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How to Sleep Better: 12 Pro Tips for Better Sleep Tonight

If you have trouble sleeping, you're in the right place. By reading this ultimate guide to sleep, you are taking the first step toward taking back your sleep and changing your life for the better. It will take discipline, but it is possible. You'l...
Sleeping Couple

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has labeled insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic. 70% of American adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report inadequate sleep every night. New research continually uncovers connections between sleep and major diseases. For example, research now shows REM sleep allows your brain to detoxify by clearing out beta-amyloid plaque – the same plaque that is found in dementia and Alzheimer's.

It is now clear that poor sleep leads to permanent health consequences. In addition, your ability to learn, recall information and perform plummets without good quality sleep. If you don't snooze, you lose.

If you have trouble sleeping, you're in the right place. By reading this guide, you are taking the first step toward taking back your sleep and changing your life for the better. It will take discipline, but it is possible. You'll be grateful you did.

Imagine if scientists discovered a new treatment to make you live longer, boost memory, enhance creativity, make you look more attractive, lose weight, and protect you from cancer, dementia, heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes. You would pay a fortune for it, but you don't have to. It's free. Scientific studies point to these benefits, and more, simply from consistent full nights of good quality sleep. So let's learn how to sleep better.

Sleep Tip # 1: Get Light Exposure During the Day, but Keep it Dark at Night (Remove Blue light)

Each of your 100 trillion cells has a time-keeping clock that naturally controls your wake/sleep cycle. It's known as your circadian rhythm, and it works by detecting light. When it detects light, it tells your body to stay awake. When it detects darkness, it tells your body to produce melatonin, which initiates the process of sleep. 

To keep your circadian rhythm healthy, expose yourself to light (natural sunlight or bright artificial light) during the daytime, but keep your bedroom dark at night. This balance will calibrate your circadian rhythm, so it stays accurate.

Although light exposure during the daytime can help you sleep better at night, exposure to light at night has the opposite effect. Blue light has a particularly negative impact on sleep, tricking your body into thinking it's light outside, causing it to stop making the sleep hormone melatonin. When this happens, it's harder to relax and get deep sleep.

TVs, computers, and phones emit blue light, and also harmful EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies), so you should turn them off before bedtime. If you are using these devices close to bedtime, then try getting an app that removes blue light from your screens, such as f.lux, or wear glasses that shield you from blue light.

Sleep Tip #2: Help your body lower its temperature (but not by too much) 

When you sleep, your internal thermostat (controlled by the hypothalamus in your brain) sets your internal temperature lower by 1 to 2 degrees. Sleep researchers believe our temperatures drop at night so we can better conserve energy (similar to recharging a battery) and direct it to other parts of the body. When you're too hot at night, and your body has a difficult time lowering its temperature, it will be harder to fall asleep and your sleep quality will be poorer. 

There are a few simple things you can do to help your body reduce its temperature and maintain it lower throughout the night:

  1. In general, a cooler room induces sleep. Set your room temperature a few degrees lower at bedtime. Experts recommend the mid-60s. It's important not to set it too low because being too cold at night can negatively impact sleep. Find that balance that's right for you, which will be slightly cooler than your comfortable daytime temperature.
  2. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes that insulate the heat your body naturally radiates. Instead, wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing or nothing at all.
  3. Don't sleep under heavy covers or multiple layers that insulate your body heat.
  4. Avoid foam mattresses that conform to your body, trapping heat; firmer mattresses are best for keeping cool at night.
  5. Avoid thermogenic foods at night like hot spices that cause your body temperature to rise.
  6. Don't let larger pets (e.g., big dogs) sleep in bed with you since their bodies give off heat. There are other reasons why larger pets can reduce sleep, such as allergies and movement.
  7. Take certain nutrients before sleep, like Glycine, Calcium, Magnesium, and omega fatty acids, that have been shown to help your body lower its temperature. 

