that is the most Blue is 5,000 kelvin (K). Candlelight, which is perfect for relaxing in the evening is 2,000 to 3,000 kelvin. And a 12-Watt LED light bulb provides an 85% reduction in energy usage, so it is very economical and helps the planet but using less carbon.
  3. If you have a device that does not allow you to adjust the Blue Light, like a television, you can get very inexpensive Blue-blocker glasses. These are Amazon’s “Best for Sleep” and “Best for Gaming” glasses.
  4. And, of course, the best thing to do is to stop all screen use at least 1 hour before you close your eyes to go to sleep.

Stimulants

11) Caffeine

How do caffeinated drinks affect you? There are people who can drink a cup of coffee after dinner and fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. While others, (like me) can not drink any caffeine after 10 am, or risk of being up all night. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you probably have a genetic break in a liver processing pathway. (This is good to know, since this might also affect how your process medicine, so get your genes sequenced.)

Consuming caffeine, particularly after the morning, may contribute to sleep difficulties. Caffeinated beverages, such as black tea, coffee, and soda, and other stimulants such as chocolate or maca at any time after 12 noon may affect sleep. Sleep disturbances may also occur as a side-effect of certain over-the-counter medications, you can look this up under the “side effects” section of the Drug Facts, ask your pharmacist and ask your doctor if this might be a problem for you.

12) Nicotine

Nicotine is a stimulant and one of the most addictive substances we as humans have ever created, of the same addictiveness as heroin. Cigarettes and Vaping both produce a nicotine high. And Nicotine disrupts sleep – and can also raise the risk of developing sleep apnea. So, if you are having trouble sleeping, it may be time to quit, or at least use it as a treat to get-up-and-go in the morning, rather than smoking or vaping at night.

13) Alcohol

According to a new review of 27 studies, although alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply for a while, the good-quality sleep is short. Alcohol reduces REM sleep, which our brains need, and, inhibits the production of adenosine (a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain), making you more likely to wake up before you’re truly rested. Although we are not taught this in school, Alcohol is a poison that is processed through the liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is most active from 1 – 3 am, so it makes sense that this middle of the night time-period would disturb your sleep.

14) Dopamine

Dopamine is a chemical stimulant that the body creates naturally, but it is similar to cocaine, in the way the brain reacts and becomes addicted to it. Television shows, exciting or scary movies, apps, websites, and video games are all designed to stimulate Dopamine.

The “Stimulus > Reward” loop creates new connections in your brain, and every time you do the behavior, those pathways (and hence the addiction) become stronger. We, as a society, now have a virtually unlimited supply of stimuli.

So how can you control these urges for Dopamine and get a better night’s sleep? Here are some ideas that will reduce your device’s ability to grab and hold your attention. Set these up ahead of time, to be automatic, so you won’t be tempted to make a bad decision at nighttime:

  • Disable sound notifications on your phone and tablet.
  • Turn off all sound and visual notifications for social media apps.
  • Turn your display to black and white mode (usually in the accessibility features.)
  • Set an alarm to go off every day to tell you when to stop looking at screens.
  • Set apps to only be able to be used for a certain amount of time each day.
  • Charge your phone at night AWAY from your bed – in another room or at least across the room. That way, you will be less likely to grab it in the middle of the night. And, you will have the added benefit of not having all of the EMF radiation right next to your head all night.

Other Important Factors

15) Engage in regular physical activity

Do you get regular cardiovascular exercise that tires out your body?
30 minutes of cardio exercise 3 times/week creates as much serotonin as taking 25 mg of Prozac, can greatly improve sleep quality and battle insomnia.

Stretching or gentle yoga is beneficial before bed, but avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime because it raises endorphins, which pep you up.

(PERSONAL NOTE: My favorite full-body exercise is rowing. It is really good for posture, since I work on my computer this is key — I don’t want to be a hunched-over old person! This home machine (below) is inexpensive, small, and gets the job done. 10 minutes twice a day, as a break from work, or in the morning and afternoon does the trick!) 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

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16) Manage stress

Psychosocial stress has been shown to negatively impact sleep.

To minimize exposure to stress, incorporate stress management and relaxation techniques, such as:

  • Balancing time between work and rest
  • Accepting imperfection
  • Changing negative thought patterns
  • Engaging in regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes, three to four times per week
  • Establishing a daily routine and priorities (exercise for 10 minutes to get your blood pumping instead of napping)
  • Finding ways to communicate emotions and concerns
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Utilizing body relaxation exercises (e.g., mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation)

17) Avoid napping

Naps may result in difficulties falling asleep and fragmented sleep patterns, which may contribute to sleep deprivation and insomnia. If a nap is required, the National Sleep Foundation recommends limiting daytime naps to a maximum of 30 minutes, so set a timer! And, if you do nap, always be done by 4 pm.

18) Have a Bedtime Ritual

Do you have a bedtime ritual to help you relax while drowsiness sneaks up on you? Establishing a regular bedtime routine, as well as a consistent go to bed time and wake up time can be helpful.

At the end of the day, it is best to stop thinking and leave daytime worries and activities behind. Make a list of everything you need to deal with tomorrow to get it all out of your head, then, try a hot bath, yoga, or relaxing journaling.

(PERSONAL NOTE: I use Lavender essential oil before bed every night, that way I program myself with the scent to relax and sleep! Below is the Essential Oil Diffuser Set I like.) 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

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19) Falling asleep

If you think you have insomnia, but can usually fall asleep within 20 minutes – good news – that is perfectly normal! You may be surprised to hear that most people take about 20 minutes to fall asleep. So if you are not asleep 5 minutes after your head hits the pillow, don’t fret!

