Improving Sleep

When I have a lot on my mind and things are hectic, the quality of my sleep really diminishes. In today’s world, it seems like everyone is on-the-go and can’t get enough sleep each night…I try to get about 7 hours of sleep a night on a weekday and on the weekend, I usually sleep for about 8 hours or so.

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In college, I ran on fumes with little to no sleep most nights…bad idea! After researching the importance of sleep and how it affects so many aspects of my health, I have made it a point to get more shut-eye. Not only are we recharging our batteries for the next day, sleep replenishes the body, helps to repair tissue, eases the mind, and sleep helps with weight loss.

I don’t have a recipe for you today but if you have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, here are 12 tips I came across to help achieve a better night’s rest.

12) Skip the water or fluids before bed

Guilty as charged! I don’t drink enough water throughout the day when I am busy so I try and make up for it in the evening…resulting in several runs to the bathroom during the night.
What you can do to help: It is best is to stop drinking water or fluids a couple hours before your bedtime to decrease the chances of sleep disturbances from potty breaks.
Tips: If you always have a large glass of water before bed, maybe cut the amount in half and drink more early in the evening (and throughout the day!!)

11) Keep the morning roasters for the morning
I am not a coffee drinker but I do enjoy a warm cup of hot tea, particularly when it’s chilly in the morning! I try and buy decaffeinated teas and avoid caffeine in drinks (unless we are talking about chocolate…guilty again). Caffeine is a stimulant that is produced to keep us alert and function.
What you can do to help: If you crave coffee in the afternoon, switch it up to decaf.  Caffeine stays in the body for a long time, and can keep you awake long past your set time for bed if you drink it in the afternoon.
TipsKeep your caffeine intake to the morning, and switch to decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon, or avoid caffeinated beverages all together.

10) Create your “schedule”
I love this tip, as I am a “creature of habit” and can abide by this rule! Getting yourself on the right schedule will allow your body to keep your its natural sleep cycle on schedule. My hubby Chris has got this one down, it’s like clockwork – he is tired around 9-10 every evening (he wakes up at 5 am for his job). I tend to push the envelope when it comes to the weekend…
What you can do to help:  Just like work, try to get into the habit of setting an early time for you to go to bed, and a time for you to wake up.   Your body will get used to the routine, and if you have gotten the right amount of uninterrupted sleep, your body may be able to wake you up without the aid of an alarm.
Tips:  If you are finding that you are unable to get up without the use of an alarm, or you find yourself hitting the snooze more than once, then it might be time to rethink your bed time.   Set an earlier time for bed, which will allow your body enough time to sleep and recover.
9) Get your body moving
We all know the importance of exercise on the body (decreased fat mass, increase muscle mass and energy).  Exercise can also can lead to better quality of sleep by doing regular aerobic exercise.
What you can do to help:  Try to maintain an active exercise schedule that involves plenty of cardiovascular exercise, strengthening, and flexibility work.  This will alleviate stress levels and leave your body relaxed, nourished, and healthy
Tips:  Since exercise stimulates the system and gives you extra energy, avoid exercising right before sleep unless you do not want to sleep.  Try to exercise in early afternoon or morning to help ensure you get a great night’s sleep

8 ) Say No, No, No….to Nicotine
Nicotine, which is commonly found in tobacco and smokeless tobacco products, has a stimulating effect on the body.
What you can do to help:  If you can, take the steps to quit.  That is the first and best step in helping you to avoid nicotine.  If you are unable to, or do not want to, then avoid smoking or using smokeless tobacco before bed.
Tips:  Remember that nicotine is a stimulant to the body.  Even though the initial phase may relax you, the body is still stimulated which might make it harder to fall asleep.