Sleep Tip #3: Keep it quiet (Silence is best, but white noise is ok too)

A noisy sleep environment disrupts the quality of your sleep and can leave you feeling less rested when you awake. The reason is that the brain continues to register and process sounds even when you are unconscious, so while you think you're resting, your brain is not. In this case, you likely to twitch, move and shift between stages of sleep without even knowing it, lowering the quality of your sleep. Certain sounds might even wake you up. During lighter stages of sleep immediately after you drift off (NREM-1, and 2), noise will be more disruptive. But noise can also wake you from deep sleep (NREM-3).

Set up your sleep environment to be as silent as possible, which means windows are closed if you live in a city, electronics are off, and your partner is not snoring. You can also try wearing earplugs or turning on a white noise machine. White noise is the only type of noise that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. White noise is technically sound that keeps consistent across all hearable frequencies. It causes a masking effect that blocks sudden acute noise changes like a car door slamming, snoring, or a dog barking, helping to keep you asleep.

Sleep Tip #4: Establish a routine

You'll sleep much better if you stick to a schedule of going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. [1] Your body's circadian rhythm (its internal clock) works best when its calibrated to a set schedule that doesn't change. When you upset this pattern by going to bed and waking at different times, your irregular sleep schedule will change your circadian rhythm and your melatonin production - the hormone responsible for telling your brain to sleep.

If you create a habit of going to bed and waking up at similar times, after a few weeks, you will likely not even need an alarm to wake up. This will help you live a well-rested, happier, healthier life.

Sleep Tip #5: Mind what you drink (caffeine, alcohol, and too much liquid)

Caffeine

While you're awake, your body produces a chemical called adenosine that builds up in your brain over time and makes you sleepy. Caffeine (commonly found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain to stimulate your nervous system. If you have caffeine in your system at night, this stimulation will stop your body from naturally relaxing and falling asleep.

It normally takes up to 6 hours to clear your body of caffeine after intake. [2] But some people process caffeine more quickly than others, and slow metabolism of caffeine can keep this drug in your system for up to 10 hours. So if you're one of these more sensitive people, and you normally go to bed at 10 pm, then you shouldn't have any caffeine after 12 noon. Even decaffeinated coffee contains caffeine (about 7% of the caffeine in regular coffee), so avoid this as well before going to bed.

Alcohol

Even just a couple of drinks in the evening can negatively affect your sleep if the alcohol is still in your system by the time to go to bed. Alcohol impacts your body's natural production of melatonin – the sleep hormone that balances your circadian rhythm by telling your body when it's dark and time to go to sleep. [3] An imbalance in melatonin production makes it harder to get to sleep and to have good quality sleep. Alcohol has also been shown to affect your body's natural nighttime production of human growth hormone (HGH), which also supports your circadian rhythm. [4]

Several studies have shown alcohol increases (or causes) the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. [5,6]

On average, the liver processes about one drink (10 grams of alcohol) per hour, so keep track of the time and what you drink to make sure your blood alcohol level (BAC) is back to zero by bedtime.

How much liquid?

Drinking water just before you go to sleep will help keep you hydrated during the night and help your body detoxify. However, drinking too much water too close to bedtime (within two hours of going to sleep) can cause you to urinate at night, disrupting your sleep. Getting up to go to the bathroom requires you to turn the light on, which makes matters worse by stopping melatonin production. Essentially, your body is telling you it's light out.

The key to hydration at night without excessive urination is drinking enough water during the day to avoid dehydration at night. If your urine is darker than normal, you're likely dehydrated. If you see this during the day, get hydrated right then and there to avoid feeling thirsty and excess water intake immediately before going to bed. To get ultra-hydrated during the day, try taking a handful of ground chia seeds and either add it to your smoothie or consume it separately in another beverage. Ground chia seeds absorb thirty times their weight in water and turn fluid water into gel water (the most hydrating type of water). They also slow the passage of water through your digestive tract, giving the body more time to absorb.

