Do you need better sleep?

Do you lay awake long after going to bed fretting about why you can’t sleep?  Or perhaps you fall asleep just fine but mysteriously wake up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep.  Sleep is something that seems like such a basic function, but to some can be so elusive, yet we need it so desperately.  If you’re struggling to find your zzz’s, read on.


– Create a routine.  Our bodies love routine.  Set an evening routine (lasting 30-60 minutes) that gives your body and brain the message that it’s time for bed.  For example; close the curtains in the house, take a warm bath, wash your face, brush your teeth, consider a “body scan” or short meditation of gratitude for the great things in your life.  You might need to set a bed-time alarm to remind yourself that it’s time to start your routine and head toward bed.  Even Apple picked up on this and added a new bedtime alarm in to the integrated alarm.

– Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day; regardless of what day it is and whether or not you have to be in the office or have the day to lounge.

– No screens an hour before bed.  The light that your fancy phone, iPad, and computer emit send a signal to the brain that it’s day; shut down that melatonin production and start ramping up for another day.  Do your screen time in the morning and avoid taking those devices to bed with you. And be sure your that bedroom is entirely dark.  None of that midnight sun coming through the window or glowing power strip from the corner.

– Small snack before bed.  No, I’m not telling you to fill your belly full and then go straight to bed but a small protein snack before bedtime is often a good idea.  A small handful of nuts, a few bites of leftover dinner protein, even some protein powder mixed with water or faux-milk will do.  This will help you avoid a blood sugar crash and subsequent stress hormone surge in the middle of the night, which can wake you up.

– Caffeine cut off.  A lot of people are more sensitive to caffeine than they think.  If you’re a caffeine drinker, enjoy that morning cup of joe but avoid anything after noon.  If you’re still struggling, cut it out entirely.  But be sure to taper off; going cold turkey can be miserable for some folks.

– Paper and pen by the bed.  If you’re having a hard time shutting your brain off, can’t stop thinking about the “to do’s” tomorrow, and editing lists in your head as you try to doze off.  Try keeping pen and paper by the bed so you can jot those thoughts and must-dos down so you won’t worry about forgetting, knowing it’ll be there waiting in the morning.

– Body scan or meditation. If you’re familiar with a head to toe body scan, do it when you are relaxing in to dream land.  Often times you’re asleep before you reach your legs.  If you’re not, or you want to try something new, try a guided relaxation exercise.  Andrew Johnson has a series of sleep apps that are free or just search the app store for others that are out there.     

– Magnesium is a mineral that helps make you sleepy and in which many people are deficient.  It is a muscle relaxer as well as a stress and anxiety reducer.  There are tons of choices out there which can make navigating the supplement isle tough. I often start people on a product called “Natural Calm” which is magnesium citrate.  Be careful though, taking too much can lead to loose stools.

Abby Laing