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Sharing a bedroom with my older sister as children, I drove the poor girl nuts. She (literally, no hyperbole) learned to go to sleep with her fingers in her ears. As a true blue night owl from my earliest memories (at two years old and still in diapers!) I well remember the struggle to fall asleep.
My entire life has been lived with relatively little sleep. People think that means I don't need it, but that's not accurate. I've really just learned to accommodate the reality.
Sam convinced me (against my will) to read a best-selling tome on sleep: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. If nothing else, it convinced me that ignoring my sleep habits isn't the smartest thing to do.
But sleep (like most health issues) is so personal, it's hard to find a workable individual solution.
Today, one of my children asked for sleep tips, so I reached out to a large group of online friends. The feedback was so varied, I decided to consolidate it categorically here.
I'll add here all the (non-prescription) ideas my friends shared, along with the few things that are helping me on this journey. Obviously you cannot (and should not!) do everything on the lists simultaneously. But, hopefully, you (and my daughter) will find a combination of things that will lead you to a sound night's sleep.
[Obvious disclaimer: I'm not a sleep expert or medical professional. I haven't tried remotely everything on these lists. I'm passing on what has helped others.]
Please share in the comments what has worked for you!
Manage Your Routines
Having a routine to prepare for sleep helps adults as well as children. It signals to your body and mind that it's time to wind down and rest. What works for you will be individual. Start with what works for others and build on the best sleep-inducing routine for you.
My Intentional Nighttime Routine
Two and a half years ago, I recorded my nighttime routine. It has changed a bit since 2019 (as has my body!) but it's still relevant to the process. Check out the associated vlog and post:
Planning Your Personalized Nighttime Routine
Others shared ideas that helped preparing for a good night's sleep. See what works for you.
- Start with the time you need to get up and work back 8–8.5 hours for your target in bed time
- Get up at the same time every day, no matter what
- Go to bed at the same time every day, no matter what (preferably before 11:00 pm)
- Deal with stress issues as they arise during the day
- Pray and meditate
- Soak in a magnesium bath
- Soak in a hot epsom salt bath (1 cup of salt in bath, soak at least 20 minutes)
- Write down issues of concern to relieve your mind of replaying them
- Write down big three tasks for the next day
- Stop eating 2–3 hours before bedtime (and don't overeat)
- Drink water 2 hours before bed
- Reduce blue light a number of hours before bed (try these magnified blue light blocking glasses!)
- Memorize good words: poems speeches, scriptures to recite until you fall asleep (have a positive mindset without spinning thoughts worries)
- Read a physical book or listen to a podcast (no screen)
- Rub on magnesium butter foot cream
- Hold something warm in your hands (cup of tea, etc.)
- Do a fun but calming non-electronic activity
Manage Your Health
Overall health, obviously, impacts the quality of your sleep. (And vice versa.) Take control of those things you can to make good sleep more likely.
- Get direct sunlight first thing every morning (preferably 20 minutes)
- Get outside and breathe fresh air
- Focus on healthy eating habits — don't overeat
- Keep your weight in a healthy range
- Exercise – move your body throughout the day; have regular strenuous workouts (I work out six days per week, walk daily, use a standing desk, and move as much as possible)
- Connect with people in real life
- Learn about how circadian rhythms impact sleep and health
- Mental Health
- Minimize unhealthy stresses and manage stress as it arises (breathing exercises; mantras; etc.)
- Make a plan to manage stressors that cannot be mitigated
- Learn about nose breathing for health and sleep
- Minimize caffeine and other stimulants
- Minimize alcohol
- Minimize sugar
- Minimize junk food
- Eat enough protein for dinner
- Focus on a low glycemic food plan
- Engage in earthing or grounding
- Soak in a mineral hot spring
- Foot zoning
- Try an intense juice cleanse
- EDMR therapy
- Non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation
- Hormone therapy can help with imbalances
- Root Cause Protocol addresses health from a cellular level
Manage Your Room
- Make sure your bedroom is clean, organized, comfortable, and relaxing (a couple of years ago, we did a full master bedroom makeover and it's perfect for us)
- Make sure your bedding is comfortable (not itchy, not too hot, etc.)
- Get a pillow that is comfortable (we have Panda Life pillows, many recommended the MyPillow)
- Try a firmer mattress
- Use a quality weighted blanket for snugness without overheating
- Use a grounding sleep mat (same principle as earthing, for your bed)
- No electronics in bedroom
- put cell phone in different room (especially to keep from scrolling if you wake up)
- Put a cool mist vaporizer in your room (this helps with both cooling and humidity; most today are ultra-quiet, but I prefered the loud clunky ones that lulled me to sleep as a child I was sick)
- Keep temperature between 60°–67°
- Keep your room as dark as possible
- Use a lavender pillow spray
Manage Your Mind
If you're like me, rumination, worry, and spinning thoughts can keep you wide awake for hours. All the concerns, disappointments, and fears blow up in my mind when it's time to sleep.