7) Wanted: Intimate moments and sleep…ONLY!
The bed should only be used for sleeping and intimate moments to prevent added anxiety that might be associated with bedtime.
What can you do to help:  Avoid doing work and discussing emotional/serious topics in your bed.  This can lead to added stress or anxiety when trying to fall asleep.   Even days after tough conversations happen when you lay in bed, the stress and anxiety can still last for long periods of time, adding to a restless night’s sleep.
Tips:  Keep work and emotional conversations out of the bed and bedroom to help ease anxiety, and help you sleep more like a baby.
6)  Quiet the mind
The longer you stay in bed, the more anxious and frustrated you are going to get, which will lead to a later night, which might alter your normal sleep patterns.
What you can do to help:  If you are having a hard time getting to sleep, get out of bed and grab a good book and sit in your favorite chair.  Avoid turning on a bright light, which will only ruin your sleep cycle.  Instead, use a low-watt bulb, and find a relaxing spot.   During this time you can read or try meditation exercises to help lull you back to sleep.
Tips:  Staying in bed adds extra stress which prevents you from falling asleep.  Get up out of bed and do some relaxing exercises, or something that will relax you enough to allow for a more restful sleep.
5) Disconnect from being connected
Extra light can interfere with our normal sleeping patterns.  Looking at the TV, a computer monitor, or even your cellphone, stimulates the mind, making it harder to fall asleep.
What you can do to help:  Avoid watching TV, using your laptop for work, and leave your cellphone away from your bed.
Tips: If you find it hard to fall asleep after using one of these devices in bed, refer back to #6 for ways to relax the mind and prepare you for sleep.
4)  Live in a “cave”
Using lights in the room will stimulate the body to believing that it is daytime, disrupting your cycle.
What you can do to help:  Not really like a caveman, but keep as much light out of the room as possible.  Get light-shielding blinds and keep the room dark and comfortable.
Tips:  Even the smallest light can disturb your sleep.  Try to avoid as much light as possible to ensure a good night’s sleep.

3) Write it and Forget it
Stress throughout the day can translate to bad dreams or inhibit sleep.
What you can do to help:  Keep a journal by the side of the bed so, if you do wake up for something related to the stress of life, you can write it down.  This allows you to write it and forget it, allowing your body not to get overstimulated and keeping you up longer than you need to be.
Tips:  Keep a pen and a notebook by the bed to jot down those ideas that you have during your sleep, so you are not constantly thinking about them.

2)  Feed the beast
Going to bed hungry has the same effects that going to bed on a full stomach can do.  Not only will you stay hungry, but you might end up getting up anyhow and filling your stomach with calorie-dense foods that are bad for your health and will ultimately disrupt your sleep.
What you can do to help: Try not to go to bed hungry by replacing high-calorie meals with smaller-calorie meals to keep your belly feeling full and satisfied.
Tips:  Eat a small nutritious snack before bed to ease you into dreamland.
According to Wendy Travis at, the best bedtime snacks combine a food containing tryptophan with a carbohydrate that will help the tryptophan to function more efficiently. Dr. Sears recommends a healthy bedtime snack that includes complex carbohydrates, some protein and a bit of calcium for good measure.
Slumber foods might include:
-Lowfat milk or cheese
-Seafood, meat or poultry
-Whole grains, such as a bowl of cereal with skim milk
-Scrambled eggs
-A peanut butter sandwich
-Yogurt with granola sprinkled on top (try my superfood buckwheat granola)
-A sliced apple with one ounce of cheese

1) Let the cat do the napping
Taking long naps during the day may prevent you from getting to sleep at night, or keeping you asleep throughout the night.
What you can do to help:  Now there is nothing wrong with napping during the day.  Taking a nap 8 hours after you wake up has been shown to be beneficial to your health. Disrupting your natural sleep cycle can be detrimental to a good night’s sleep, though.  Avoid naps during the day if you can; if not, try to keep the naps to a shorter period of time.  Sometimes napping is important to catch your body up and help recover from the sleep debt.
Tips:  If you do need to nap, try to keep the nap to only 15 to 20 minutes to avoid disturbing your sleep at night.

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. If you are unable to sleep or are still experiencing restless sleeping, make sure to follow up with your doctor to rule out any more serious health problems that you might be experiencing.

A good night’s sleep can leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to face any challenge that might come your way.  Sleep can also be your little secret to the fountain of youth, helping in the anti-aging process. Incorporate these tips to help you finally catch some of those Z’s that you have been after!

Sweet dreams 🙂


6 thoughts on “Improving Sleep

    • Thanks Annie! I was the SAME way back in college, thinking I was doing good by not eating after a certain night at night but it definitely makes a difference if you are hungry or too full…I am much more guilty of the latter 🙂

  1. Hey Nora, I loved this tips! Thanks. The big surprise for me (same as with Annie) was the pre-snooze snack. So I feel validated that I’ve allowed myself to sneak a helping of goat cheese or, last night’s snack: a handful of almonds and cranberries (mmm – like a PBJ sandwich in your mouth without the carbs or gluten from the bread 🙂

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