Want a good night's sleep? Never do these things before going to bed.

By Dr. Mercola

slepping in bedSleep is one of the great mysteries of life. Like gravity or the quantum field, we still don’t understand exactly why we sleep—although we are learning more about it every day.

We do know, however, that good sleep is one of the cornerstones of health.

Six to eight hours per night seems to be the optimal amount of sleep for most adults, and too much or too little can have adverse effects on your health.

Sleep deprivation is such a chronic condition these days that you might not even realize you suffer from it. Science has now established that a sleep deficit can have serious, far reaching effects on your health.

Sleeping pills give you a 4x better chance of dying and a 35% increased risk of cancer.
Don't use them.

Better Options for a Good Night's Rest

Numerous factors can influence your sleep, and the good news is that many are under your control. Remember that sleeping pills are not the answer and will probably create more problems than they solve. Below are four strategies for optimizing your sleep, and you will find many more in my comprehensive sleep guide.

  1. Cover your windows with blackout shades or drapes to ensure complete darkness. Even the tiniest bit of light in your room, such as the glow of a bedside clock, can disrupt your sleep and therefore your melatonin production. Close your bedroom door, get rid of night-lights, and refrain from turning on any light during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. If you need a light, install so-called "low blue" light bulbs in your bedroom and bathroom, which emit an amber or red light that will not suppress your natural melatonin production.
  2. Keep the temperature in your bedroom at or below 70 degrees F (21 degrees Celsius). Many people keep their bedrooms too warm, which can result in restless sleep. Studies show the optimal room temperature for sleeping is fairly cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F (15.5 to 20 C).
  3. Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt your pineal gland’s melatonin production. In order to do this, you will need a gauss meter, which can be purchased online for between $50 and $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house. Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your head. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Put away your computer, TV, iPad, and all other similar gadgets at least and hour before bedtime, as they also emit blue light.
  4. Try Earthing. When walking barefoot on the earth, free electrons transfer from the ground into your body through the soles of your feet. These free electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known to man. Experiments have shown that these electrons decrease pain and inflammation, and promote sound sleep. Spend more time with your bare feet in contact with the earth. You may want to invest in an earthing sheet for your bed.
  5. Exercise to sleep better, but do it early! Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep, but exercising too close to bedtime (generally within the three hours) may keep you awake.
  6. Avoid foods that interfere with sleep. The worst foods for sleep include alcohol, coffee, dark chocolate, spicy foods, and certain fatty foods.
  7. If you're feeling anxious or restless, try using the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which can clear emotional issues and alleviate stress and worries that keep you tossing and turning at night.

For example, interrupted or impaired sleep can:

Dramatically weaken your immune system
Accelerate tumor growth—tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
Cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight
Seriously impair your memory; even a single night of poor sleep—meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours—can impact your ability to think clearly the next day
Impair your performance on physical or mental tasks, and decrease your problem solving ability

When your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body produces less melatonin (a hormone AND an antioxidant) and has less ability to fight cancer, since melatonin helps suppress free radicals that can lead to cancer. This is why tumors grow faster when you sleep poorly.

Impaired sleep can also increase stress-related disorders, including:

Heart disease
Stomach ulcers
Constipation
Mood disorders like depression

Sleep deprivation prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as Peak Fitness Technique). Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger.

One study has even shown that people with chronic insomnia have a three times greater risk of dying from any cause.

Lost sleep is lost forever, and persistent lack of sleep has a cumulative effect when it comes to disrupting your health. Poor sleep can make your life miserable, as most of you probably know.

The good news is, there are many natural techniques you can learn to restore your “sleep health.”

Whether you have difficulty falling asleep, waking up too often, or feeling inadequately rested when you wake up in the morning—or maybe you simply want to improve the quality of your sleep—you are bound to find some relief from my tips and tricks below.

**If you are interested in more information about sleep or any of the 33 items listed, I invite you to delve into the links that follow, which are grouped by subject.

