7 + 7 Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday Apr 4 | BY |
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get better sleep
Bonus Tip: Make sure your native camping guide tells the gringos that everything freezes overnight at 15,000 feet!

Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and Chernobyl—all disasters caused at least in part by someone who was sleep deprived.

Our current obesity epidemic? Also partly a result of lack of sleep.

You know that it doesn’t feel good to be tired, but recent scientific studies have shown that chronic lack of sleep can be extremely detrimental to your health. Fortunately, this is one health challenge you can definitely overcome.

Health Hazards of Limited Sleep
If you’re gaining weight, it could be because you’re not getting enough sleep. A Mayo Clinic study showed that sleep deprivation led to a significant increase in food intake. Sleep loss is believed to affect the body’s hormones, triggering the need to consume more food.

Worse, sleeping consistently for fewer than six hours a night may cause an early death. Researchers analyzed data from 16 separate studies and found that those who got less than six hours a night were 12 percent more likely to experience premature death.

Other consequences of sleep loss include:

  • Lowered concentration and ability to learn
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression and diabetes
  • Forgetfulness
  • More wrinkles, fine lines, and aging effects on the skin
  • Impaired judgment

For most people, a few changes in daily routine are enough to encourage 7-8 hours a night on most nights. If these tips don’t work for you, try the next seven. If all else fails, be sure to check with your doctor for other solutions.

  1. Exercise: Scientists have even found that twenty minutes of cardio four times a week can change poor sleepers into good sleepers.
  2. Same time every night. A regular sleep schedule will do wonders for your ability to nod off when you want to. Incorporating a regular “before sleep” routine can also help. Power down your electronic devices, avoid alcohol and caffeine, turn the lights down, and try taking a warm bath, reading, listening to calming music.
  3. Create a comfortable sleeping atmosphere. Get the TVs, computers, cell phones, and pets out of your bedroom. Most people sleep best in a slightly cooler, dark room that’s quiet. Get the best mattress you can afford, as all the other tips won’t make any difference if you’re mattress doesn’t properly support your body.
  4. Keep a notebook by your bed. Use it to jot down all those concerns that run around in your head and keep you up at night.
  5. Take smart naps. Naps can help recharge you, but you have to be careful not to let them go on too long. If you’re suffering from insomnia, skip the naps, but if you need to make up for lost sleep, choose a nap over sleeping in.
  6. Eat for healthy sleep. Big meals before bedtime can work your stomach overtime, which can keep you up. Heavy, rich, and spicy foods are particularly problematic. If you feel you need a snack before bed, try those that contain the sleep-promoting chemical tryptophan—like a half turkey sandwich, small bowl of whole-grain cereal, banana, or low-fat milk or yogurt.
  7. If you can’t sleep, don’t just lie there. Try deep breathing or meditation. If you can’t get back to sleep after 15 minutes, try a quiet, low-light activity like reading a book (no computers!) or having a cup of herbal tea.

When these basic tips don’t help, try the following:

  1. Melatonin. 3 mg (or less) 30 to 60 minutes before bed can help you more quickly adjust to changes in time zones. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your body that triggers sleep cycles.
  2. Valerian. This herb is available today in Germany, Italy, and other European countries as an insomnia remedy. It takes a few weeks to get into your system—take it about an hour before bedtime. This one can have side effects so it’s not a “forever” remedy. Use it only long enough to get into the habit of sleeping better.
  3. Chamomile. A cup of chamomile tea before bed has long been known to help people relax and become drowsy. If it works for you, you can use this one as long as you like. Other possibilities include hops, passionflower, lemon balm, and ashwagandha.
  4. Lavender. Used in aromatherapy to encourage sleep, lavender has long been a folk remedy for insomnia. Put a sachet under your pillow, place a couple drops of the essential oil on a handkerchief, or use it in a warm bath before bed.
  5. Acupuncture. Scientists at the university of Pittsburgh found that acupuncture may help with insomnia.
  6. Vata imbalance. In ayurvedic medicine, insomnia is blamed on a “vata” imbalance, or an imbalance in the nervous system. Stress in your life can lead to this imbalance. Check with a practitioner for a possible solution for you, which may include the application of warm oil (sesame, almond) on the head and feet.
  7. Feng shui. Your inability to sleep may be related to the arrangement of furniture in your bedroom. Be sure your bed is not placed in the corner or next to a window, and when lying in bed, you should be able to face the doorway.