Sleep Tip #6: Don't eat too much too close to bedtime, but don't eat too little either

Eat your last full-size meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. Late-night meals too close to bedtime can prevent your body from cooling down during the NREM-2 sleep stage and raise your insulin levels. Consequently, you will produce less sleep-boosting melatonin and human growth hormone. If you get hungry at night, try to eat a light snack low in sugar and easily digestible.

At the same time, make sure you eat enough during the day so that you don't feel hungry during the night. When you haven't eaten enough, it is possible to experience nocturnal hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar, and this condition can also disturb sleep, especially in diabetics. [7]

Eating certain types of foods before bed can also wreak havoc on sleep. Red meat, for example, is more difficult for the body to digest, making sleep much less restful.

For people prone to Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating before bed (especially the wrong types of food) can lead to acid reflux and very poor-quality sleep. [8]

Sleep Tip #7: Get comfortable (bedding, mattresses, and pillows, and sleep positions)

We already know how important sleep is to your health, so think about spending on good quality bedding and pillows as an investment in your health. You will sleep for about ⅓ of your lifetime (about 8 hours per day, or 229,961 hours during your life) so don't be cheap when it comes to your sleep comfort.

Mattresses can become warped over time, leading to improper sleeping positions and poor-quality sleep, leading to daytime back pain, shoulder pain, and back stiffness. Upgrade your mattress every 5 to 8 years minimum, or earlier if it becomes warped. You'll want something that is not too firm, but not too soft. Anywhere in the middle ground should work well based on your personal preference. As mentioned earlier, avoid foam mattresses that conform to your body, trapping heat. Studies have shown the benefits of a new mattress after 28 days of use, revealing the following results: (1) back pain reduced by 57%, (2) shoulder pain reduced by 60%, (3) back stiffness reduced by 59%, and (4) overall sleep quality improved by 60%. [9]

You'll want a pillow that keeps your neck and spine aligned. When it comes to pillows, as long as your spine is aligned, the rest is personal preference. But just like mattresses, you'll want to avoid foam pillows that conform to your neck and head, trapping heat.

Bedding and sheets are a matter of personal preference. However, if the surrounding temperature is not cold, then avoid sleeping under heavy covers or multiple layers that insulate your body heat.

Sleep Tip #8: Relax before sleep (curb stress)

When your "stress hormone" cortisol is high, your "sleep hormone melatonin" is low.  When you're relaxed, cortisol goes down, allowing melatonin to rise, which helps us initiate sleep. [10] If you're stressed before you go to bed, the opposite happens. For this reason, you shouldn't try to pack too much into your daily schedule, leaving you no time to unwind at night. Instead, try to do something relaxing before bedtime, such as reading or listening to music. You can also try taking a hot bath to relax. After you get out of the bathtub, your body temperature will drop, and this may help you feel sleepier.

Learning some form of relaxation response can also promote good sleep. [11] Instead of lying in bed worrying and thinking about stressful things, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, and visualize people, places and things that make you feel happy and calm. This technique helps occupy your mind with good thoughts instead of the thoughts that keep you up at night.

Sleep Tip #9: Exercise during the day (but not too close to bedtime)

Routinely exercising during the day is one of the best, clinically proven ways to fall asleep faster and get more sleep. One study showed daytime exercise cut the time it took to fall asleep by about 50% and resulted in an average of 41 more minutes of sleep. [12] It's clear that daily exercise offers sleep benefits but performing exercise too late in the day or evening can cause sleep problems. Exercise creates a stimulatory effect that increases the hormones epinephrine and adrenaline, which enhances alertness, making it more difficult to sleep.

Sleep Tip #10: Nap early in the day, for short periods, or not at all.

For some people, short power naps can be a healthy supercharge for their day, but for those who struggle to fall asleep or staying asleep through the night, napping may be one of the problems. If you feel napping is important, try to keep it short and earlier in the day.

