12 Tips to Get A Good Night's Sleep

You’ve heard people say that sleep is overrated ... but is it?

Over in my Facebook community (are you a member yet?!) we have weekly mini-challenges where we focus on ONE thing that we challenge ourselves to be a little better at doing.

At the beginning of the week, we set our intentions, then each morning in my "Daily Boost" (aka live streams), I share a tip-of-the-day. On Fridays, we wrap things up and see how we faired during the week.

Last week the focus was on sleep. Why? Because in this fast-paced world that we live in, we tend to forgo sleep because we've overextended ourselves.

Here’s an all-too-common scenario:

You get to bed too late, and when it’s time to wake up, your alarm goes off and you’re still tired and hit the snooze button one too many times. Now you’re running late.

There’s no time for a decent breakfast, much less, time for packing a healthy lunch to take with you. You leave the house hungry and tired. Your only food options are whizzing through a Starbucks drive through, something in the vending machine in the breakroom, the donuts someone else brought into the office or even worse, you just grab some coffee.

You find yourself dragging all day with little energy because this is not the first night this week you haven’t had enough sleep. Somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 pm you’re ready to crash, so you grab the closest thing you can find with sugar to keep you going a while longer. And, you may grab another cup of coffee.

At the end of the day, you leave work way too tired to stop at the gym to exercise or have the incentive to go for a walk when you get home. On your way out of the office, you stop in the break room one more time to grab a quick, highly processed snack from the vending machine to tie you over until dinner.

Does this sound familiar? If this happens enough over the course of weeks, months or even years, you can imagine where this will lead you. Many of us are operating this way on a regular basis.

There was a time when I suffered from terrible insomnia. I was disciplined about being in bed, lights out, by 9 pm, but come 2 am I’d be wide awake. My mind would be racing, and I had no ability to fall back asleep, even though I was dead tired.

I tried counting sheep and keeping a notebook by my bed to write down the thoughts going through my head, but neither worked. Night after night I'd watch the minutes tick by, counting down the hours until I had to be up for my morning workout.

I took Ambien which worked for a little while but always left me feeling hungover. Eventually, Ambien stopped working, so I switched to Lunesta. That only worked for a short time and had the same effect. I didn’t want to be dependent on sleeping pills so in 2009 I started seeing a therapist. We uncovered that my root problem that was disrupting my sleep was stress.

When we're sleep-deprived, we put ourselves at risk for:

  • weight gain (Leptin, your satiety hormone, is reduced making it *that* much harder to naturally suppress your appetite)
  • illness (your immune system can't function optimally)
  • injury (you're in a chronically tired state of mind)
  • impaired brain function (your ability to process new information and memories is compromised)
  • emotional instability (you feel irritable, anxious, sad, and angry)
Inadequate slumber over extended periods of time may interfere with immune function and hormonal regulation, which is why sufficient sleep is linked with chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

This also leads to impaired immunity and elevated levels of hormones such as insulin, increasing the risk of gaining body fat (most often in the midsection) and of developing systemic inflammation and type 2 diabetes. It also leads to changes in the hormone leptin and ghrelin, which regulate hunger and satiety.
— Dr David Katz, Disease-Proof

Imagine what it would be like to have a morning like this instead:

You get 7-9 hours of sleep and sleep straight through. You wake up rested, refreshed and ready to take on the day. You hop out of bed, drink your water, have a healthy breakfast, arrive at work on time relaxed and feeling productive. You have a balanced, healthy lunch that gives you sustained energy for the rest of the afternoon. No mid-afternoon crash. No snacks or coffee are needed nor craved. You’ve either worked out before you got to work or you have the energy to work out after. You go home and are happy to make a balanced, healthy dinner and enjoy time with your family. You still feel good. You get to bed by 10:00 or at the latest 11:00 p.m., so you get in your amount of needed sleep.

Do you see how the way you wake up each morning affects your entire day?  It all starts with how rested you are when you wake up, and that depends on the amount and quality of sleep you get.  

Stress is unavoidable, but when we are fully rested, we can handle it better. Sleep helps us recover from stress too. When we’re asleep, our bodies have a chance to rest, repair, detox and recover.

Even though we’re dormant when we sleep, there is so much important activity going on during sleep cycles that affect different needs of our mind and body.

Here are 12 steps you can follow for a better night's sleep:

1  | First, make sleep a priority:

If you don’t at least give yourself a chance to get 7-9 hours of sleep, how can it happen? The best way to allow this to happen is to count backward. If you have to be up at 6 am, count backward 8 hours. This means you need to be in bed, lights out by 10:00 pm.

2 | Maintain a consistent schedule:

Go to bed at the same time every night even on the weekends! While I was disciplined about going to bed at 9 pm on weeknights, I’d stay up well past midnight on weekends which threw my body off. It was that much harder to get on schedule come Sunday evenings.

3 | Reduce your daily consumption of caffeine:

Don't panic; I said reduce, not go cold turkey, especially after dinner.

4 | Turn off electronics at least an hour before bed:

This includes your phone, tablets, laptops, and yes even your television. Or use blue-light glasses.

5 | Don't go to bed on a full stomach:

Aim to finish your last meal of the day three hours before bedtime. If you need to get up at 6 am, and you need to be in bed by 10 pm, aim to have your dinner completed by 7 pm.

6| Don't go to bed on an empty stomach: 

As much as you don’t want to go to bed on a full stomach, you don't go to sleep on an empty stomach either, so don't skip dinner!

7 | Exercise regularly:

But don't overdo it, and don't workout too close to bedtime.

8 | Limit your fluid consumption before bed:

You don't want to be waking up to go to the bathroom every hour

9 | Keep your bedroom dark and quiet:

Consider removing said electronics from Tip #4 from your room. If you are sensitive to light, consider using an eye-mask like this one that I use.

10 | Invest in comfortable bedding:

Use a pillow that works for you. In a Daily Boost, I shared how simply changing my pillow was a game-changer for me!

11 | Go to sleep and wake up using your natural alarm clock

Hint: Tip #2 is key for this!

And here’s the final one that’s been a game-changer for me.

12 | Align your body to your natural circadian rhythm:

For me this means aligning to daylight. So instead of having all the lights blazing in my home when the sun sets, I dim them. This means just having one lamp on low, just a salt lamp on, or even just candlelight. This helps my body start to wind down and know that rest and recovery time is coming. I’ve been experimenting with this practice for a few months and it’s made a significant different not just in the number of hours I sleep, but also in the quality of sleep I get.

If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, you have to set the stage to prepare your body for sleep, and these tips will help you do so.

If you’re saying “But I can’t do these things, I have way too much to do!” you should know that insufficient sleep decreases productivity, so by getting enough sleep, you can actually get more done in less time AND feel better while you’re doing it.

Sleep is vital to your safety, productivity, and overall health. Do your body a favor and gift it with the high-quality, healing sleep it needs and deserves!

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.