Just in time for the back-to-school season, I have pulled together a list of 12 things you can do throughout your day to improve the quality of your sleep tonight. All based on the most current medical literature on sleep quality. In fact, I recently returned from a medical conference where one of the lectures was on repairing sleep deficits.
Something I was very interested in because I’ve always been a poor sleeper all of my life.
The take home point that really stuck in my mind, and now when I have a sleepless night I remind myself of this again and again so that I don’t stress out too much about it, was:
You are only ever one night away from a good night of sleep.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve struggled with insomnia or how big your sleep deficit is. Every single night is an opportunity to completely turn that around.
Because your last night’s sleep affects your next’s night’s sleep, when you have a really poor night just think of it as increasing your sleep pressure to make it all the more easy to repair your sleep the very next night.
The other thing that was comforting to me as well was this:
When you are laying there all night long, staring at the clock and counting down the hours as they dwindle in front of you and you get closer and closer to the time you have to get back up, yet you feel like you have not slept a single second… guess how much time you have actually been asleep?
Researchers in sleep labs have studied patients who are up all night, wide awake. Monitoring their brain activity on an EEG, researchers could see exactly what brain patterns they had every moment of the entire sleepless night.
What percent of the night do you think the brain has gone into a normal sleep pattern, even when you feel that you didn’t sleep a single minute?
10% of the night? 25% of the night? 50% of the night?
It turns out that when you are laying there all night long, your brain is actually catching sleep roughly 70% of the night. That is infinitely reassuring to me as I lay there, sure I got zero restorative sleep.
I remind myself that not only did I get a lucid, in-and-out, semi-rest where my brain unplugged for probably 70% of that sleepless night, but I also have an opportunity the very next night to turn my sleep completely around.
To that end, here is a list of my 12 favorite holistic ways to help you get back into a health sleep/wake cycle, in the exact order that you do them. Use in this suggested order and you can likely see an improvement in your first night!
12 Ways To Sleep Better Tonight:
1. Get Morning Light On Your Face
To easily correct your circadian rhythm, totally naturally, get into a habit of getting natural light on your face every single morning as early as possible outdoors.
20 — 30 minutes is ideal, but even just 10 minutes greeting the day will make a difference in your sleep that very night. Sometimes I can only have a cup of coffee in front of a well lit window for 5 minutes in the morning and even that short of a time period is still helpful to get that light on my face.
You could try sitting on a porch, balcony or front door stoop every morning, you could head outside on your lunch break to eat a picnic lunch outside mid-day, you might know which of the windows in your home are sunny and at what time of the day there is a sunbeam to sit in in the AM hours, even going for a drive is helpful, so if you have a morning commute this might be one of the perks of it! Might be the only perk, lol, but at least it helps give you morning light exposure.
Another idea that might be a good resource for you is to simply use a light box when you wake up.
In addition to spending a bit of time outside or in front of a well lit window each morning, I use my light box every day — especially crucial for me all fall and winter long — I aim for 20 minutes while I attend to my emails or package up orders.
Effective to not only boost your daytime energy levels (making you more active during the day, when it’s healthiest to be active!) a light box will also help you sleep better that night… naturally, without taking any medications or supplements at all.
Perfect for those who don’t want to risk any untoward side effects from taking pills, a light box does more than just correct your circadian rhythm, light boxes have been shown to directly treat depression as good as a Rx medication and even boost libido.
You can find the lightbox I love most right here.
2. Eat Or Take Probiotics Daily
The mind/gut connection is completely underrated. Decreased gut flora has been linked with anxiety and probiotics are now shown to be an effective treatment for both anxiety and depression, and as a bonus, they boost immunity.
Since probiotics are being aptly called “psychobiotics” because of their beneficial influence on brain function, it’s not much of a surprise to see that they also result in an improvement in sleep. Research published in 2019 in Frontiers In Psychiatry showed that after 6 weeks of taking probiotics, participants has significantly improved sleep quality. You can read this article right here.
My favorite way to reestablish a healthy gut balance is to kick start any probiotic regime with a 7 day intensive probiotic inoculation. I have these waiting for you, along with all the other supplements I suggest in this article, in one easy Sleep Restore Protocol that is waiting for you right here:
3. Get Grounded Outside During The Day
Experiments in the 1960s and 70s have helped elucidate how the presence of these low level DC energy currents produced by the earth helps human beings maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Test subjects who lived for a month in an underground bunker, completely removed from exposure to natural daylight, were able to maintain an internal synchronization to a day/night rhythm, even with the complete absence of sunlight.