Do you have trouble sleeping? What works for you?

* * *

Photo courtesy brilliantdandy via Flickr.com.

Paul Taylor, “Study Suggests That Sleep-Deprivation Can Lead to Excess Eating and Weight Gain,” The Globe and Mail, March 15, 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/new-health/conditions/health-sleep/study-suggests-that-sleep-deprivation-can-lead-to-excess-eating-and-weight-gain/article2370800/?utm_medium=Feeds:%20RSS/Atom&utm_source=Life&utm_content=2370800.

Peter Walker, “Sleeping for Less Than Six Hours May Cause Early Death, Study Finds,” The Guardian, May 5, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/may/05/sleep-study-premature-death.

“UPMC Study Tests Acupuncture as Insomnia Remedy,” WTAE.com, Pittsburgh, April 7, 2010. http://www.wtae.com/r/23082683/detail.html.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Sue Rushford says:

    I have the same prob – I fall asleep probably before my head hits the pillow, but even if I get a full 8 hours of sleep, I never feel like I’m ready to get up – I think it’s in part because of the bright street lights – so I just ordered a black sleep mask from Amazon – should arrive any day now – I seriously have a feeling that will help cause I’m pretty sure it’s best if you sleep in pitch black. The other tips sound great, too, of course – I especially like the chamomile and lavender ideas 🙂

  2. Sema says:

    I do have insomnia that I developed because I have moved into noisy South California where the apartment complexes are so badly built constructions that I just call them expensive fancy tents. I can hear my neighbor talking, snoring even as I am standing in the room. Their non-stop slamming in the early mornings are like earthquakes and I could go on. So because of them my sleep got interrupted for 2 yrs long and I had developed insomnia.

    I have tried all the above recommended things the only thing that seems to work only slightly going to sleep at the same time. Also getting sunshine directly onto my skin 30 minutes a day that promotes vitamin D creation as low level vit D can cause many problems amongst them stress. Stress also is a big part of having insomnia but unfortunately not sleeping makes it even harder to bear. As stress level rises and the adrenaline gland starts to give up functioning properly, magnesium levels drop quite a bit and depleted magnesium means no sleep. So I started to have a Magnesium Glycinate at least 400mg broken up into kefir before going to bed and eat a sprouted grain toast with coconut butter. Do not eat too much but to make sure I do not wake up as my blood sugar level drops at night as usually that is what happens to people who cannot stay asleep. If my blood sugar level drops no more sleep for me that night. Also if not going to sleep at the same time I am wide awake and cannot fall asleep.

    Having my body temperature warm including my feet my my head cooler out of the quilt works better for me. Definitely a dark room that I have also padded with base traps that trap majority of the noise, however they are not able to eliminate random slamming or major noise from the everyday landscaping equipment use but the only life in South California if one rents is to work in a daytime job otherwise you can pretty much forget sleeping unless you are a super deep sleeper.

    I hope these tactics will help you out, sure they did help me however it takes just as long to get rid off the insomnia than developing it and things only work really if one can fully get rid off stress!

    All the best!


  3. Velda says:

    Typically, I do not have a problem going to sleep or staying asleep. On rare occasions, I will have difficulty. When that happens, it is just frustrating to me. I have tried a couple of things, like deep breathing, praying, watching TV, etc. I should keep some Camomile tea around, just for the rare occasions that it happens.

    Great information, Kevin. Thank you!!

  4. wendy green says:

    hey guys! my very good friend (geraldine o’keefe) and brilliant herbalist and perfumer (world respected in her field) has introduced her first “sleep” drink. world class, top notch, she is even using glass bottles.

    right up your ally. why have i not thought about introducing her to you?


    jungle love!

  5. Hello, I manufacture an all natural sleep tonic. It is based in Organic Aloe Vera water and it is infused with time-honored and tested herbs. Please visit my site http://www.escapetosleep.com Thank you Wendy Green for introducing us.

    My contact info is on the website.
    I look forward to speaking
    Sleep Well, Live Longer!