Sleep Tip #11: Avoid Rx sleeping pills if possible, and try a supplement with the right nutrients

The Dangers of Prescription Sleeping Pills

The largest meta-analysis of clinical sleep studies has proven that Rx sleeping medications will only help you get to sleep a little bit faster, but you pay a big price, and not just financially. Your sleep quality will actually be worse with this artificial "sleep" that lacks the deep brain waves that are so important to good quality sleep. You will also have to endure the side effects, including daytime grogginess, forgetfulness, and slower reaction times. [13] Some studies show that drug-induced sleep can cause you to erase memories, rather than engrave them in your brain which happens during normal healthy sleep. The side effects can be more severe with prolonged use that often results from a drug that is physically addictive, like most sleeping pills. Studies have shown that people who take Rx sleep medications were between 3.6 and 5.3 times more likely to die over the study window from causes that included falling, car accidents, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. In fact, people taking sleeping pills were 30% to 40% more likely to develop cancer over the 2.5-year study window.

If you've had perpetual sleep difficulties, I urge you to get checked out by a doctor. One potential alternative to medications is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT is an approved method for treating insomnia that helps people identify and replace destructive thoughts and behaviors that affect sleep quality with behaviors that promote sound sleep, without the need for prescription sleeping pills. [14]

Sleep Tip #12: Use Natural Supplements that Really Work to Help You Sleep

There are several individual nutrients you can buy that are scientifically proven to help you sleep, without the side effects of Rx drugs. There are also combinations of these nutrients you can find in sleep supplement products that may be even more effective than any single sleep-boosting ingredient alone.

Below is a list of supplements to help you sleep, how they help you sleep, and recommended dosages.

Nutrients that help you fall asleep easier, getting you to the NREM-1 sleep stage:

Valerian root extract (Valeriana officinalis)

An extract from the root of this herb contains several phytochemical ingredients that may help you relax before bedtime. These phytochemicals include valerenic acid and iridoids, which have sedative properties. [15] Valerian may also boost the signaling of GABA – a primary sedative neurotransmitter. A collective analysis of multiple clinical studies showed people taking valerian root extract had an 80% greater chance of reporting improvement in sleep compared with people taking a placebo. [16] It is one of the most commonly used herbal supplements in the US and Europe for the natural treatment of anxiety.

A standard dosage of Valerian root extract is 450 mg; however, when combined with other relaxation-promoting ingredients, it may be effective at lower doses.

Valerian root extract is considered safe for short-term use, and side effects are minor and rare, with some people experiencing dizziness.

Lemon balm extract (Melissa officinalis)

Extracts from the leaves of the Lemon Balm plant contain the phytochemicals terpenes and eugenol. [17] Terpenes are partially responsible for the herb's relaxing effects. Eugenol helps to calm muscle spasms and numbs tissues, which also promotes easier relaxation.

A standard dose of Lemon balm is 300mg; however, when combined with other relaxation-promoting ingredients, it may be effective at lower doses.

Jujube fruit extract (Ziziphus zizyphus)

Extracts from the Jujube plant seeds have natural sedative properties that support relaxation, making it a sleep stimulant and suppressor of stress and anxiety. Saponins and flavonoids inside this extract trigger changes to the neurotransmitter's GABA and serotonin, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Jujuboside A, one of the saponins in jujube, helps to suppress activity in the brain's hippocampus, which may help to calm the mind. [18] Clinical research also shows that a flavonoid in jujube known as spinosin may extend the time spent in NREM-3 slow-wave deep sleep and REM sleep. [19]

The standard human effective dosage for Jujube is unknown at this time. Supplements currently offer it in dosages ranging from 125 mg to 650 mg. It can also be bought in bulk powder and taken in grams.

Magnolia bark (Magnolia officinalis)

Magnolia tree bark holds active phytochemicals, including honokiol and magnolol, that help to lower anxiety, reduce stress, and act as a sedative directly helping to facilitate sleep. Scientists believe it works by naturally boosting GABA – a neurotransmitter that causes a calming effect, among other functions.

