26 Sleep Strategies that Actually Work

A few years ago I went on a mission to get better sleep.  I wanted to fall asleep faster, prevent tossing and turning, sleep longer & deeper, and wake up refreshed, so I took a sleep course by Dr. Michael Brues who’s known as “America’s #1 Sleep Doctor”. 

It worked!  I now consider myself a good-sleeper.  But it wasn’t just a couple strategies that did it for me, it was approaching sleep differently.

Below are my notes on his course… 26 of the proven strategies he shared.  I encourage you to try them out. 

  1. There’s not one ideal sleep time and wake up time for all humans, it varies based on your chronotype. You want to find your ideal times (sleep time and wake up time) and then stick to them as best you can. The first step in finding your ideal times is to keep a written sleep and energy tracker for 28 days. Your ideal sleep time and wake up time stays the same for your entire adult life (kids need more sleep than adults). To track your sleep you could use an app, a spreadsheet or a simple paper and pen that you keep next to your bed. Don’t overcomplicate it!
  2. Try to go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time daily. When it comes to sleep, the human body prefers routines. You’ll fall asleep more easily and get better sleep if you stick to a schedule, and if you have a bad night of sleep, you’ll be much less affected by it if you’ve been keeping a consistent sleep schedule.
  3. Wear blue light blocking glasses with amber colored lenses at least 90 minutes before bedtime (these are sometimes referred to as Night Shade Glasses – everything looks amber colored through the glasses). This signals your brain that it is time to start preparing your body to fall asleep. When your seeing blue light, your body won’t start producing melatonin which is required to fall into a deep sleep. Plus, according to Harvard Medical, exposure to artificial light before bed can lead to weight gain. TrueDark is one great brand of blue light glasses to check out.
  4. Use amber night lights which don’t emit any blue lights. This is especially helpful for nursing moms and parents who are waking up frequently at night to attend to their baby.
  5. If you look at any devices (phone, TV, computer, etc.) for at least one hour before bed, either wear blue blocking glasses with amber colored lenses, or download an app, such as Flux, which changes your screen color to an amber color. And don’t look at any devices, even with blue blockers, at least 20 minutes before you go to bed.
  6. If you can’t fall asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, studies show that it’s best to get out of bed. It’s a counterintuitive strategy, but you’re more likely to get to sleep faster if you get up for 15-45 minutes versus if you lay in bed tossing and turning. Don’t turn on any lights unless you’re wearing blue light blocking glasses with amber colored lenses, or have amber night lights. Do an activity that’s relaxing such as sit on the floor next to your bed in the dark and meditate. Or, you could read(using an amber reading light), fold laundry, or a similar type of activity. Don’t look at any electronics such as your phone, tablet or laptop.
  7. If you frequently wake up in the middle of the night with your mind going and can’t get back to sleep, Dr. Brues recommends having a teaspoon of raw local honey before bed. That little trick helps most people stay asleep all night. Please note that children under one year of age should NEVER be given honey. Honey is healthy for adults (who don’t have an allergy to it), but can be fatal to babies.
  8. If you have trouble falling asleep, Dr. Brues recommends doing the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique which was created by the Navy Seals. Right before bed, sit in a comfortable position, inhale to the count of 4, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for a FULL 8 seconds. Repeat this 5-15 times. This technique will calm your body and mind and help you fall asleep faster but for it to work, you must follow the 4-7-8 count. Your counts can be longer but they can’t be shorter in order for this technique to work.  Also, try using a weighted blanket.  Many people have success getting to sleep faster under a weighted blanket.  Unfortunately most weighted blankets are filled with toxins.  Balaoo Living sells a pure natural and safe one.  
  9. Dr. Brues also recommends a simple relaxing technique that releasing all of the tension from your muscles. Many people fall asleep while doing the technique. It’s called the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique and can be done right in your bed, or on the floor next to your bed. To learn how to do it, simply Google it.
  10. Many people benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket, also known as a gravity blanket. In addition to helping you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer, this is a simple inexpensive technique that helps a variety of other issues including relieving anxiety, alleviating symptoms of PTSD, helps with autism and sensory issues, alleviates restless leg syndrome, and more. Many people benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket, also known as a gravity blanket. In addition to helping you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer, this is a simple inexpensive technique that helps a variety of other issues including relieving anxiety, alleviating symptoms of PTSD, helps with autism and sensory issues, alleviates restless leg syndrome, and more.