Optimizing Your Sleep Sanctuary

  1. Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep. This will help decrease your risk of cancer.  Close your bedroom door, and get rid of night-lights. Refrain from turning on any light at all during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. Cover up your clock radio.

    Cover your windows—I recommend using blackout shades or drapes.

    All life evolved in response to predictable patterns of light and darkness, called circadian rhythms. Modern day electrical lighting has significantly betrayed your inner clock by disrupting your natural rhythms. Little bits of light pass directly through your optic nerve to your hypothalamus, which controls your biological clock.

    Light signals your brain that it’s time to wake up and starts preparing your body for ACTION.
  2. Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.

    When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop.

  3. Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well.

    To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts  even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.

  4. Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when you stare at it all night... 2 a.m. ...3 a.m. ... 4:30 a.m.
  5. Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on your body to be suddenly jolted awake. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm may even be unnecessary.

    I gave up my alarm clock years ago and now use a sun alarm clock. The Sun Alarm™ SA-2002 provides an ideal way to wake up each morning if you can't wake up with the REAL sun. Combining the features of a traditional alarm clock (digital display, AM/FM radio, beeper, snooze button, etc) with a special built-in light that gradually increases in intensity, this amazing clock simulates a natural sunrise. It also includes a sunset feature where the light fades to darkness over time, which is ideal for anyone who has trouble falling asleep.

  6. Reserve your bed for sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep, so avoid doing these activities in bed.
  7. Consider separate bedrooms. Recent studies suggest, for many people, sharing a bed with a partner (or pets) can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or snores. If bedfellows are consistently interfering with your sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom.

Preparing for Bed

  1. Get to bed as early as possible. Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into your liver, which can further disrupt your health.

    Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.

  2. Don't change your bedtime. You should go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.
  3. Establish a bedtime routine. This could include meditation, deep breathing, using aromatherapy or essential oils or indulging in a massage from your partner. The key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the tensions of the day.
  4. Don't drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom, or at least minimize the frequency.
  5. Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you'll wake up to go in the middle of the night.
  6. Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production.
  7. Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the tryptophan cross your blood-brain barrier.
  8. Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. These will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.
  9. Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When your body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating slumber. The temperature drop from getting out of the bath signals your body it’s time for bed.
  10. Wear socks to bed. Feet often feel cold before the rest of the body because they have the poorest circulation. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night wakings. As an alternative, you could place a hot water bottle near your feet at night.
  11. Wear an eye mask to block out light. As discussed earlier, it is very important to sleep in as close to complete darkness as possible. That said, it's not always easy to block out every stream of light using curtains, blinds or drapes, particularly if you live in an urban area (or if your spouse has a different schedule than you do). In these cases, an eye mask can be helpful.
  12. Put your work away at least one hour before bed (preferably two hours or more). This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow's deadlines.
  13. No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even completely out of the house. It’s too stimulating to the brain, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. TV disrupts your pineal gland function.
  14. Listen to relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep. An excellent relaxation/meditation option to listen to before bed is the Insight audio CD. Another favorite is the Sleep Harmony CD, which uses a combination of advanced vibrational technology and guided meditation to help you effortlessly fall into deep delta sleep within minutes. The CD works on the principle of “sleep wave entrainment” to assist your brain in gearing down for sleep.  
  15. Read something spiritual or uplifting. This may help you relax. Don't read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, which has the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might be tempted to go on reading for hours, instead of going to sleep!
  16. Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. Personally, I have been doing this for 15 years, but prefer to do it in the morning when my brain is functioning at its peak and my cortisol levels are high.

