Guide to Getting Great Sleep

How to Get Great Sleep

The importance of getting quality sleep is a topic that has been getting a lot of news coverage lately. While it seems like common sense that we all need adequate sleep, statistics show again and again that we just aren’t getting it. For some (including me) the idea of ever getting a solid night of uninterrupted sleep again may sound wonderful, but unrealistic. My excuse is the constant presence of a child under 18 months in my house but for many others it is insomnia, sleep disturbances, or simply not enough time.

When my husband and I met walking across America, we didn’t have much time to sleep. “We’ll sleep when we’re dead” we often said. Turns out, not getting enough sleep can make that day come sooner that we expect! Lack of adequate sleep (6-8 hours per night) has been linked to:

  • Impaired memory and higher incidence of accidents
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased cancer risk and accelerated tumor growth
  • Blood sugar problems and a pre-diabetic state
  • Impaired cognitive and physical function
  • Reduced nerve cell generation
  • Increased incidence of depression
  • Increased inflammation in the body
  • Cardiovascular stress
  • Brain shrinkage
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Increased risk of diabetes and obesity
  • Increased instance of heart disease
  • Infertility
  • ADHD and Behavioral problems in children

Tired yet? If that wasn’t convincing enough… getting optimal sleep has been associated with:

  • Enhanced memory
  • More HGH production and release
  • Increased energy (duh!)
  • Highly functioning immune system
  • Lowered risk of illness
  • Slower aging process
  • Higher cognitive function
  • Less chance of accidents
  • Lower instance of cancer, heart disease and diabetes

Of course, not all sleep is created equal. There are several stages of sleep that the body cycles through during the night:

  1. N1-This is the stage when you feel half asleep and still have some awareness of your surroundings. This is also the stage where you involuntarily jerk or kick.
  2. N2-Slightly deeper stage of sleep. You actually spend about half of your sleeping hours in this stage.
  3. N3- Deep slow sleep where your core temperature has dropped and your melatonin production is going strong. N3 cycles you into the most “productive” of the sleep cycles…
  4. REM- Rapid Eye Movement sleep is when most dreaming occurs. In REM, muscles completely relax and the mind and body regenerate at an amazing rate. Only about a quarter of your daily sleep is in REM but it is vitally important.

Research shows that the best sleep happens on a consistent schedule. This is because your circadian rhythm remains constant and your hormone production is optimal. The most beneficial hours of sleep are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., though most adults miss about half of this. It seems that we are so good at holding our kids to a strict sleep schedule, but as often is the case, this is a “do as I say, not as I do” situation. Sleep is definitely something worth making time for, but that is easier said than done when the house needs to be cleaned, the kids won’t sleep, or we just can’t seem to doze off. Here are some tips for getting a solid night of ZZZs:

  1. Stay on a consistent routine and try to get to bed by 10 p.m. This will ensure the highest amount of quality sleep. Your adrenals function best to recharge your body during these hours, and this is also when your gall bladder dumps bile (a backup of this can lead to gall bladder stones).
  2. Turn out the lights– No, really! It turns out that most people don’t sleep in complete darkness. Light seeping in from windows, night lights and even the light of the alarm clock can have a profound negative affect on your circadian rhythm. Many a hardened insomniac has been cured by blackout curtains and a sleep mask. This step is actually more important for kids! Get rid of the night light and your kids will actually sleep better. The reason this step is so vital is that even the smallest amount of light can interfere with production of the sleep hormones melatonin and serotonin, disrupting sleep and increasing risk of all the problems above.
  3. Snack the right way– If you have trouble dozing off, eat a handful of nuts an hour or more before bed. The tryptophan will help bring on sleep. Avoid high carbohydrate snacks, especially grains and sugars, which will raise blood sugar and prevent you from falling asleep.
  4. Keep your cool– Keep the bedroom at 65 F or below for best sleep. Bundle up or wear socks if you are cool natured, but keep the thermostat low. The body’s temperature naturally drops during the night, and studies show that a room temperature that mimics this is most conducive to quality sleep.
  5. Don’t watch TV or do stimulating activity right before bed– Watching TV or exercising right before bed can inhibit the hormone production necessary for good sleep.
  6. Exercise (just not right before bed!)– Besides the plethora of other benefits of daily exercise, exercising during the day can help the body function optimally so that sleep hormone production is optimal.
  7. Avoid the caffeine– Depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine, even small amounts early in the day can inhibit sleep. Most caffeine containing drinks and foods are bad for you anyway, so get rid of them. Especially avoid caffeine after noon.
  8. Try some herbal tea– Herbal Tea like Chamomile can help relax the body naturally and induce a sound sleep. The heat of a warm cup of tea will also temporarily raise body temperature slightly, and the resulting drop will help sleep.
  9. Avoid the alcohol– A glass of wine is a common way to wind down in the evening. While alcohol can cause drowsiness, the presence of alcohol in the body can keep it from entering the deeper and more regenerative sleep stages.
  10. Eat a healthy diet during the day! A healthy diet free of processed foods will help overall body function and sleep patterns. Getting adequate protein and fat is very important as these both directly affect sleep hormone production.
  11. Get Grounded I now sleep on an Earthing Mat and will never go back. I sleep more soundly, dream more vividly and awake more refreshed.