    Your weighted blanket should be about 10% of your body weight. So if you have a child that weighs 60 pounds, ideally you want a 6 pound blanket for them. If you weigh 140 pounds, you’ll want a 12-14 pound blanket. Most adults prefer a blanket slightly under 10%.

    Generally speaking the best weighted blankets are made with glass beads and have a breathable cotton or muslin exterior. Be sure there is NO LEAD in your weighted blanket. Check the ingredients list and only purchase from a trusted company.
  11. In general, most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night and kids need 9-12 hours. A sleep cycle is typically 90-minutes and the average person needs 5 of them each night. If you get less than that you’ll most likely experience memory problems and lower cognitive function. If you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’re probably sleep deprived. It should take you 15-25 minutes to fall asleep.
  12. Do a nightly Power Down Hour which consists of three 20-minute segments.

    20-Minutes: Do the things that relieve your anxiousness such as writing a to-do list for the next day, packing for work and packing your kids for school.

    20-Minutes: Hygiene (wash face, brush & floss teeth, maybe take a hot bath)

    20-Minutes: Relax (read, meditate, pray or do something else that’s relaxing)
  13. Taking a hot bath before bed can help you fall asleep faster and help you get into a deeper state of sleep faster.
  14. Consuming alcohol right before bed negatively affects your sleep quality. You want to fall asleep, not pass out, there’s a big difference. Ideally stop drinking at least two hours before bed and drink at least 8 ounces of water after each alcoholic drink. So if your bedtime is 11pm, by 9pm you should have stopped drinking alcohol AND have already had at least 8 ounces of water for each glass of alcohol you consumed. Ideally don’t drink any liquids at least two hours before bed to reduce the chances that you have to get up and pee in the middle of the night.
  15. Studies show that having caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime negatively affects your sleep. Even if you can fall asleep immediately after having caffeine, you probably won’t get deep restful sleep because caffeine blocks adenosine and suppresses melatonin, both of which are required for deep restful sleep. Adenosine is a neuro chemical that increases in your body throughout the day making you sleepy by nighttime. If you consume caffeine within 10 hours of bedtime, your adenosine is blocked. Plus, caffeine is most effective for alertness and focus if consumed 90-minutes after you wake up.

    Most people feel the best if they have 130mg or less of caffeine daily (about 1.5 cups of coffee or two shots of espresso), and it’s best to consume that caffeine (or most of it anyway) 90-minutes after you wake up. It’s recommended that you never exceed 250mg of caffeine in a day, and those who are pregnant should have between zero and 60mg (about half a cup or one shot of espresso). If you need to reduce your caffeine intake, don’t go cold turkey. Instead, do something called Caffeine Fading. Reduce your intake by ½ cup (or about 50mg) every three days until you get down to the amount of caffeine that’s right for you.
  16. If you’re sleep deprived or need an afternoon boost, Dr. Brues recommends having a “Nap-A-Latte”. This strategy will give you 4-5 hours of sharp focused energy that you can use to rock through a bunch of work, a big project or a big event.

    Here’s how to have a Nap-A-Latte: Make a cup of black coffee, pour it over ice, drink it, and then lay down for a 25-minute nap with a sleep mask on, that blocks out all light. It takes about 25 minutes for the caffeine to fully activate in your system so you’ll wake up feeling really refreshed, energized and ready to go. To make this strategy work properly, be sure you drink your iced coffee BLACK – no cream, no sugar, nothing. Just a small cup of iced black coffee.

    Generally speaking the best time to take naps are between 1pm and 3pm.

    Important Note: Naps are NOT recommended for those suffering from depression or insomnia because naps can make both of those problems worse. For everyone else, naps are fantastic for your health, especially for teenagers.

