How To Sleep Better

Top 10 Proven Strategies To Get More Z's

By , MS, CNS, MMC, Edited By PEERtrainer

1. Plan On A Good Nights Sleep

This might sound obvious, but when was the last time you actually planned to have a great sleep? If you are like most of us, probably never.

However, isn't good planning a key part of success in everything else you have done well? This article discusses a series of scientifically proven steps to help you meet your goal of a good nights sleep.

The first and probably most important component of getting a good nights sleep is to create a time buffer that allows you to power down. This helps you create calm during your hour before bed with a hot bath or whatever helps you unwind. Many of us are busy and race right into TV or a glass of wine.

However, if you plan on having a great nights sleep, make sure to plan on giving yourself this buffer zone where you start to relax. The science proves this as well. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, showed older people who dozed off to soothing music had significantly better sleep quality that cumulatively improved over time.

2. Get The Gadgets Out Of The Bedroom

This also sounds obvious, but light and noise can inhibit sleep. A study in the Journal of Sleep Research, for instance, showed that bedroom computers and cell phones contribute to poor sleep habits. Keep the room you sleep in at a cool temperature, invest in a good pillow and mattress, wear earplugs and an eye mask, and use an ambient-noise machine if you need it.

3. A Simple Eating Strategy To Help You Stay On Plan:

Sugar and high-glycemic foods can spike and crash your blood sugar, making you feel lethargic during the day and less likely to sleep optimally at night. If you are sticking to a good diet, this will not be a problem. But if you are falling off track or feeling tired, a simple adjustment can help you meet your GOAL of having a great nights sleep.

Stabilize your blood sugar with lean protein, green leafy vegetables, good fats, and high-fiber starches. And limit the Starbucks visits: large sample and population-based studies show habitual, regular caffeine intake can disturb sleep.

PEERtrainer Related Article: A Simple Diet Plan That Combines Portion Control, Nutrient Density and Allergen Elimination

4. How The Right Exercise Helps Ensure Your Sleep Goal:

A study in the journal Clinics in Sports Medicine concluded exercise proves "a healthy, safe, inexpensive, and simple means of improving sleep." For one, regular exercise creates deep, intense slow-wave sleep so you wake up rejuvenated. It also reduces sleep-inhibiting stress and anxiety. Limit physical activity to morning or afternoon hours, since evening exercise can make you feel alert rather than sleepy.

Again, this is nothing we don't know. However, when you exercise in the right way, you increase your motivation to exercise, which automatically helps tee you up for a better nights sleep.

5. Limit Naps to 30 minutes or Less

Shorter, colder days encourage napping, but a two-hour mid-afternoon siesta can make dozing off at night difficult. A study in the Journal Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine concluded that limiting naps to 30 minutes or less promotes wakefulness, improves learning ability, and enhances performance.

6. Definitely Try An Herbal Tea or Supplement

This is a biggie. Numerous studies, and vast historical evidence tell us that mildly sedative herbs can help you sleep better. For example, more than 20 double-blind clinical studies show valerian improves sleep quality and insomnia. Commercial teas sometimes combine valerian with other calming herbs like Chamomile. A study in the journal Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin concluded chamomile significantly decreased the time it takes you to fall asleep.

In addition to valerian root, herbs such as California poppy, kava kava, hops, skullcap and lemon balm are commonly used in popular natural sleep products. The minerals calcium and magnesium are also added to quality products because deficiencies in these two nutrients can cause people to wake up after only a few hours of sleep. Ashwagandha, which is a popular Indian root used to help people "deal" is also an ingredient of several top sleep formulas.

A quick search on Amazon shows that Power To Sleep Softgels, By Irwin Naturals contain a broad array of these recommended herbs, plus a small amount of melatonin. This product is highly ranked on the Amazon website.

As we discover more high quality, proven formulas in this area, we will link to them for you.