  6. Hello, so nice to know about you.
    I look forward to speaking with you.

    Sleep Well, Live Longer!
    Thank you Wendy Green

  7. Tara Burner says:

    I sleep 3 1/2 – 4 hrs a night and that’s what works best for me…
    as soon as I lay down I’m out but I automatically get up at dark o clock! no matter what time I go to sleep (usually midnight-1) but love the info!!!

  8. Gale says:

    I have had problems sleeping since my hubby got sick and died on me. I tried melatonin and I had horrible leg cramps, restless sleep and more; I did research and it can cause nightmares with kids.
    I switched to Valerian and it helps me sleep through the night, not necessarily get to sleep. It’s nice to sleep the whole night and not in 3 hour stints.

  9. Thomas says:

    I don’t have a problem with getting enough sleep . . . getting up early is another matter. 🙂

    I thought these BBC articles were interesting on the sleeping habits of different people:



  10. Darlene says:

    I used to sleep wonderful………until they installed a SMART METER on my house. Now I feel my heart pound, my blood rush and sleep is very difficult. I’m pretty upset about this and am hoping that I can get it removed. I used to sleep 8 solid hours, and pretty deep too. Now I can’t fall asleep, I wake up often, and don’t reach deep sleep any more. Talk about exhausting! EMF’s are BAD!

  11. Deb says:

    I have had problems with insomnia that turned out to be caused by hidden food allergies. I would lie in bed just feeling my heart pound. It’s a phenomenon related to the Coca Pulse Test for food allergies.

    The product that helps me most with this condition is a combination of Chinese herbs. It is made by Seven Forests. It’s called Zizyphus 18. I have not seen it in stores. I buy it at my holistic doctor’s office. I have seen it on the web.

    When I avoid the culprit foods, I sleep well.

    Too bad the holistic doc misdiagnosed the condition. He said I just worry too much. Oh well, nobody is right all the time. So I had to figure this out for myself. Again.

  12. ELLEN says:

    Thank you for the tip on the TCM! I’ve an insomniac forever it seems. I am off the sleeping pills for the most part and on melatonin 9 mg but that works only intermittently. I have tried all the herbal supplements but yours is the first hint for traditional Chinese medicine. I hope it works for ME.
    Thanks, Ellen

  13. Tara says:

    Good article. And thanks Sema – I might try your tips too.

    Wearing good soft silicone earplugs help a lot when you partner snores if that is a contributing factor to waking up during the night.

    If sleep apnea is something you suffer from, then drinking any alcohol after 4 pm will make it worse. Regular consumption can cause the relaxed throat permanent damage so that apnea becomes a permanent condition.

  14. Colleen says:

    What is working best for me is tart cherry juice, about 2 oz, 1/2 – 1 hr before bed. How easy after trying various valerian and melatonin concoctions.

  15. Mist says:

    I use black-out curtains and cover up the digital clock so my room is pitch-dark when I sleep.

    Minimizing electromagnetic radiation exposure also helps. So turning off power strips/electronic equipments and appliances and keeping them as far away as possible help. As far as exposure from outside sources, such as smart meters and cell phone towers, using metal shields (aluminum mesh screen, aluminum foil, metallic fabric) can help. There are videos on YouTube with demos on shielding applications.

    Negative ions also help. Use salt lamps, wear quartz crystals or place them under the pillow or in the pocket. Various mineral stones work, so experiment and find one that suits you (avoid black onyx as it causes nightmares.) Crystals and mineral stones also block electromagnetic fields.

    Another source of negative ions is Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), so take a foot soak, bath, or sponge onto skin. Epsom salt also promotes pleasant dreams.

  16. Maria says:

    I use hemi-sync mp3’s to go to sleep by, when I am too elevated
    at bed-time. They balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
    It is rare that I am ever awake before the music stops!

  17. Maria says:

    OOps! I meant to say:
    “It is rate that I am ever awake ‘when’ the music stops!”

  18. shine says:

    i havent had a good nights sleep in 20 years i dont think..due to chronic fatigue/adrenal fatigue..i sleep in anything from an hour to five min spells waking and sleeping or sometimes not been able to get back to sleep for a few hours.
    tried all the usuals and nothing hits the sides..once got up to 8 times recomend does of some herbal sleep remedy – zilch

  19. nina says:

    Sorry, Kevin, but I found it just a bit amusing that you would have this sleep article just a few months before your sleep patterns are going to change for years to come(probably)! Maybe not. Maybe you guys will be lucky. But, I’m thinking that Johnny 5 will be the least of your sleep disturbances.
    Just sayin’. Luck to both of you for the next 18 years or so!