A standard dose ranges quite a bit, from as little as 5 mg to as much as 550 mg to 550 mg.

Hops extract (Humulus lupulus)

Scientific research has shown hops to have natural sedative properties that can help you relax and reduce levels of anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep. [20] In addition, hops have been shown to increase the duration of sleep. Hops also help you lower your core body temperature, which is an important physiological process that helps to initiate sleep.

Hops works by enhancing your brain's levels of GABA – one of the primary sedative neurotransmitters.

A standard dose for hops is 300-500mg, but research shows that hops may be more effective when combined with valerian root extract, in which case, 187-250mg valerian with 42-60mg hops is a standard dose. [21] 

Nutrients that help you lower body temperature during the NREM-2 sleep stage:

Glycine

This amino acid may help improve sleep by helping the body lower its temperature at bedtime. [22,23] In clinical studies, glycine helped people fall asleep faster, and people who took it before bedtime reported feeling livelier the next morning. [24,25] Other studies showed people who took glycine had improved brainwaves, breathing, and heart rate during sleep. [26]

A standard dosage of glycine is 3 grams; however, when combined with other ingredients that may help lower body temperature, it may be effective at lower doses.

Glycine is safe, and side effects are rare. The only reported side effects include soft stools, nausea, and stomach upset.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that also functions as a thermoregulator, helping you regulate your core body temperature. It helps coordinate signals between your brain and your body that control your temperature. At night, calcium's thermoregulator role helps you cool down.

Calcium also helps your brain convert an amino acid called tryptophan into the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. For this reason, dairy products that contain tryptophan and calcium are sleep-inducing foods.

REM sleep disturbances, or even the absence of REM sleep altogether, have been linked to calcium deficiency. The European Neurology Journal published a study that found that calcium levels are higher during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. For people experiencing calcium-related sleep problems, restoring blood levels to normal can restore sleep cycles.

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for body temperature regulation, among more than 600 other chemical reactions that occur in your body. For these reasons, it is vital to your health and your sleep quality. Healthy magnesium levels lead to deeper, better quality sleep.

Magnesium also helps maintain healthy levels of GABA (a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter), which accounts for its supportive role in deep, restorative sleep. [27] For these reasons, research shows supplementing magnesium can improve sleep quality, especially for people with restless leg syndrome.

Magnesium deficiency is often a factor in insomnia, and people with low magnesium levels commonly have restless sleep and wake frequently at night.

Omega 3-6-9 Fatty Acids

Over the last few decades, there's been a lot of discussion about the health benefits of Omega 3's, and for good reason. These powerful fatty acids have gained mainstream recognition for offering up an array of wellness-boosting effects, ranging from improving our mental health, sleep, to protecting against cancer.

Commonly obtained from fish, flax and chia seeds, low levels of Omega 3's, especially DHA is linked to lower levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. [28] Studies have shown supplementation of omega 3 increases the quality and length of sleep in adults and children. [29]   

Nutrients that help you get deep lasting sleep during the NREM-3 sleep stage:

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is essential for many of your body's physiological functions. It synthesizes amino acids, converts the amino acid tryptophan into the essential vitamin niacin, and helps produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which regulate sleep and mood. [30]

A lack of B6 has been linked to symptoms of insomnia and depression. [31] Adults should get about 1.3 - 1.7 mg per day from foods or in combination with a dietary supplement.
.
Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that supports heart function and reduces muscle spasms that may disrupt your sleep.

Clinical studies show that potassium supports deeper sleep. [32] One clinical study published in the journal Nature concluded that low blood potassium levels may disturb sleep patterns, especially for people with high blood pressure.

The FDA limits potassium supplements to a maximum dosage of 99 mg, which is only 2% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of 4,700 mg per day.