7. Be Super Mindful Of The Stimulants

Despite the myth that carbs and alcohol make you sleepy, that third glass of pinot noir or late-night freezer raid for Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey could prevent high-quality sleep. According to Drs. Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, alcohol, chocolate, tea, and even some commonly used medications contain stimulants that stall sleep.

Real World Tip: If you are one of those people who must have their evening wine or chocolate, a cup or two of herbal tea in the two hours before you go to sleep will help cut into the negative effects of any stimulants. And if you are serious about sleeping, this will be part of your power-down window.

PEERtrainer Related Article: What Foods To Remove From Your Diet To Lose Weight And Detoxify Naturally

8. Keep A Sleep Routine When You Can

Sleeping till noon on Sunday often results in a restless Sunday night followed by a groggy Monday morning. Consistency is key for sleeping well. A study in Sleep, for instance, concluded young children who had trouble falling and staying asleep greatly benefited from consistent bedtimes. Another study in that same journal showed elderly people experience less insomnia with consistent sleep routines.

9. Use Melatonin When Consistent Sleep Isn't Possible.

Last-minute deadlines, sick kids, flights to different time zones, and emergencies can interfere with your sleep routine. Supplementing with melatonin can help. A study in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms evaluated 86 shift-work nurses with sleep disorders. When one group took 5 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed, they significantly decreased sleep latency and improved sleep quality compared with the placebo group.

Word Of Caution: Melatonin should be used infrequently. According to recent studies, overuse of melatonin can interfere with the body's natural production. The popular sleep formula linked to above contains 2 mg of melatonin.

10. Foods To Put On The Dinner Menu To Help You Sleep

Foods that are high in tryptophan can help promote sleep. There have been at least 40 controlled studies that show that tryptophan helps reduce the time it takes to go to sleep, for people who have a hard time going to sleep.

The Turkey Myth! Many of us immediately think of turkey when reminded of tryptophan. However, while turkey contains measurable and impactful amount, all poultry contains the same amount. Egg Whites actually contain 4 times the amount, per 100 grams of food. Cod contains 3 times the amount.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, and helps to make seratonin, which in turn helps make melatonin naturally. Milk, cheese, eggs, fish and seeds are all high in this essential nutrient. Both pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are high in tryptophan.


The tips presented here are all based on some proven research. However, the single most important aspect of this advice is actually doing it. If you are having a hard time sleeping, you are going to have to focus on it and plan. If you keep a PEERtrainer log, write this as a goal down when you log in first thing in the morning! And if you have any tips not in this article or any questions, post them below- we want to hear from you.

Ask Us A Question!


Bormann JE, et al. Mantram repetition for stress management in veterans and employees: a critical incident study. J Adv Nurs. 2006 Mar;53(5):502-12.

Brunborg GS, et al. The relationship between media use in the bedroom, sleep habits and symptoms of insomnia. J Sleep Res. 2011 Feb 16.

Dhand R, et al. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2006 Nov;12(6):379-82.

Lai HL, et al. Music improves sleep quality in older adults. J Adv Nurs. 2005 Feb;49(3):234-44.

Mindell JA, et al. A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep. 2009 May;32(5):599-606.

Pizzorno J, et al., eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Ed. Vol. 2. Missouri: Elsevier, 2006. 1829- 1835.

Roehrs T, et al. Caffeine: sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Med Rev. 2008 Apr;12(2):153-62.

Sadeghniiat-Haghighi K, et al. Efficacy and hypnotic effects of melatonin in shift-work nurses: double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Journal of Circadian Rhythms 2008, 6:10.

Shinomiya K, et al. Hypnotic activities of chamomile and passiflora extracts in sleep-disturbed rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2005 May;28(5):808-10.

Stevinson C, et al. Valerian for insomnia: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Sleep Med 2000; 1: 91-99.

Takahashi M. The role of prescribed napping in sleep medicine. Sleep Med Rev. 2003 Jun;7(3):227-35.

Zisberg A, et al. Contribution of routine to sleep quality in community elderly. Sleep. 2010 Apr;33(4):509-14.

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