5 ways to get the best sleep your body deserves
A good night’s sleep is one of life’s great pleasures, but there's more to it than just easing into dreamland and feeling good when you rise.
Simply put, without good sleep, there’s no good health. Period.
With the end of Daylight Savings Time on the horizon, it's important to understand why this basic bodily function is essential to your vitality.
So let us help you dance into dreamland and reap the health benefits of getting a restful and recharging night’s natural sleep—every single night.
The health benefits of good sleep
Sleep is not a “luxury”.
Your body and your mind devour good sleep as if it were food. Just as with good food, every cell in your body craves sleep and benefits from it.
A good night’s sleep means a minimum 7–8 hours, with no interruptions.
That gives your body time for your muscles, tissues, and bones to relax and repair themselves, and for your heart to relax from its daytime “I’m alert!” state.
A good night’s sleep means no intermittent waking—every minute of on-and-off sleep you experience throughout the night is a missed opportunity to get the restful sleep your body needs to heal and stay healthy.
What causes “undersleeping?”
If good sleep is so important, why is it so hard to get? Why are nearly one-third of Americans chronic “undersleepers”?
Working adults often sacrifice their natural sleep on the altar of productivity. Many overachievers even boast about rising to the top by sleeping only 4 hours a night. It is no surprise, then, to discover that "winners" are often lonely at the top—hardly anyone survives that sleep-deprived journey.
But even happily employed, non-working, or retired people can fall prey to poor sleep. After all, who isn’t:
...emotionally stressed coming off a year of isolation and upheaval?
...tired due to side effects from meds known to also impede sleep?
...or even neuro-physiologically spent from battling environmental toxins all day?
We all need all the restful sleep we can get. To that end, here are our favorite tips to help you get all the sleep your body craves—and deserves.
5 Ways to Get the Best Sleep Your Body Deserves
1) Eat for healthier sleep
Eat for good health, and you will be eating for good sleep.
It's true, eating fresh, local, organic, unprocessed foods are tied to wellness and longevity. But it is also important to note that some otherwise worthy food types are linked to poor sleep.
To get better ZZZ's, limit or avoid the following at dinner time:
Fats, carbs, and naturally occurring sugars
These have their place in a healthy diet, but the evening meal isn’t one of them. Foods high in fat are especially difficult to digest and impede your body’s ability to rest. So that burger can be OK at lunch, but not at night.
There is good reason for the use of “toxins” in this food category. While these chemicals (usually amino acids) “enhance” the flavor of processed foods, they can also diminish the quality of your sleep. To improve sleep, avoids foods that include monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, or casein.
Be aware also that giving your digestive system extra work to do makes acid reflux and heartburn more likely—especially while you’re lying down.
Consider including fiber in your evening meal. It aids digestion, and more importantly, helps regulate your blood sugar. (Even non-diabetics should avoid sugary, high-carb foods that cause blood sugar spikes.)
And try adding foods high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid found only in food or supplement form, to your menu.
Tryptophan does many good things and aids your body's natural production of serotonin—a mood-elevating hormone which helps regulate good sleep. So plan dinners that include tryptophan-rich nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. Lots of great choices.
2) For more restful sleep—move
Another one of life’s great pleasures is how good you feel after exercising. Depending on how much you’ve challenged yourself, your pulse is faster, you’re taking deeper breaths, your face is flushed and glowing.
That’s exactly how kids look after recess, right? Let that be a lesson.
Children don’t have to be forced to exercise—they have to be forced not to. When they run, jump, and tumble, they’re just doing what their bodies know they need.
When kids do it, it’s called playing. When adults do it, it’s called exercising, and worse, “working out.”
And who wants to work to get stay healthy? Instead, any time you do some outside your normal routine, think of it as “playing out.”
From getting off the couch or chair and walking around for a few minutes to walking briskly around the neighborhood to a treadmill, pedaling a stationary or real bike—it’s exercise.
So how do you feel after “playing”? Comfortably tired, of course.
This type of tiredness can boost sleep quality—as much as 65 percent in one study of people 18–65 who exercised for at least 150 minutes per week, or around 20 minutes a day, improved their sleep dramatically.
Huge bonuses here—exercisers were also 68 percent less likely to have leg cramps while sleeping, and 45 percent less likely to have trouble concentrating when tired.
Sex is also great exercise, by the way…which gives new meaning to "never stop grinding."
3) Meditation over medication
Let’s first be clear on what “meditation” means. Yes, there are monks in distant lands who meditate in silent solitude for hours every day. There are millions more who practice “mindful meditation,” wherever they happen to be, for mere minutes a day.
