Sleep Strategies that Actually Work

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. 

Below are my notes from his course, plus some additional strategies I learned elsewhere that have been working well for me. 

In general, men need 7-8 hours of sleep, women need 8-9 hours, and 9-10 when menstruating, 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.

Wishing you deep restorative sleep.

#1: Mix up a nighttime potion that helps you fall asleep and get deep sleep, plus it’s anti-aging! Ideally, take it 20-30 minutes before bed.

Add to a glass:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda 
  • Teaspoon of CALM SLEEP
  • Open 3 Glycine tablets and pour them into the glass

Pour in a SMALL amount of filtered water and stir. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit; drink it all, including the bubbles.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious and need an extra sleep boost, take a few Valerian Root tablets an hour before bed. And if you’re prone to anxiety or going through a stressful time in your life, consider taking Kava Root during the day – it’s known as “nature’s Xanax.”  It’s been proven to be more effective than prescription Xanax at relieving anxiety. To use for anxiety relief, take half a dose twice during the day.

If you suffer from insomnia due to chronic pain, consider taking CBD at night. It’s a natural sleep booster that can be taken nightly. 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 much better choice. 

#2: When possible, open your bedroom window for at least 30 minutes before bed (or better yet, sleep with it open). The CO2 levels in your bedroom most likely increase over the night, disrupting sleep and sleep quality. Starting the night with low CO2 levels counteracts that. Dr. Andy Galpin’s advanced sleep clinic, Absolute Rest, performed a study that showed nearly 100% of people who reduced the CO2 levels in their bedroom at night slept better.

#3: Wear a sleep mask or have a completely dark room. I have the Envoy Copper Infused Mulberry Silk Mask and LOVE it (it’s worth the price tag). 

#4: Sleep in a cool room. If it’s cool 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 65-69 degrees Fahrenheit.

#5: Sound is the second most important factor in the quality of your sleep (temperature is #1). 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: Smell and air quality 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: Stop eating 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.

#8: Use a weighted blanket, also known as a gravity blanket. It calms your nervous system helping you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. And weighted blankets help a variety of other issues, including relieving anxiety, alleviating symptoms of PTSD, helping with autism and sensory issues, alleviating 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.

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.

Baloo is one of the few on the market that’s not filled with toxins.

#9: 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 you’re 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

#10: 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.

#11: Get at least 5 minutes of direct sunlight as close to when you wake up as possible. Get out for a brisk walk and walk towards the sun – get sun in your eyes and on your skin (10-30 minutes is ideal). If you’re in a cold climate, sit in a sunny window.  No need for sunscreen or sunglasses in the morning sun.  Early morning sun has a really low amount of UV-B rays (the bad ones) and is full of UV-A and IR-A (the good ones).

In addition to helping you fall asleep faster at night early morning sun has numerous health benefits including strengthening your skin, increased and balanced mitochondria which translates into a lot more energy, reduction in anxiety and depression, and helps you maintain a healthy weight (and lose weight if you’re overweight).

#12: 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 over 50. It’s estimated that nearly 50% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. The quality of your vitamin D supplement matters. I take DAKE

#13: 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 sitting on the floor next to your bed in the dark and meditating. 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.

#14 If you have trouble falling asleep, try 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.

#15: 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 neurochemical that increases in your body throughout the day, making you sleepy by nighttime. If you consume caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime, your adenosine is blocked. Plus, caffeine is most effective for alertness and focus if consumed 90 minutes after you wake up.

#16: Consuming alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime negatively affects your sleep You want to fall asleep, not pass out, there’s a big difference. Stop drinking at least two hours before bed and drink at least 8 ounces of water after each alcoholic drink. 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. So you’ll want to have finished drinking alcohol and your 8 ounces of water at least 2 hours before bed (for best results, 3+ hours).

#17: Clean up your diet.  Eating too much sugar can lead to insomnia. Low protein intake is associated with shorter sleep times as well as oversleeping. A low-fat diet is associated with non-restorative sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Eat the majority of your carbs later in the day (for dinner) and stick to clean carbs such as basmati rice or sweet potatoes (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, 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.

Avoid sugar and carbs for breakfast, and consider intermittent fasting (you can see my fasting journey and tips here).

This study, published in 2020, shows that kids given at least 1 egg per morning for a year had an average IQ increase of 15 points. 😱

#18: 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.

#19: 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. My strategies for reducing EMF’s and radiation in your home are here.

#20: 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.

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 great 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.

#21: If you frequently wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing and can’t get back to sleep, before bed, have:

– A teaspoon of raw honey (don’t put it in hot water or tea – that’ll cook it so it won’t be raw)
– A teaspoon of MCT oil
– A tablespoon of collagen 

This little trick helps most people stay asleep all night. 

Please note that children under one year should NEVER be given honey. Honey is healthy for adults (who don’t have an allergy to it) but can be fatal to babies. When possible, get local raw honey. When it’s local to you, it’ll be an additional immune booster for you.

#22: 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, the type of exercise you’re doing, and 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 overtraining often leads to insomnia. If you’re going to be training for an event such as a weight-lifting competition, a marathon, or something similar, 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.

#23: 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. I’m a side sleeper. I have the Envy Pillow.

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.

#24: Get a good mattress. A healthy comfortable high-quality mattress and bedding is well worth the investment. Ideally get one with no fire retardants or toxic chemicals. I live on an island with limited options, so 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 (Leesa is not a completely natural mattress but it’s decent). 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), and I have this bamboo topper on the mattresses in my guest room (which every guest has gushed about).

#25: 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)

#26: 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.

#27: Try the Progressive Muscle Relaxation TechniqueMany people fall asleep while doing the technique. It can be done right in your bed, or on the floor next to your bed. To learn how to do it, find a YouTube video to follow.

#28: 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.

#29: 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.

Consider trying Craniosacral Therapy, which is a specific type of gentle massage and energy treatment (where you are fully clothed) that calms your nervous system. If you have more stress in your life than usual, getting a Craniosacral therapy session can be extremely helpful not just for sleep but for your overall health and nervous system.

#30: If you’re suffering from medium to severe insomnia, most sleep experts recommend 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 any time. You can easily find EFT sleep videos on YouTube to follow.

If you found this post helpful and want my playbooks for optimizing your health, business, and life, jump on my email list. I generally send out one email a month (or less) with links to my most popular content and some fun stuff I only share in email. 😉

Now go get some GREAT sleep.  

 

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