But test subjects who lived for a month in an underground bunker that was additionally shielded from the low frequency DC energy of the earth (effectively shielding over 99% of the earth’s natural EMFs) became internally desynchronized, unable to maintain a consistent day/night rhythm.
In repeated experiments of over 100 test subjects, the only test subjects that became internally desynchronized were the ones that were shielded from the earth’s DC energy pulse, but never the ones that were shielded only from the sun. When a low frequency electromagnetic field was re-introduced to the earth shielded test subject’s living quarters, they began to re-synchronize to a healthy day/night rhythm once again.
Because of these experiments, we understand that it is not simply exposure to light, but additionally it is exposure to the earth’s low frequency electromagnetic fields that contributes to a healthy day/night pattern. This helps to make sense of why grounding helps to normalize sleep and boost daytime wakefulness, improving our circadian rhythm. Grounding studies have shown that being conductively connected to the earth deepens restorative sleep, normalizes cortisol, helps to relax muscles, and boost mood.
Even more interesting was a recent study — published in Healthcare on May 26, 2022 — looking at grounding and sleep quality. This study showed that just grounding for 30 minutes a day significantly improved sleep quality. This was a double blinded placebo based medical study (the gold standard) and really was helpful in defining that you do not necessarily need to sleep grounded to have improvement in your sleep from grounding — a 30 minute session every day was enough in this study to make a statistically significant improvement in sleep.
So if you can go outside and touch the earth outside for 30 minutes a day, do it. If you can go outside and touch the earth even for just a few minutes a day, do it. If you have one rock outside you can touch, one leaf on a tree or bush outside, one corner of a cement driveway or garage or one square inch of sidewalk you can stand on, you can be instantly grounded.
The effects of grounding the human body start instantly, so there is no time too short for getting grounded — if it can only be 30 seconds, do it. If it can be 30 minutes, all the better. In this video I run you through all the health benefits of grounding in order of how long you do it:
As fall approaches, and fall turns into winter, it can get cold out there, so I’ve written an entire healing blog post all about how to ground outside even as the weather turns cold I highly recommend clicking over here and running through all the different ideas I have waiting for you about how to touch to the earth outside long before it’s freezing cold out there:
4. Move Your Body Every Single Day
Walking each day is the one of the single best things you can do to prolong your life. You have to move your body daily. Walking has been shown to do everything from predict better remission rates during cancer recovery to prolonging life span to simply helping deepen sleep at night, which is why it’s included in today’s idea list.
Tons of medical studies have revealed the power of exercise and higher physical activity levels to improve sleep at night. Ones like this study, that found that exercise improved sleep in middle aged participants with sleep issues. And this one, which showed a direct correlation between exercise and improved sleep quality. And this one, which found that aerobic exercise not only effectively treated insomnia, but also decreased depressive symptoms and daytime sleepiness as well. In fact, this metanalysis found that the ideal exercise to most effectively treat sleep issues was muscle endurance training (using weights and/or body weight to create resistance while contracting muscles) plus walking.
Exercise can do more than improve your sleep, it can also protect your brain. Published just last month in July 2023 in The Lancet, researchers followed almost 9,000 patients for 10 years and found that folks who exercised the least had the most rapid rate of cognitive decline. Any activity level was better than no activity when it comes to protecting brain health.
Interesting to note, however, is that at any activity level, sleep was more important to brain health than exercising was. Even those who exercised at high levels but who didn’t sleep well had cognitive decline that totally and completely negated the benefit of exercise. In terms of brain health and healthy aging, if you have to choose between the two — choose sleep over exercise.
But it’s not one or the other… in general, if you increase your physical activity, you boost your sleep, so the benefits go hand in hand. Having high physical activity levels and optimal sleep created the best cognitive outcome 10 years later than any other combination of activity level and sleep duration.
So if I am not sleeping well at night I have to ask myself: did I truly move my body during the day? Increase your daytime activity levels and watch your nighttime sleep deepen. Want some easy ways to get a little extra movement into your day?
Hop over to this blog post I wrote for you for simple ideas to incorporate more activity into your day today.
5. Re-examine your work schedule
Of course we are well aware that night shift work is super hard on your body and creates all kinds of sleep disturbances. Swing shift, night shift, rotating shifts, about 16% of the United States works some type of shift work, particularly in healthcare, emergency response, transportation, hospitality and manufacturing industries. This can result in insomnia, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel issues, metabolic issues, and even higher cancer risk.