    Ideally keep your naps to 25 minutes and don’t do them too late in the afternoon. If you’re going out on the town or have a late night function, consider taking a 90-minute afternoon nap. This is enough for a full sleep cycle and will help you stay going until late. Then, regardless of what time you get to bed, wake up at your regular time. Even if you don’t get to bed until dawn. You’ll probably still be tired all day, but you’ll be able to fall asleep at your normal time, get a good night’s sleep, and get back to your normal schedule.
  17. The best sleeping temperature is between 65-72 degrees fahrenheit / 18-22 degrees celsius. If you’re feet are cold, put on socks as that’s been shown to help people fall asleep faster (only if you’re feeling cold, don’t put on socks unless you’re feeling cold).
  18. Adults ideally shouldn’t eat at least 3 hours before bed. For kids this is much more flexible. Kids shouldn’t go to bed hungry so they may need a snack an hour before bed. If you’re keeping them properly hydrated and fed throughout the day, they should be able to stop consuming food and liquids at least an hour before bed.
  19. Although there are no specific diets that work best for everyone, in regards to sleep there are some key things that work and don’t work for everyone.

    #1 – Eating too much sugar can lead to insomnia.
    #2 – Low protein intake is associated with shorter sleep times as well as oversleeping. For most adults having about 20% of your diet from high quality protein sources resulted in the best sleep.
    #3 – A low-fat diet is associated with non-restorative sleep and excessive daytime sleepy-ness.
    #4 – Ideally you want to eat the majority of your carbs later in the day (for dinner) and stick to high fiber carbs (not sugary carbs!). When you eat high quality carbs about 4 hours before bed, you get a boost of tryptophan and serotonin which are two brain chemicals that help you sleep.

    Also, when you eat high quality (high fiber) carbs at night it will restore your glycogen for the next day and provide your body with the glucose it needs to regulate your blood sugar levels during sleep. Then, your body will draw on this stored fuel the next day to burn more body fat for energy.
  20. Get your vitamin D levels up. A deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to short sleep duration and insufficient quality of sleep, especially in adults aged 50 and older. It’s estimated that nearly 50% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D.
  21. Regular exercise has been proven to improve both sleep quality and quantity. Even just 5-minutes of aerobic exercise and/or 10-minutes of yoga daily lowers anxiety and over time will improve your sleep. Exercise has a cumulative effect. If you start a new workout program today, you probably won’t reap the benefits of improved sleep tonight. Most likely it’ll take a couple of weeks, depending on your body, on the type of exercise you’re doing, and on the time of day you’re exercising. The best time of day to exercise depends on your chronotype.

    Studies show that everyone benefits from doing yoga. In addition to improved sleep you’ll experience improved flexibility, be less prone to injury, gain mental clarity, physical strength, expand your lung capacity, and experienced reduced stress which often leads to improving a plethora of health issues including lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation in the body.

    For many people, the best time to do yoga is either 12 noon (right before lunch), or 6pm (right before dinner). Even just a 10-15 minute yoga routine at one or both of those times will have a positive impact on your sleep and overall health.

    In terms of sleep, it’s important to note that over training often times leads to insomnia. If you’re going to be training for an event such as a weight-lifting competition, a marathon, or something of that nature, it’s recommended that you work with a skilled training coach who can help ensure that you train safely and show you strategies to overset any insomnia that you may experience.
  22. Keep a glass of room temperature water by your bedside so if you wake up with a dry throat you can take a quick sip and go right back to sleep. When the air is dry, run a humidifier in your bedroom. This is especially important for kids. It will reduce the need for you to take sips of water throughout the night.
  23. Take magnesium at night. Because of our soil deficiency here in America, almost everyone is magnesium depleted which causes a large host of health problems and sleep issues. Evening is the best time to take magnesium either in oral or topical form (or both for maximum results). Get a high quality pure magnesium supplement either in tablet or powder form. If you choose powder form, mix a tablespoon or so with 2-3 ounces of hot water, stir until it dissolves, pour some cool water over it and drink. Or, get a high quality pure magnesium body lotion and apply to body before bed (avoid your face).
  24. Consider taking CBD at night. It’s a natural sleep booster that can be taken nightly. It’s particularly effective for people who suffer from insomnia due to chronic pain. New research shows that it relieves anxiety without causing changes to healthy sleep wake cycles. Most drugs that relieve anxiety negatively affect your sleep wake cycles so for many people, CBD is a better choice. Of course, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your drug and supplement schedule.


    TIP: Kava Root is known as “nature’s xanax”. To use as a sleep aid, take Kava an hour before bed. To use for anxiety relief, take half a dose twice during the day.

