Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Ways to Sleep Better

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway

Art of Christina Balit

Art of Christina Balit

Frankly it’s not that my life falls apart when I’m awake, it’s that it falls apart when I haven’t slept. Then, last year Deepak Chopra, made it abundantly clear to me,

“If you are trying to meditate and you fall asleep, then sleep. It means you need to sleep.”

That’s the bottom line. Research touting the benefits of adequate sleep span the map from enhanced athletic performance to better weight loss to improved memory. I’ve read numerous articles to prepare for this post and it appears that the definition of adequate is at least 6 and a half hours each night although it varies tremendously by person. Here are 10 things you might consider to improve yours:

1. Try to maintain a fairly consistent schedule.  I’ve learned this the hard way. I stay up too late on Friday nights thinking that I’ll sleep-in on Saturday. I don’t and hence, the cycle begins. Our bodies like routines.

2. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm.  Everyone is different but for me, it means chocolate too.

3. Leave the TV out of the bedroom. Not only does having a TV in your sleeping room have a tendency to keep you up later, but there are studies that show it may disrupt your sleep cycles.

4. Don’t drink more than 1 alcoholic beverage in the evening. Again, your tolerance levels are very personal and will change depending upon your weight and the length of your evening. Studies confirm that alcohol helps one to fall asleep and may even produce deeper sleep in the first half of the night but then causes restlessness in later hours and reduces REM (the good stuff).

5. Get some exercise – preferably earlier in the day. Adding exercise to your regular schedule has shown to cause better sleep. However, Runner’s World reports that it’s the individuals with the morning exercise routines that are reporting the most sound nights.

6. Eat some carbs. Yeah, I know. They’re out of fashion. Bread, potatoes, pasta – all my glorious comfort foods. These foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that causes drowsiness. Just don’t overdo it as being overweight is another contributor to sleep problems.

7. Hand it over. So easy to say and yet, the hardest to put into practice but no amount of midnight fretting is going to get that work issue resolved or cause my kid’s chemistry grade to rise. Put it out there, hang it on the worry tree, write it down, give it to God; whatever your belief system, practice letting go.

8. Set the temperature correctly. Again, this is different for everyone but I often turn off the AC in the rooms when I am traveling. Beyond the constant hum during the night, I don’t enjoy drying out the air that much. Here in the desert however, I do let the AC work at night. Regardless, being too hot or too cold can affect sleep.

9. Consider keeping a sleep diary. This goes hand in hand with a food diary and you may be able to draw some correlations between types of meals that affect your sleep. There are also numerous new gadgets on the market that claim to track your sleep habits.

10. Determine what noise level works for you. A few years ago, we went to a family camp for our summer vacation. Concerned about the noise level where we’d be staying, I borrowed a friend’s sound machine and set it to “waves” each night. While I haven’t done this recently, I found that I really enjoyed falling asleep this way. On a recent stay at the La Posada, the hotel offered ear plugs due to the proximity of the train.

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52 Comments

  1. There are some good tips here. I was on a cruise at the end of last year and I’ve never slept better. I was in a party of 12 and we all said the same thing. I don’t know the science behind it but I’m sure it had something to do with the gentle rocking of the ship xx

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  2. These are great ideas. Have found them helpful too. During our AZ summers, I find that an evening swim, time to dry off in the dry air and a cool shower drop my body temperature to the point where I want to curl up when I sleep. This makes me sleep deeper and longer.

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  3. Good advice, Tammy. My spouse is wonderful at setting a good example with respect to sleep routines. Lights out at 10 pm, alarm goes off at 5:40 am.

    With him gone, I am staying up all hours, and yet the alarm still goes off at 0540 . . . the only good thing about his absence is that there’s always a cool mattress half to roll to when it’s hot.

    Thanks!

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  4. Great blog. I have problems with number three. If I would turn off the tv or computer it would all be good.

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  5. Great list . . . I’m wondering if #2 is the culprit for me. I only drink coffee in the morning, but I have been known, on occasion, once in a while, to have CHOCOLATE in the pm hours. ;)

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  6. Excellent pointers, every one. Thank you, Tammy!

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  7. I generally have no problem sleeping. However, I have to watch staying up later and later, because like you, when morning comes, I’m up at the same time no matter how much sleep. Then, every once in a while, along comes a rogue night when I don’t go to sleep until about 4:30. I learned to not worry about it. I read or whatever (NO computer, IPod, etc) and sleep the few hours. The next night I’m back on track.

    I rate well on the check points – at home. I find hotels a challenge…all the noise and few let me open a window! City folk have a tough time with night at my place. There’s not a street light for miles and the only sound is the cat scratching to come in! They find it too dark and too quiet! :D

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  8. Sleep is usually no problem for me. If I wake up in the night, or in the early morning hours (summer = early sun), I just read my email on my iPhone until my eyes slam shut. Doesn’t usually take long!

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  9. Great advice, I have a pretty hard time staying on a good schedule and I’ve been feeling it pretty bad lately in my body. I’ve installed a meditation app on my phone that i listen to before sleep and for the last few nights it’s worked pretty great helping me fall asleep quicker. I really am trying harder to be stress free, keep myself more calm around sleep time.

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  10. As I sit here reading this, I am awake after 4 hours of sleep and feel ickily “awake” (not awake enough to do something but too much to go back to sleep). Grrrrrrrrrrr. My sleeping is certainly a bit disordered. :(

    I’ve found that I’m very sensitive to brightness and noise. I can sleep best when the room is completely dark and it’s preferably quiet. Slight deviations from complete darkness and quietness already are an impairment.