  20. Marie says:

    I have had major sleep problems for over 20 years. I have tried everything! The 2 things that have helped me most are the alcohol-free liquid extract of Passionflower and recently, Ashwagandha has helped a lot. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb and works best if used for a month or so and then take 4-6 weeks off. I have given samples of Ashwagandha to friends with insomnia and it has helped everyone to some extent. It’s worth a try!

  21. Sema says:

    Hi Tara,

    I did try all that is in Kevin’s article and much more- but besides what I have mentioned nothing have helped. 🙁 I do sleep in a pitch black room, cool temperature. My partner does not snore, it is my downstairs neighbor I hear. I can even hear him if I use white-noise or audio books at max level just not to hear him so I stopped using it and moved to my second bedroom to sleep. Can you believe that? Crazy isn’t it? I feel like I am camping out in my own apartment.

    I rarely consume alcohol I am the good example of healthy eating and lifestyle since I am a nutritionist -though not practicing now, but I do keep my knowledge up to date. I do not drink caffeine or anything such that and my sugar consumption is very low, do not smoke etc. My only problem is my hearing is good! ;):) Earplugs do not block out loud sudden noise like slamming that shakes the floor under me, chainsaw, leaf-blower and lawnmowers on an every day basis nor his snoring. I tried all of those every one that is out on the market! They just made my ear irritated from sleeping in them non-stop. I think apartment buildings should be better built to give more privacy and definitely an every day 8-4 landscaping tool use should be banned for noise and air pollution as well!

    To Darlene: I totally understand you as I have to listen to one that makes a loud noise! I had some agressive thoughts about removing it myself sometimes from the wall. ;):)

    To Deb: I will check out your chinese herb though I did try some chinese medicine already but I haven’t had a chance to run into this herb just yet.

    Thank you all for contributing some answers!

  22. Robin says:

    Seems most articles on sleep problems focus on generalized insomnia. I have Restless Legs Syndrome and Periodic Leg Movement Disorder, no sleep apnea. Restless legs syndrome so bad must take opiates and doctor wants me to take Methadone! No way! Am always searching for natural answers.

    Magnesium is calming, and I take a lot of it–orally and use Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil from LL Clay. It helps a lot, but not enough to get me off the horrible drugs.

    Also take lots of D3, folate, antioxidants, omega-3, melatonin. Bioidentical progesterone helps. Considering tryptophan, but have to find high quality form.

    Also try to meditate, a friend is also taching me EFT.

    No sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gettng reqady to lose the gluten–don’t eat that much anyway…

    Dark room, cooler temp. at night really helps.

    Trying to find detox/rehab to get off drugs, but must find some kind of treatment for the disorders. They are a result of problems with the neurotransmiter dopamine. On Medicare, holistic detox/rehab programs don’t accept it!

    Kev or Annmarie, other readers, if you know of any philanthropics that help people with this kind of problem–not being able to afford getting into good detox program, I would love to hear from you!

    I am so doped up, still not sleeping well. And the drugs cause depression. I want my life back! So I can Pay It Forward again!

  23. Sema says:


    Great articles on BBC! I loved them! Thank you for sharing!

  24. Sema says:

    Robin: go to podcasts and download Dishing up nutrition or their website http://www.weightandwellness.com/ they are very knowledgable they maybe able to advise you something. I really hope so!

    Wish you all the best!

  25. Jonel says:

    I too had horrible insommnia until I too discovered that it was food allergies!!!! Who would have thought! If nothing else is working, I would try an elimination diet and record what you are eating! Found out that grains, eggs, and red meat are the culprits for me!

  26. Robin says:

    Sema: Thank you! You are so very kind. I went to the website (Neat site!), was not sure which program you are referring to. Any one in particular? I would love to do a consult, but I cannot afford that on disability! So frustrating not to be able to find holistic help I can afford.

  27. Sema says:

    Robin: I would just contact them anyhow see how they can help you they seem to be really nice ppl might be able to work out sthg for you. 🙂

  28. Em says:

    Having the room pitch black is what really helps me fall asleep fast.

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