  25. When you properly wake up your cells in the morning it will dramatically improve your sleep at night. Your perfect morning routine varies based otn your specific chronotype however, all chronotypes benefit from doing 6 specific activities in the morning. The optimal order in which you do them and the length of time you do them is slightly different for each of the 4 different chronotypes. You can experiment with them to find the ideal order and timing for your body or learn about chronotypes and ideal routines from Dr. Michael Brues.

    Below are the six activities that everyone that wants to sleep
    well needs to do each morning:

    #1 – Hydrate. Drink at least 10 ounces of pure filtered water. A great way to wake up your cells is to drink a half teaspoon of sea salt and half of a squeezed lemon stirred into a mug of warm or room temperature water (if it’s cold outside, use warm water). BONUS: Add in a tablespoon or two of Apple Cider Vinegar to amp up your metabolism. DO NOT warm your water in a microwave. Heat it up on the stove or in an electric water kettle. Electric water kettles are amazing and so handy – they heat up water fast and many of the new models have different temperature settings so you can choose how warm you want your water – from lukewarm to boiling.

    #2 – Sunlight. Get at least 10 minutes of sunlight on your bare skin first thing in the morning. Sunscreen blocks vitamin D and many of the other good benefits of the sun so go without it first thing in the morning. If you’re out in the early morning sun, you shouldn’t get burned. This resets your circadian rhythm and will help you fall asleep faster at night. Bonus if you also do 5-20 minutes of “earthing” by walking barefoot on the grass or sand. You can experience enormous health benefits from earthing. The term “earthing” has even earned a patent as a natural method for reducing disease-causing inflammation. Plus it’s totally FREE!

    #3 – Cold Burst. At the end of your shower, turn the water as cold as you can stand it for 20 seconds to one minute. This bring heat to your core and gets you super alert. It also enhances your immune system and has other benefits.

    #4 – Coffee. Hold off on coffee until you’ve been awake for 90-minutes. That’s when coffee has the best effect on your focus, energy and concentration. Having coffee before that can disrupt your body and you won’t get as good of benefits from it. This is my favorite coffee.

    #5 – Breakfast. Avoid sugar and carbs for breakfast. Your meal should be rich with healthy protein and fat. Any sugars you consume should be natural sugars such as low glycemic fruit like berries. Carbs make you tired and should be consumed later in the day to enhance your sleep, ideally dinner time. Focus your breakfast and lunch on vegetables, protein and healthy fats (examples of excellent healthy fats: grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado).

    #6 – Exercise. Spend at least 10 minutes in the morning getting your heart rate up, your muscles warmed up and doing some stretching. And when possible, get in a full workout.
  26. Set your up bedroom in a way that supports quality sleep.

    #1 – Your Pillow. Choose a pillow that supports healthy sleep posture which means that it keeps your body in alignment. The position you most often sleep in determines the type of pillow that will best keep your body in alignment. Here are some guidelines:

    Side Sleepers typically sleep best with firm pillows, and a medium to soft pillow under their leg to prevent back pain. If you’re sleeping on your right side, you would place your leg pillow under your left knee.

    Stomach Sleepers typically sleep best with soft pillows or no pillow, and another soft pillow under their stomach to prevent back pain.

    Back Sleepers typically sleep best with a flat soft pillow to keep their head in alignment, and another pillow under their knees to prevent back pain.

    There are a lot of fill options available, and there are pros and cons to all of them. The trick is to find what works best for you. If you have allergies and/or chemical sensitivities, organic cotton may be the best option for you because it’s naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites and mold. Latex pillows are also resistant to dust mites and mold. The more advanced ones come with ventilation, but are still going to retain some heat so if you tend to run warm, this may not work for you.

    Generally speaking pillows need to be replaced about every 18 months. Natural pillows last longer than synthetic pillows, generally they work well for about 2 years.

    Consider getting either a pure silk or pure high quality bamboo pillowcase. Pure silk is especially helpful if you have sensitive skin, acne, African American hair, or you simply want to prevent split ends on all types of hair.

    #2 – Your Mattress & Bedding. You spend ? of your life in bed. A healthy comfortable high quality mattress and bedding is well worth the investment. Mattress: All natural, no fire retardants, toxic chemicals. I have a Leesa mattress from Costco and I have this Bed Encasement over it, which protects the mattress and keeps the chemicals from leaking out of it. I have organic bamboo sheets from Ettitude. These organic bamboo sheets are a much more affordable option and still luxurious feeling (I have them in my guest room). I have this bamboo topper on the mattresses in my guest room (which every guest has gushed about).