Some strategies to cope with shift work that has been found effective in reducing symptoms of shift work disorder include keeping food intake strictly to daytime hours (independent of when you are sleeping or working, just eating only in the daytime which may mean eating before a night shift and after a night shift but not during…) avoiding substance use (which was found to make symptoms worse) limiting night shifts to two nights in a row when possible, more days off in between shift work runs if more than two nights in a row are required, designing a schedule where there are a core 3 – 4 hours of sleep that are always the same, regardless of whether it’s a day or a night shift when possible, low dose melatonin 5 hours before bed on earlier nights, blue blocking glasses when commuting home in the morning after a night shift from the time they leave work until home in bed with the lights off (shown to keep brain in sleep mode to improve sleep upon returning home), exercise and/or light therapy to delay sleep, and napping for 1 – 2 hours about 3 hours before the start of the night shift.
But it’s not just shift work that interferes with sleep. Stress itself, even from a day job, can create sleep problems. Lower your stress at work in order to protect your nighttime sleep patterns. Not only re-examining work hours as we talked about above, but re-examinging job responsibilities and other strategies to lower stress loads all together. Sometimes something as simple as shifting your commute, decreasing background noise, delegating non-crucial tasks, and other small tweaks can greatly improve sleep at night.
Hop over here to read my blog post on how to decrease the negative impact that job stress can have on your life and re-consider or re-negotiate your work hours, your job load, your career path, your commute, your training requirements, and many more ideas right here.
6. Address Hypothyroid and Adrenal Issues:
If you have been through any kind of stressful situation or big life transition or change (even fun, positive ones like marriage, a new job, a new baby!) chances are your adrenals could use some TLC.
In fact, did you know that you can actually be in adrenal fatigue from birth? It’s true. But did you also know it’s fully reversible, no matter how long you’ve been living on fumes? That’s also true, and I will help you get there.
I have an absolutely FREE Adrenal Repair eBook you can download right here, and I’ve also written a great blog post that’s waiting for you here to jump start your journey, in case you don’t want to download or read a book. In this article I walk you through how to start addressing both adrenal and hypothyroidism issues, including a free quiz you can take right now to assess your adrenal function to see if you are even in adrenal fatigue:
7. Block Blue Light From Reaching Your Eyes
Ok I’m a mother of two adult children (oh my how the time has flown) and it’s just completely unrealistic for me to expect them not to use their computers to complete homework assignments in college or at work. Or to use their phone to stay in touch with friends or communicate with co-workers, or to use their televisions to catch up on their favorite TV shows or movies or sports games.
That said, you can make the glow from these screens less disruptive to circadian rhythm simply by the compromise of wearing blue light filtering glasses, like these. Ideal for shift workers (as we talked about in #5 above), those who work on computers, those who watch TV or look at cell phones in the two hour window before bed, and anyone who wants to boost their natural production of melatonin should seriously consider wearing blue light blocking glasses.
You can find blue light filtering glasses almost anywhere, but make sure they are dark yellow to orange, not light yellow, in order to block enough blue light that it actually makes a noticeable difference in your ability to fall asleep. Put them on for the two hours just before bedtime and you absolutely will notice a difference in your sleep quality. Here are the ones I recommend.
8. Take Melatonin At Dusk
I hear all the time from folks who say that melatonin doesn’t work for them. The most likely reason why is because they were taking them at the wrong time. You have to take melatonin as the sun is setting, not at night. This is the key!!! It must be at dusk, not 1 hour before bedtime (as instructed on the bottle of most melatonin supplements.)
Whether dusk is at 4 pm or 10 pm or any time in between, no matter what part of the season you are in or where you live, take melatonin as the sun goes down. Even if you plan to be up for hours and hours longer! Take it when it is natural for your body to have rising levels, and you will naturally relax through the evening and be ready for bed whenever you are able to hit the hay.
I always get emails from folks who have heard that taking melatonin decreases their own body’s production of melatonin. There are many medical studies looking at this, and it just isn’t true. This important study, published in the Journal Of Pineal Research, found that even doses up to 50 mg of melatonin nightly (50 mg!!!) did not change the exogenous production of the body’s own melatonin at all.
This study found that by taking melatonin for 6 months and abruptly stopping it, not only was there no rebound issues with sleep but actually there was continued residual benefit from the sleep correction that melatonin helped create.