That can be you, and we urge you to hop to it. You, too, can enjoy the amazing results researchers are finding among patients who choose to meditate more and meditate less.
A 2015 study taught mindful meditation to one group of middle-aged and older adults. Another group attended a class that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits.
The group that learned how to meditate reported:
- Reduced insomnia
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduced depression
No meds, free of charge, and great results. Other studies have linked meditation to reduced risk of almost every disease you can think of and to greater measures of happiness.
4) Make Melatonin Your Friend
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to help you sleep, among other benefits and is responsible for the sleep response that’s been in us since before we walked upright.
When the sun sets and the sky darkens, we start to produce more melatonin, signaling to our body that it’s bedtime. And as dawn approaches and the day fills with light, Melatonin production goes way down, and we wake up.
Sadly, our hours of light are no longer controlled by the skies.
Flip a switch, push a button, get your face into your TV, laptop, computer, or phone, and here comes light. The ancient part of our brain that’s still anchored in light vs. dark, can’t figure out what to do. If light spells "awake time", can you see why we all struggle to fall asleep naturally?
There are ways to help send a clear, unscrambled message to your brain, so it produces melatonin attuned to what our bodies need, not to whether it’s light or dark.
The most important step you can take is to turn down or off what’s lit up a few hours before bedtime. This will un-confuse your melatonin production mechanisms.
The surest approach, however, is taking a melatonin supplement. Start with 1 mg, 30–60 minutes before bedtime. If that doesn’t help, slowly increase your dosage up to 3 mg per night.
5) Get Natural Sleep Support Through Supplements
Get to know some of nature's champions for more restful sleep. These three ingredients are a great foundation to give your body the rest it craves.
One of those wonder-herbs that can do almost anything calm related, this herb is a top notch relaxation agent and digestive aid. To improve sleep and support your body's healing process, try a cup of chamomile tea in the evening.
This ingredient is well known as an easer of anxiety and reliever of insomnia. Many studies confirm that it can help you sleep sooner, and better.
This natural powerhouse work wonders for delivering a soothing night’s sleep. Found naturally in green tea, l-theanine can help switch off your “brain chatter” so you can drift off, more effortlessly to sleep.
Just remember that everyone’s body is different. Depending on your health and state of mind, you might experience overnight success—but your body might need more time to reap the fullest benefits of any of these remedies.
The most important thing you can do is work any sleep helper into a regular schedule. Your body will get used to the timing, increasing your likelihood of good, healing sleep.
Is there an ideal position for restful sleep?
This is one of the questions that only you and your doctor or sleep specialist can answer because the answer is not one size fits all.
When you’re sleeping well, you’re relatively motionless. Depending on your position, your body puts more pressure on certain places—your head and neck, your shoulders, your hips, or your back.
That can cause trouble in itself, from discomfort to pain-induced wakefulness.
And if your mattress is more than 7-10 years old, it may be time for a new, more supportive mattress. Some sleep experts also recommend swapping out your pillows every six months to three years.
If aches, pains and sore spots are preventing sleep or waking you in the night, try a different sleep position…or upgrade your sleeping equipment.
Treat sleep the way you treat food
Just like your body needs the right fuel for to get through the day, it also requires the right food to get through the night.
So, why not treat good sleep like we do good food—as a treasured, essential nutrient?
Think about it. Just as we plan the ingredients and the logistics of every healthy meal—what to serve and when, when to prepare, when to serve—we should prepare for healthy sleep with the same care, and greet it with the same pleasure and gratitude.
Today, we shared with you five of our favorite ingredients for better sleep. Our hope is that you can take one, or all, of them to find the recipe that ensures you get the most out of those healthy hours under the covers.
Take good care.
- “The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain, Alignment Tips, and More” Published Jun 15, 2017. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
- Shaffer, Lindsey. “Fix All Your Sleep Problems With THESE Sleep Positions!” Published NA. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
- Whitbread, Daisy. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Tryptophan” Published NA. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
- Connealy, Leigh Erin.”Natural Sleep Remedies to Conquer Insomnia” Newport Natural Health. Updated August 13, 2017. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
- “How Come We Feel Tired and Want to Go to Sleep?” Published November 22, 2017. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
- “The Best Exercises for Sleep” National Sleep Foundation. Published NA. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
- Picard, Caroline; Moody, Colleen. “15 Foods That Make You Sleepy — and 10 That Keep You Up” Good Housekeeping. Published April 28, 2017. Last accessed January 14, 2018.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: March 13, 2021
Originally Published: January 30, 2018