Sleep is just not one of those things we can get by without (though I tried in college!). Try the suggestions above to help get your 6-8 hours of sleep, preferably starting at or before 10pm.

Already tried those tips and still having trouble? Try these advanced tips for a great night sleep.

Have any other things that work for you? Tell me about them below…

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Reader Comments

  1. There was a recent BBC article about sleep: the 8 hours a night is actually bad for you and we should aim for 2, 4 hour blocks per night. 

    I have tried this – I go to bed at 8.30pm, wake at around 1am, go back to bed by 3am and wake for the day at 7am. 

    It is the best sleep I have ever had as an adult, even with my little kids waking me up before 7am! 

  2. Awesome info about sleep. I want to use this article on my site, with full credit of course. It will be a fantastic resource for my get better sleep challenge that I am running in August. Would love it if you joined. The goal is to get 7 hours of sleep per night.

    On another note, totally love this blog and would love to have you as a guest on my radio show.

    • You are welcome to link to this post, but I do not allow full re-printing of articles

  3. What do you think about using the supplement Melatonin to help in restorative sleep? I have been taking Tylenol PM now for many months just to get to sleep while my Dr. is working on my thyroid and hormone levels.

  4. Just had a quick question. I have been doing a lot of research on sleep and have been getting conflicting answers as to if it is bad to exercise before bed. Some say that it doesn’t effect and others say it does. What have you found?

  5. Sometimes, people don’t have as deep of sleep because of an unglamorous but common issue: phlegm. To free your respiratory and nasal passages for higher quality sleep, do the following routine before bed, which takes about a minute. Gargle with warm salt water for 30 seconds, gently (with slightly damp, warm hands) massage your nose a bit, and then blow your nose. I think it has helped me, especially during some of the winter months! Don’t knock it till you try it. 🙂

    • You could also try Breathe Rights if your nose plugging up in the night is the main problem.

  6. Awesome post! Very informative and full of excellent recommendations!

  7. How was this beneficial sleep time between 10pm and 2am arrived at? Were whatever studies that came to that conclusion tested for things such as seasonal variances or shifting of daily cycles?

  8. This is a very interesting post. I am looking for some help on how to get rid of sleep parallases. I have been having episode since I was 17 and they have not stopped for eight years. I get it around two times a week and it’s usually very disturbing. Any suggestions would be helpful.

  9. thank you for sharing your bone broth recipe. I am on my second week of the Whole30 and this broth fills me up . I try to drink at least one cup a day. The Bone Broth actually has taken the place of Hot n Sour soup as my immune builder !

  10. I just recently went through an ivf cycle. 2 fresh, miscarried and 2 frozen, miscarried. What your blog states about conceiving naturally is concerning to mme.. I’m an RN that works in one of the highest hospitals for births in the USA. I work with moms that are pregnant and on drugs, diabetic, over weight and the list goes on. My question is if to get pregnant naturally, how are all of these women getting pregnant? We do 18k+ delivers a year.

    • I am so sorry for the loss of your children. Your question seems somewhat rhetorical to me, and is a part of a totally separate question from the post you commented on, so I normally would not respond, but I wanted to say I am sorry to hear of your miscarriages. To respond to your question, I think that maybe the main title of the article to which you refer ( is something of a misnomer. Really it’s about reversing infertility naturally. It is for people who want to try to use healthful habits to increase their fertility, not a description of what everyone must do in order to be fertile, if that makes sense.

    • Oh! Try to not drink coffee and tea. Please drink herb tea. Try to not birth with hot water not too cold though.
      Put tied feet in warm water for one minute and cold water one minute for four times switching the feet. You can use a hot bottle on but remember do not bath with hot water. Avoid uncooked salts. Eat greens once a day.