And this fabulous overview of the recent medical literature on melatonin, just published in August 2022 in Nutrients suggests that melatonin is so important for the body that it is literally as important as Vitamin D — melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and has been found to help support eye health, cognitive health (helping to treat dementia) help with treating migraine, ADHD, tinnitus, autism, boosting reproductive health and fertility, protecting cardiac health, metabolic health, gut health, protecting against autoimmune disorders, and even cancer prevention and treatment. I highly recommend reading this medical literature review to see how important melatonin is to your health:
If you want to give melatonin a try to help correct your sleep, just don’t forget that the very best time to take melatonin is at dusk, as the sun starts going down. It doesn’t matter if you don’t plan to go to bed for several more hours, still take it at dusk, as that is our natural rhythm of melatonin production.
This one simple tweak can change everything for people who think melatonin doesn’t work for them. Take it as the sun goes down and you will find that no matter when you finally go to bed that night, you are so much more aligned with falling asleep than you would every have been only taking melatonin an hour before bed. If you take it at bedtime, your body has already missed the window of the natural circadian rhythm signaling that night is approaching.
I’ve found that patients can take a much much smaller effective dose of melatonin, sometimes as small as only 0.3 mg as long as they are taking it right at dusk. My favorite melatonin supplements, along with all the other supplements I’ve recommended in this article, are all waiting for you in my Sleep Restore Protocol here:
9. Take L-Theanine To Help Decrease Intrusive Thoughts At Night
If one of your sleep issues is overthinking or intrusive thoughts at night, then I have a supplement that will really help you. It’s a chewable tablet so that even if you are laying in bed and don’t want to get up to get a glass of water, you can chew it right in bed and start feel those worries release.
How? By giving the body a dose of L-Theanine at bedtime. L-Theanine crosses the blood brain barrier and converts to GABA (the brain’s soothing neurotransmitter) to help relax over active thoughts. A supplement called GABA Trex is my favorite L-theanine supplement, because it is a chewable tablet and doesn’t require water, which means you can leave it on your nightstand and chew one right before bed if it is just one of those nights where your brain is feeling restless… or chew one if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
Like all the supplements I mention in this article, you can find my favorite GABA Trex in my in my Sleep Restore Protocol here:
I keep repeating the link to the Sleep Protocol because I get so many emails asking where to find these supplements and which supplements to take (as well as where to purchase them, since there are so many places, like Amazon, where they don’t properly store supplements so that by the time you get them in hand they are deactivated and a waste of money) so that’s why I want to be sure you know a reliable source for supplements in case you don’t already have one!
If you have a different online supplement shop you love, you still view this protocol and then find all the same supplements in your preferred shop.
10. Sleep Grounded Nightly
To take your sleep resonance to the next level, you can combine your brain’s healing alpha sleep state with the Earth’s soothing Schulman frequency (as talked about in #3 in this list above) by grounding the body when sleeping with in indoor grounding tool.
While we sleep, we cycle through alpha sleep states and REM sleep states and each time we do we are held in beautiful resonance with the Earth’s healing energy. This is one of the reasons why getting a good night’s sleep impacts our entire body from head to toe… because high quality sleep does everything from preserve our brain volume and function to enhancing weight loss!
I have invested a great deal of time and research creating the highest quality, most reliable, eco-friendly and ethically created grounding tools, crafted by hand right here in the USA. Tools like my eco-friendly organic hemp Grounding Mattress Panel, my Grounding Mattress Topper for full bed surface area grounding (ideal if you have multiple sleepers — including pets you want grounded — in one bed), or sleep curled up with the warmth of my Organic Grounding Hot Water Bottle on your tummy or by your feet… warm, comforting, reliable grounding… complete with a machine washable cover.
During the day, ground outside, and during the night, consider sleeping grounded. You can find all of my grounding sleep solutions in the Indoor Grounding section of my Grounding Boutique right here.
11. Decrease EMF Exposures In Your Bedroom
Decreasing the disruption to your sleep at night by decreasing your EMF exposures in your sleeping area, removing those you can remove, decreasing those you can decrease, and shielding from those you can’t do anything about — this will help your body truly restore it’s health during sleep.
I have a free guide to walk you through how to start protecting your health from EMFs right here — even doing just one thing, like turning your WiFi router off at night for a few hours can make a noticeable difference in your sleep. On this page I walk you through tons of ideas on reducing your exposures as well as guides on how to discuss EMF sensitivity with your in person physician, labs to request, supplements you can take to reduce the neuroinflammation that EMFs create (on reason you get insomnia and brain fog, so these supplement can really help!)
If you’ve done those things and still find yourself too wired to sleep, the next step would be to consider sleeping in a shielding sleeping bag or between a shielding cover above you and a mattress shield below you for 360 degrees of protection to all of your internal organs. I show you in this video here how this dramatically decreases the radiation to your body all night long, for hours on end.