Lifestyle Suggestions That Enhance Sleep

  1. Reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible. Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, may adversely effect sleep. In most cases, the condition causing the drugs to be taken in the first place can be addressed by following guidelines elsewhere on my web site.
  2. Avoid caffeine. At least one study has shown that, in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently, leaving you feeling its effects long after consumption. So, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine (for example, diet pills).
  3. Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
  4. Make certain you are exercising regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can manage it.
  5. Lose excess weight. Being overweight can increase your risk of sleep apnea, which can seriously impair your sleep. (CLICK HERE for my nutritional recommendations.)
  6. Avoid foods you may be sensitive to. This is particularly true for sugar, grains, and pasteurized dairy. Sensitivity reactions can cause excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, bloating and gas, and other problems.
  7. Have your adrenals checked by a good natural medicine clinician. Scientists have found that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress.
  8. If you are menopausal or perimenopausal, get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause sleep problems if not properly addressed.

If All Else Fails

  1. My current favorite fix for insomnia is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Most people can learn the basics of this gentle tapping technique in a few minutes. EFT can help balance your body's bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to your insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and improvement is remarkably rapid.
  2. Increase your melatonin. Ideally it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night.

    If that isn’t possible, you may want to consider a melatonin supplement. In scientific studies, melatonin has been shown to increase sleepiness, help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep, decrease restlessness, and reverse daytime fatigue.

    Melatonin is a completely natural substance, made by your body, and has many health benefits in addition to sleep.

    I prefer to use a sublingual melatonin product because it is absorbed much faster and therefore works more quickly. I offer a melatonin spray on my website that I believe is one of the very best on the market.

Related Articles

Sleep Duration: Too Much and Too Little

This Daily Mistake Can Make You Obese and Forgetful
Lost Sleep Can Never Be Made Up
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
More than Seven Hours of Sleep Per Night Increases Your Risk of Brain Disease
The Dangers of Oversleeping
If You Sleep Less Than Six Hours You Are Creating a 'Sleep Debt'
Too Much or Too Little Sleep May Lead to Heart Attacks
Less Than 8 Hours of Sleep May Not Hurt Health

Sleep and Body Temperature

Do Cold Temperatures Improve Sleep?
Fingers Warm Up Prior to Sleep

Sleep and Light and Darkness

How Light Pollution is Ruining Your Health
Sleeping Patterns Are Governed by Light
How Incandescent Light Affects Your Sleep
Lack of Daylight May Cause Insomnia

Circadian Rhythms, Internal Clock and Natural Cycles

Changing Your Clock: New Research Explores How Your Body Keeps Time
Do High-Fat Foods Disrupt Your Body Clock?
Work on a Rotating Shift? Then You Probably Have Lower Levels of Serotonin
Are You a Night Owl or an Early Lark?
Mars Time Ruins Scientists' Health
Internal Clock Determines How Much Sleep You Need
Middle of the Night Wakening Throws Off Your Body Clock
If Your Body Clock is Disrupted it Can Speed Cancer Growth
Shift Work Dangerous to Your Health

Jet Lag

Ancient Trick Eliminates Jet Lag
Your Meal Time May be Linked to Jet-lag

Sleep Drugs

Over-the-Counter Sleep Meds are Not Effective
The Worst Products In The World?
Sleep Drugs Are Wildly Popular Despite Barely Working
A Scary Parody of Sleep Drugs
Get Rid of Your Sleeping Pills NOW!
Why Are You Using a Sleep Drug?
Nocturnal Sleep Eating: A Newly Described Ambien Side Effect
Ambien Side Effects Ignite Drug Ad Deluge
Americans Taking More Sleeping Pills Than Ever
Dangers of Taking Sleeping Pills
Sleep Meds Consumed in Record Numbers
Rest Assured -- Marketers Will Try to Spin New Sleep Drug to Insomniacs
Continued Insanity--Sleep Medications to Kids
Benadryl Can Cause Hallucinations in Elderly

Sleep, Melatonin and Cancer

Melatonin Sleep Spray
Prostate Cancer Risks Rise With Shift Work
Night Light Increases Breast Cancer Risks
With More Night Light Comes A Greater Risk of Leukemia
Winter Depression Linked With Melatonin Cycle
Night Shift Increases Cancer Risk and Beware of Daylight Savings Time
Sleep In TOTAL Darkness to Decrease Cancer Risk
Melatonin Helps the Blind Sleep