- The Military 2-Minute Sleep Method has remarkable success
- Mimic the deep, slow nose-breathing people typically do when they are asleep
- Recite positive affirmations
- Do breathing exercises (in for 7, hold for 7, out for 7)
- Use meditations with storytelling and sound
- Practice mindfulness meditations (such as a body scan)
- Watch ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos
- Don't do stimulating things in bed (text, TV, electronics, eat, etc.)
- Apply magnesium oil spray on painful areas or for general anxiety relief
Manage the Sounds
Some people like no sound at all. Some people like repetitive sounds or music. See what works best for you!
- Use ear plugs (typical foam moldable earplugs work for most people, but if you they fall out or you have other issues, silicone wax pillows work very well)
- I have a great white noise machine, but there are now many apps that serve the same function for much less
- Turn your ceiling fan up or get a small bedside fan (it gives you both white noise and coolness)
- Play rain, ocean, or nature sounds on a sleep app
- Listen to theta waves or binaural beats (tons of inexpensive apps are available)
- Play harp music or other music that relaxes you
- If app sounds don't help, try the sound or real running water with a bedside fountain
- Listening to this video really does it for me (no wonder it has over 33 million views!)
Manage the Light
Both daytime and nighttime light can impact your circadian rhythms and sleep cycles.
- Expose yourself to bright light (sunlight is best!) during the day
- Avoid screens 2–3 hours before bed
- Keep your room dark
- Manage blue light, which interrupts melatonin production the most (blue light blocking glasses are helpful, they even come with magnifying lenses)
- Use dim red lights for night lights
- Use black out curtains
- Wear an eye mask
Manage Sleeplessness and Waking Up Too Early
Few things are more aggravating than lying in bed staring at the ceiling. (Something I've been familiar with since I was two year old, no hyperbole.) Another issue many deal with is waking in the middle of the night and being unable to return to sleep. Here are some ideas for either situation.
- Pray for others
- List things you are grateful for
- Count backward slowly from 99 to 0
- Be mindful that you are still resting even if not sleeping
- Find a calming, soothing rhythm to picture in your head (riding a horse in slow motion, etc.)
- Get up and do a mild, non-screen activity (read a physical book, do a puzzle, knit/crochet)
Manage Sleep-Inducing Supplements
Some people find supplements to help with regular sleep. I would advise careful research on any of these, particularly whether or not they are habit forming and how they interact with any medications you are taking. Again, note that you would never try all of them at once. Use your best judgement and research to try one at a time and see what helps you.
I take the first two nightly and they have helped me. Occasionally, I take the third, but try not to unless I've been struggling for multiple nights in a row.
- Country Life Chelated Magnesium Glycinate – 400 mg
- Diphenhydramine (Sleep.eze, Benadryl, Nytol, Unisom, Sominex, ZzzQuil, Simply Sleep)
- Doxylamine Succinate (Unisom, ZzzQuil, Amazon, Kirkland)
- Sleep Optimizer
- Natural Vitality Calm
- Calcium & Magnesium Citrate with D3 and K2
- Magnesium Chloride
- SlowMag Calm + Sleep (Magnesium Citrate + Melatonin)
- Nuvana Shut Eye
- Bio Nite
- PrimePM Sleep Dropper
- BioOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough
- Lemon Balm
- Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5, also good for acne)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C (I prefer liposomal)
- Melatonin – 10 mg (sulingual liquid melatonin, recommended)
- GABA (Gamma-Aminobutryric Acid)
- L-Tryptophan with B6
- Adrenal Support
- Warm milk (this might take getting used to, but when I lived in England, it was a lifesaver!)
- Chamomile tea
- Romaine leaf tea (doesn't sound good, but it's all the rage)
- Tart cherry juice
- Two buffered aspirin
- Omega-3 oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Hemp FX Relax
- CBD, THC, or hemp gummies (I don't know the differences, but many suggested them)
- The four supplements below are not sleep inducing, but can help sleep indirectly:
Sleep (and lack thereof) is a hot topic. It's so impactful to all aspects of life. Fortunately, quite a bit of research has been done. There's also a lot of information available.
I'm writing this final paragraph after having awakened too early (for the umpteenth time) and being unable to go back to sleep. So I'm still looking for more resources.
Better Sleep, Better You is one I just found. It looks promising. I've added it to my list of reading it get my sleep in order and optimize health.
Some of my earliest memories are lying in the double bed I shared with my older sister, doing bicycles (with my heels slapping the plastic pants over my diaper). She was (trying to be) asleep. I was bored and wanted to play. My quest to figure out why sleep has been a struggle has been ongoing for over five decades. It's not over yet!
If all else fails, just reading this post should put you right out for the night! You're welcome.
My very sincere thanks to all those who contributed to this list. Personal experience is anecdotal, but often more practical and helpful than than clinical input.
The amount of material was overwhelming. Composing it into a reasonably useful organization was time consuming. I hope it is useful to you in some way.
Please add your own sleep successes and failures in the comments. We can always learn from the experience of others.
Alison Moore Smith is a 59-year-old entrepreneur. She has been (very happily) married to Samuel M. Smith for 38 years. They are parents of six incredible children and grandparents to two astounding grandsons.
She is the author of The 7 Success Habits of Homeschoolers.