Ahh… the relief is immediate. You can feel your entire autonomic nervous system relax and appreciate the break from the onslaught of EMFs that are pervasive across the globe and in every corner of your life. Even though it’s nearly impossible to fully remove EMFs from our environment, it’s really helpful to at least get an 8 hour break from them at night.
You can find all of my favorite shielding tools right here:
12. Get Up And Drink A Warm Magnesium Drink If You Still Can’t Sleep
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and because it helps your muscles relax and release, it is a wonderful nighttime drink.
On nights when I am feeling tense (especially helpful for anyone who grinds their teeth at night, has neck and shoulder tension, or has restless legs!) instead of laying in bed growing more and more frustrated, I break out of that rut by making myself a hot cup of water with a teaspoon of powdered magnesium drink mix stirred into it.
There are lots of different magnesium powdered drink mixes, of course I’ve put my favorite one in my Sleep Restore Protocol right here. Just get up, take 10 minutes to sip your warm magnesium beverage, then settle back in and literally feel your muscles relax as you sink into bed more deeply.
There, isn’t that so much better?
Bonus: Keep A Dream Journal
There are so many benefits to your body and mind and spirit from getting deep restorative sleep. And one of the very best benefits is that you can process and release stress while you sleep!
If you find dreams fascinating, keeping a dream journal is a fun project to undertake during winter, a time of hibernation anyway. I encourage you to sleep with it right by your bedside, so that you can wake up and â€” while you are still in that open, groggy, free flowing, intuitive hypnogogic state â€” record any feelings, thoughts, images, memories, impulses, sights, sounds, topics, ideas, etc… that you got from your dreams the night before.
There are lots of different types of dreams… some are simply to release old issues you are done with, some are just processing types of dreams to enhance memory and recall, some are about subconscious fears releasing… so it’s not necessary to take all of your dreams seriously or focus on ones that are disturbing or frightening. If you find yourself waking from a truly frightening dream, it’s really important to remember that this likely arose from deeply held or suppressed fears or worries or anxieties that you have held onto because of past experiences, traumas, hurt feelings, past life wounds, etc… and just to let them go.
But if you do wake up from a dream and feel it is symbolic, you might want to have a dream journal by your bedside to jot it down if there is one specific animal, situation or event that you are left with upon waking… for example, you battled a snake all night long, you were swept away in a flood, you watched a mystical creature swooping down breathing fire all around you. These dreams arise from your subconscious and they are the brain’s way of dealing with big themes that are going on in your life. While they can be informative — often full of fear or violence or sexuality or power struggles or other dynamics you are trying to sort and release in your life, I think of these dreams as more an intellectual exercise in processing and releasing. These are fun and interesting to record and might give you insight into how your mind is working on certain issues, but I would take this the same way you deal with your monkey mind during waking hours… with a bit of humor and not so seriously!
Every once in a while you might be lucky enough to get a dream that is incredibly calming and centering. These are the dreams where are you connecting with something bigger than yourself… dreams about speaking to someone who has passed away, or seeing a long deceased pet, or a conversation with a spiritual guide or teacher, dreams of flying or astral travel or falling or riding elevators or going through tunnels or attending meetings or being a student learning incredible things. What is important to remember about these dreams are the physical sensations and *felt sense* that you get from the dream… write down any directives or information that you wake with before it’s lost.
Keep your dream journals by your bedside so you can immediately record your experience in these types of dreams — they are lost very easily and forgotten, just like your intuition speaks quietly and can be easily overshadowed by the mind… these Divinely Inspired dreams are beautiful and centered and more quiet than your daily activities of life and are easily over ridden by the events of the day.
Do you want to hear about the coolest study I’ve seen in a while?
Published in Current Biology on April 12, 2021, researchers interacted with sleeping subjects and showed, for the first time ever, that during REM sleep it’s possible for folks who are lucid dreaming to perceive and answer questions — in other words, the sleeping folks had real-time communication with the researchers. They were able to answer yes-no questions, compute math problems, and express replies through intentional eye movements and facial muscle movements.
This is the first documentation of two way communication with lucid dreamers. You can read this fascinating study for yourself right here:
I hope this information helps you positively impact your circadian rhythm, helps you boost your mood, remedy your sleep, even protect the longevity of your lifespan.
A good night’s sleep is absolutely crucial to maintaining wellness — one thing is for certain — your body needs good sleep to function over a lifetime!
xoxox, Laura Koniver MD