    A problem I’ve regularly had until very recently is that I used to wake up early in the morning after too little sleep feeling very agitated from a mixture of headache, nausea, and hunger. Looking back, I can see that this had to do with my formerly protein-rich dinners the night before. As I learn more about whole food plant-based nutrition, I’ve understood that (1) excess protein (particularly animal protein) is toxic to the body so those might have been symptoms of detoxification, and (2) the body turns excess protein into sugar and fatty acids, so that my high protein consumption might have worsened my issues with unstable blood sugar levels and those were hypoglycemic symptoms.

    When I stopped eating animal protein this condition got better but did not disappear. When I started cutting back on fats (throwing out all oils) and adding carbs from whole grains (mostly brown rice so far), it disappeared literally overnight. This is amazing because I’ve really suffered from it – it used to ruin my day.

    Anyway, I think I may have unintendedly eaten too little the other day (this happens easily when I don’t look after it), so I might just be hungry now. There are cooked brown rice and fresh blueberries in the fridge that should make up for a nice breakfast, and I’ve already had tea with almond milk which made me feel better. :)

    Thank you for all your great tips, Tammy! I’ll try some of them. The schedule thing will be quite hard though. :P

    Reply
    • One of my neighbors got black shades in her room and says the difference in her sleep is remarkable. You might want to consider that if you’re sensitive to light. Let me know if it gets better.

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  11. I used to be a chronic insomniac and the best remedy for me is going to bed at the same time every night if possible :)

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  12. I need someone to tell me how to not sleep all the time. Jesus, I sleep! I have 5 minutes- I am sleeping. I am sleeping in the party, I am sleeping at work, I am sleeping in the bus stop- I am just sleeping. And I feel so good to sleep. I once thought of including this in my CV- I can sleep ‘on’ anything ;P

    Reply
    • Well, that’s not all good either my friend. You may want to inquire with your physician. It’s great that you’re getting enough but there is such as thing as too much.

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  13. Exercise and turning off the technology an hour before bed are my keys.

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  14. Boy o boy this is a timely one. I rarely sleep well these days! I follow most of your tips–but keeping a sleep diary might really help pinpoint any dietary patterns causing the trouble.

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    • I would be interested if you pinpoint anything. Have you heard of Valerian? It’s an herb that helps some people.

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  15. I love your quote! Staying asleep is my problem also…for sure when it is HOT outside at night! pant, pant

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Yes, that internal combustion engine is becoming something of a problem for me!

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  16. Lisa H

     /  June 30, 2013

    Great suggestions, Tammy. Definitely keep the technology out of the bedroom. I usually don’t have my ipad with me at night, but sometimes I will play around and check email before I fall asleep; every time I do, I regret it. I never sleep as well as if I didn’t use it at all.

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    • Hmmm, I don’t have technology in the bedroom. I do like a meditation cd sometimes though.

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  17. Tammy, all good advice. I would add NO BLUE SCREENS an hour before bed. This means no Kindle, phone, computer, tablet etc. I have read they have a similar effect to our eyes and minds as TV.

    I also find I now have to stop drinking all liquids an hour before bed to limit getting out of bed for a trip to the bathroom!

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  18. Excellent tips, Tammy. I started using a sleep mask a couple of years ago, and it helps immensely. A trick I have used since I was a child when I can’t fall asleep is body scanning – tensing then relaxing each part of my body, starting with my toes and working my way up to my head. I generally find that I don’t make it past my knees before I’m asleep!

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  19. There is a great app called sleep cycle that tracks your sleep quality. If you put your smart phone on airplane mode, you avoid the wifi signals when you sleep. Tracking your sleep is fascinating!

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  20. Great tips!

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  21. Great post, Tammy. Thought you might like this too. 10 yoga tips for helping you fall asleep

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/30/yoga-for-sleep_n_3505226.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

    Reply
  22. Bob Whittemore

     /  July 2, 2013

    Tammy:

    I found this post timely and interesting. I know I need to mentally shut off in the evening, but sometimes I am just unable to do so, and pay the price all night long. I battle insomnia from time to time, and some things that work for me today won’t necessarily work next month.
    The person who someday invents a cure for insomnia — that works for everyone — will be quite wealthy indeed.

    “The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” W. C. Fields

    Reply
    • Bob, have you tried writing it down. There is some evidence that the act of getting it out of your head and onto paper helps to turn it off.

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  23. Great list! I’ve thought a lot about a ‘sleep diary’ now that I’m changing my diet so much (and sleep quality is always touted as a result of the ‘right’ diet) – but, as most best laid plans, an empty journal sits next to my bed untouched. Maybe this will motivate me to start it up (especially now that I’m fiddling with foods that could impact). Most notably I have noticed the impact of alcohol with age – rarely can I get more than 4-5 hours of sleep on a night when I’ve overindulged. Usually it is a Friday or Saturday night and, as you say, ‘making up for it’ just doesn’t work that way. It is nice to figure these patterns out and have the knowledge, understanding and confidence to turn down the last glass in favor of a good night’s rest!

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  24. Great advice! I need to remember about caffeine. I’m a night shift worker, so….

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  25. Always love the t3 reports – thanks for some good reminders and timely advice. I’ve just started a new job and I have to get used to getting up very early again. This is difficult for me as I’ve always been a night owl, but putting some of these into practice will help for sure.

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  26. Oddly enough, none of the sleep hygiene recommendations have ever really made much of a difference beyond no tea/coffee/etc after lunch and avoiding alcohol before bed. On the other hand, I’m one of those people for whom a magnesium supplement makes an enormous difference. While a recent systematic review declared them ineffectual, I suspect there are some of us who aren’t getting enough from diet or who have a quirk of absorption/metabolism that mean we require more. It is really wonderful to sleep well, and enough, consistently.

    Reply
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