    #3 – Your Room Temperature. Sleep in a cool room. If it’s cool outside and quiet outside, keep a window open or cracked to get fresh air in your room while you sleep. The best sleeping temperature is between 65-72 degrees fahrenheit / 18-22 degrees celsius.

    #4 – Your Room Lighting. Lighting has been proven to be the most important factor in the quality of your sleep. To get deep restful sleep, it’s critical that you sleep in a completely dark room or wear a sleep mask that shields out all of the light (pure organic silk sleep masks adjusted to be loose over your face work well, especially if you have sensitive skin).

    #5 – Your Room Sound. Sound is the second most important factor in the quality of your sleep. If you or your partner snores, Dr. Brue recommends using an over the counter saline spray in your nose. He also recommends slightly elevating the head of your bed by a couple of degrees (just a few inches). When your partner snores, create a pillow wall between you and them so that their snoring bounces back at them and is less noisy for you. You could also try a white noise sound machine and/or earplugs. Many people find white noise machines extremely helpful.

    #6 – Your Room Smell. Smell is the third most important factor in the quality of your sleep. Ideally you want to sleep in a room with pure clean air. If possible, open up the windows at least once a week to air out your room and bring in new fresh air. Consider getting a HEPA air filter in your bedroom. They remove over 99% of airborne particles more than three-tenths of a micrometer in diameter including dust, pet dander and other airborne particles. Clean filtered air helps you breathe better when both awake and sleeping and cuts down on allergy flare ups and respiratory. In addition, many people find it helpful to diffuse pure essential oils that have a calming effect on the body and mind such as lavender. Be sure to only use high quality therapeutic grade essential oils.

    #7 – Your Room’s Radiation Levels. Sleeping in a high EMF/RF environment can lead to insomnia, headaches, nightmares, muscle cramps and aches, and even depression. It’s important that you take steps to reduce the levels of EMF’s & RF’s in your bedroom and your overall exposure throughout the day.

    Advanced Sleep Strategies for Insomnia

    If you’re doing all of the strategies listed here and still struggling to get deep restorative sleep every night, there are some inexpensive and natural therapies you can try. There’s been few to no studies on the effectiveness of these natural therapies so there’s no scientific proof they work, however, many people have reported that these therapies have helped them.

    #1: Lay on a spiky acupressure mat called a Spoonk Mat, for 20 minutes before bed. The spikes get the blood flowing through your back helping you breathe better and lowering anxiety.

    #2: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is a therapy recommended by Harvard Medical that is used to change negative beliefs about sleeping into positive ones. When you haven’t been about to sleep well for a for a long time, you most likely have developed negative beliefs about sleeping which will continue to block you from getting good sleep, even after you’ve changed your sleeping conditions in a way where you are giving your body the best chance at deep restful sleep, your negative beliefs could be sabotaging you. CBT rewires your brain with positive beliefs. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is one way to make a cognitive behavioral change. And the best part is, it’s free, easy and you can do it anywhere and at anytime.

    #3: Massage – Some research shows that people who get massages on a regular basis are more likely to get better sleep than those who don’t get massages regularly, and deep tissue massages are generally the most effective, but some people prefer swedish or other types of massages and get great results from them. Massage in general has been proven to reduce stress and improve health for most people, plus they feel great, so it’s worth trying.

    #4: Craniosacral Therapy – This is a gentle massage and energy treatment (where you are fully clothed) that calms down the nervous system. Although there have been no formal studies on it’s effects on sleep, many people with insomnia have reported that having just one craniosacral therapy session has helped them get to sleep faster. If you have more stress in your life then usual, getting a craniosacral therapy session can be extremely helpful not just for sleep, but for your overall health and nervous system.

    #5: Cold Plunge – Sitting in a cold plunge pool or ice bath for does wonders for your health and can help you beat insomnia and sleep wonderfully at night. This technique is not for the faint of heart and an in-home cold plunge bath is generally a large investment. You can just fill your tub up with cold water and toss in a bag of ice. Ideally you want the water at 45 degrees fahrenheit (up to 54 degrees) and you need to stay in for 3 minutes to get 80% of the benefits.

Now go get some GREAT sleep.