If you have ever had trouble sleeping you are well aware of the consequences of lack of sleep: fatigue,decreased brain function, cognitive decline, skin problems, insulin resistance, obesity, increased risk of major disease and accelerated aging. A good night sleep is paramount in maintaining good health and preventing aging. Here are some important tips to help increase deep sleep:
1. Your circadian rhythm is your internal biological clock triggering hormones like melatonin that
we need for adequate sleep. Sunlight is required to produce the melatonin we need at night.
The best time to get this dose of sunlight is first thing in the morning. So going for a walk in the
morning is the best way to get a good sleep at night. Cloudy day? No worries, there are still
melatonin producing rays.
2. No screen time for two hours preceding bedtime. Take a warm bath, read a book, and do some
3. Make your room pitch black, or as dark as possible. Black out curtains, getting rid of night lights
and electronics with lights on them, and wearing a sleep mask or hood all help. You will not
produce melatonin when there is light in the room.
4. Eating late at night dramatically affects your sleep. Try to finish your supper by 7 and avoid late
night munching. Eating something sugary leads to a blood sugar spike and then a crash that
triggers a release of adrenaline which keeps you up until 3 p.m.
5. Avoid caffeine, alcohol or drug use before 2 p.m. All suppress REM sleep.
6. Go to bed before 10 p.m. for better quality sleep and a balanced circadian rhythm. Try to be
consistent regarding going to bed and getting out of bed times.
7. Exercise regularly but no aerobic exercise before bed.
8. Drink herbal teas before bed such as chamomile, valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, talsa or
holy basil, kava or lavender. I rarely recommend a particular product, but I do like Distinctly
Tea’s Good Night tea blend. I have found it to be the most effective. Their website is
9. A warm glass of milk and some ashwaganda are my go to, but there are many supplements that
help sleep. Magnesium, melatonin, passionflower, valerian root, lemon balm, GABA, L-
Theanine (from green tea), Vitamin B6 and Lactam ( bioactive milk-derived peptides) are some
10. After my last restorative yoga class one of my students told me she slept 9 hours straight and
woke up pain free for the first time in months. We need to activate the parasympathetic
nervous system (versus sympathetic, fight or flight, system) in order to sleep and heal. Come to
a class or start a home practice of restorative poses before bed. (Read previous blog on
restorative yoga at susannej.com)
Getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended by most professionals but the quality of sleep is even more important. During deep sleep our body and mind renews, heals and regenerates. This is important for our cells, brains, energy level maintenance, and for strengthening our immune system. I hope these tips help. Sweet dreams.
Susanne Jakubowski is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, Thai Yoga Therapist, and cancer survivor.