L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid that helps to promote relaxation and sleep by decreasing the levels of "excitatory" chemicals in the brain linked to stress while increasing the chemicals that cause feelings of calm. [33,34] A standard dosage of L-Theanine is 200–400 mg. L-Theanine is safe, and rare side effects are minor, including headaches.

L-Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid that gets converted into nitric oxide in the body, which raises your overall nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide supports NREM sleep, REM sleep and circadian rhythm balance. [35,36,37]

Arginine can have a stimulating effect on some people, so it's important not to take too much. An effective dosage ranges from 2 to 6 grams, depending on the reason for taking it. However, smaller doses may be effective for sleep when combined with other sleep-inducing nutrients.

L-Ornithine

Ornithine is an amino acid that has a relaxing effect. It helps your body remove excess ammonia in the gut, which can cause stress. Ornithine may also improve growth
hormone levels, which support sleep according to a study published in Psycho-neuroendocrinology, which showed a connection between lower hGH levels and sleep quality.

An effective dosage ranges from 1 to 5 grams, depending on the reason for taking it. However, smaller doses may be effective for sleep when combined with other sleep-inducing nutrients.    

Nutrients that help you achieve REM Sleep:

Melatonin

Melatonin is often called "the sleep hormone" because your brain produces it when it gets dark, signaling to your body that it's time for sleep. It is produced naturally in the pineal gland in your brain from the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan. Studies show it also improves your REM Sleep quality. [38]

Melatonin levels decrease as you age, with a steep steady decline after age thirty, which may make it harder to fall asleep as you get older. This is when melatonin supplements can be very helpful, allowing people to fall asleep easier in a safer, more natural way compared to prescription sleeping pills.

Melatonin is safe for long-term use when taken orally. Studies show that a standard melatonin dosage for adults is between 0.20 mg and 5 mg, taken 60 minutes before bedtime. It is recommended to start with a smaller dose and work your way upward if needed (at 0.20 mg increments each time you take it). The increasing dosage approach is recommended because too much melatonin has the potential to disrupt your sleep cycle.

5HTP

5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a bi-product of l-tryptophan and aids in the production of serotonin, both have been linked to the regulation of sleep. 300–500 mg per day has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia in adults [39]

GABA

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a compound produced in the brain that inhibits certain neurotransmitters and may help your nervous system relax. The recommended dose for adults is 250–500 mg per day. [40]

L-Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that can be converted into several important molecules, including serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan and the molecules it produces influence many functions in the body, including sleep, mood and behavior.

Research has shown that increasing tryptophan in your diet can improve sleep by increasing both serotonin and melatonin. [41,42]

Although tryptophan is found in protein-containing foods, it's often taken as a supplement. It is considered safe at moderate doses.

You can also opt for a balanced combination of these nutrients in a single supplement product like REM Sleep by Healthycell.

Expertly formulated by physicians and nutritionists, REM Sleep is the only sleep formula that provides you with drug-free, non-habit-forming ingredients to support all four stages of human sleep: NREM-1, NREM-2, NREM-3 (Delta Brainwave Sleep), and REM (Brain Restorative Sleep).† MICROGEL™ technology ensures maximum absorption of premium nutrients, including valerian, lemon balm, magnesium, L-theanine, melatonin, 5HTP, and GABA to help you fall asleep easily, stay asleep throughout the night, sleep deep, and achieve REM sleep, so you can wake up refreshed.†

—-

Dr. Vincent Giampapa, MD, FACS
Visiting Scholar, The Sinclair Lab
Harvard University, Boston, MA
Cell Aging Researcher & Author
Director, Cell Health Institute

About The Author


Dr. Giampapa is a world-renowned medical doctor, inventor, and surgeon specializing in anti-aging medicine. He recently received a nomination for the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking stem cell research, as well as the Edison Award for the Healthycell nutritional supplement for cell health. He was also awarded the A4M Science & Technology award for his development of the BioMarker Matrix Profile – the first computer program to measure aging. Learn more about Dr. Vincent Giampapa.

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