Good signs that show you are on your way to dreamy-land include:

  • Tearing, watery eyes
  • General itchiness
  • Increased salivation
  • Body heaviness
  • Twitching

PERSONAL NOTES:

Falling asleep is a personal challenge for me.

* To help myself fall asleep first, I tell my brain that none of the stuff I am thinking is important to think about before bed. If anything does seem to be bothering me, I keep a piece of paper and a pencil next to the bed so I can write down all the things I need to remember and get them out of my head.

* Second, is I keep bringing my attention back to my sensations, meaning smell, taste, touch, my eyes are closed so no vision. Listening seems to work the best for me. Whenever my mind wanders, I bring it back to my sensations, like how good the sheets feel, how the bed is supporting my body, what noises I can hear.

* If all of that fails, and I am still awake after 25 minutes, I will dissolve a Melatonin under my tongue. Melatonin is a hormone, so you want to get it into your bloodstream as quickly as possible, not have it sit in your stomach, so a “sublingual” (under-the-tongue) tablet is best. I actually bite a tablet in half and let it dissolve under my tongue, so I only use ½ a tablet! Please note, although this is not addictive, it is best to use the smallest quantity you can and do not use it more than 2-3 nights in a row, as you do not want to stop your own body’s ability to make Melatonin naturally! BELOW is the one I use. 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

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20) Supplements that can help

There are many different supplements that you can try to help you with insomnia, help you relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep. Below is a list of the supplements we use for occasional insomnia. If you would like to use our distributor to get the top brands we use, at a discount, please go to https://healwithnature.com/instructions-how-to-set-up-your-fullscript-account/. To make all the sleep supplements easier to find, we have put them all into a special “Sleep” category.

As always, please consult with your doctor before trying any new supplements, especially if you have a diagnosed condition or are taking prescription medication.

Except for the Vitamin D, all the supplements listed below are best taken on an empty stomach. (vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is best taken with food and is OK to take in the evening with dinner as it does not have a stimulating effect.

  • Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with sleep disorders and symptoms, such as short sleep duration, and poor sleep quality. Vitamin D also supports your immune system and has been proven to protect against 8 types of Cancer. That is why it is good to get your Vitamin D levels tested every year to make sure you have enough. I personally like to keep my level up to 70.
  • Potassium – a special note. If you eat salty food, especially in the evening, and then have twitching or kicking, you may need more potassium. The first thing you can do is to cut down on your salt consumption, especially at and after dinner. Salt (Sodium) is in lots of foods, some at super-high levels. You will be surprised to see how much is in tomato sauce and even ice cream! Potassium offers a wide range of nutritional support for the healthy functioning of many organs in the body. Potassium specifically supports the contraction of cardiac and skeletal muscles as well as gastric secretion, renal function, tissue synthesis, and carbohydrate metabolism. Potassium works opposite sodium to maintain healthy water balance, heart rhythm, and nerve and muscle function.
  • Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, the organ which regulates the body’s sleep/wake cycle. The hormone is secreted in a circadian rhythm by enzymes, which are activated by darkness and depressed by light. Melatonin helps facilitate the natural functioning of the pineal gland to support the body’s sleep and wake cycle. Melatonin peaks naturally in the body at 3 am, so it is best not to take Melatonin after 3 am.
  • 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid (a building block of protein) and is the immediate precursor of serotonin, provides nutritional support for normal sleep and mood.
  • HPA Axis: Sleep Cycle is a combination of herbs in a liquid capsule. “HPA Axis: Sleep Cycle” helps maintain the body’s systems that support a healthy response to stress.
  • L-Theanine is a unique amino acid present almost exclusively in the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Theanine increases alpha brain wave activity, a sign of induced relaxation. It may help ease occasional nervous tension and irritability, supports stress resistance, promotes relaxation, helps maintain a sense of well-being. Theanine is frequently used by those recovering from addiction.
  • L-Tryptophan is the essential amino acid present in turkey, that gives you that sleepy feeling after Thanksgiving dinner. It is “essential” because our bodies can not make it, so it must be obtained from the diet. In the brain, Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in feelings of well-being, calmness, personal security, and relaxation. It also plays a role in the regulation of appetite and synchronization of sleep patterns.
  • Passionflower is a super yummy solid extract, meaning you eat it with a spoon. Passionflower supports normal healthy nervous system function, promotes restful sleep, and eases mild temporary tension.
  • Kalmerite Glycerite is a combination herbal tincture that contains no alcohol. It is formulated to supports normal healthy emotional balance and soothes temporary nervous tension.
  • PharmaGABA Chewables – GABA is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the brain and is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS). GABA serves as a critical calming agent for the body, helping to combat stress and anxiety. PharmaGABA™ is naturally-sourced, bioidentical GABA (gamma-ami­nobutyric acid). It is a chewable tablet delivery for rapid and efficient absorption, as a result, benefits are felt very quickly.
  • Relaxing Sleep is an herbal combination tincture. Certified organically-grown herbs in certified organic alcohol, distilled water, and vegetable glycerin. Promotes relaxation and restful sleep.
  • Sleep Reset comes in an orange-flavored drink mix in convenient single-serving packets. Sleep Reset is formulated to support late-stage resistance as part of Integrative Therapeutics HPA Axis Optimization Program. Sleep Reset supports the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, enhancing overall sleep quality without morning drowsiness.

Last update on 2021-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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