Sleep, Metabolism, and Weight Gain

How Much Do You Need to Sleep Every Night to Prevent Weight Gain?
How Your Body Clock Regulates Your Metabolism
Surprising Factors That Contribute to Obesity
Too Much or Too Little Sleep Raises Your Diabetes Risks
Fight Obesity by Sleeping
How Obesity and Sleep Debt Are Linked
Lack of Sleep Strongly Linked to Obesity
Cutting Back On Sleep Can Make You Gain Weight
Get Enough Sleep to Avoid Diabetes
Decrease Your Sleep and Increase Your Risk for Diabetes

Sleep, Mental Acuity, Memory, Creativity and Performance

Your Circadian Clock is Critical to Your Memory
Why You are More Creative After You Sleep
A Simple Way to Get Smarter
Improve Your Memory, Get More Sleep
Secret Solution to Improve Your Memory
Deep Sleep Solidifies Your Memory
If Soldiers Need Sleep, You Sure Do
Want Improved Performance? Sleep On It
Sleep Deprivation Ups Risk of Surgical Mistakes
"Early to Bed - Early to Rise" Improves Brain Function
Sleep Disorder Increases Car Accident Risk
DWT - Driving While Tired

Sleep Quality and Longevity

Long-Term Study Links Chronic Insomnia to Increased Risk of Death
Can Being Sleep Deprived Actually Kill You Early?
Is it True The More You Sleep, The Longer You Live?
Easy Sleepers Live Longer

Importance of Dreaming

Can Being Sleep Deprived Actually Kill You Early?
Controlling Your Dream World

Sleep Environment, and EMFs

Sharing Your Bed May be Bad for Your Health
Why You Should NEVER EVER Sleep Where Your Cat Sleeps
Are You Sleeping in a Dangerous, Electrically Polluted Bedroom?
Can Cell Phones Give You Insomnia?
Sweet Dreams Come With the Proper Mattress
Japanese "Sleep Room" Promises a Full Night's Sleep
How to Buy the Best Mattress for a Good Night's Sleep

Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and Other Sleep Disorders

Nine Ways to Help You Stop Snoring
How Sleep Apnea Injures Your Brain
New Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Now We Finally Know Why Some People Can't Lose Weight
Speeding Up Heartbeat May Improve Sleep Apnea
Child's Snoring May Be Cause of Poor School Performance

Sleep and Fertility

Why Where You Sleep Matters If You Want a Healthy Baby
Sleep Debt Affects Female Fertility Too

Sleep, Babies and SIDS

Fans Lower Risk of Sudden Baby Death
Smarter Babies Take Their Naps
Keep That TV Away From Your Baby!
Sleep Deprived Baby? Try Sunlight
Is Sleep Position Really Important in SIDS?
African-American Infants Dying from SIDS at Alarming Rate
Finally, A Solution to Have Your Babies Sleep All Night Long
The Relationship Between Crib Mattresses and Crib Death
Should Infants Sleep With Their Parents?
Interview with T.J. Sprott About SIDS Prevention
SIDS Risk Greater in Daycare Centers

Sleep and Children

"Junk sleep" Damaging Teenagers' Health
Grades Suffer When Kids Lose Valuable Sleep Time
U.S. Kids Need More Sleep
Sleep-Deprived Children More Prone to Injury
Later School Start Benefits Teens
Sleep In Early Life May Play Crucial Role In Brain Development

Cures for Insomnia

8 Natural Remedies That May Help You Sleep
How to Achieve Deep, Uninterrupted Sleep
Counting Sheep Does Not Help You Drop Off After All
New Relief Now Available For Sleeping Disorders EFT
Helping Alzheimer's Patients Sleep Better Naturally
A Solution for Those Who Experience Insomnia After September 11th EFT
One of the BEST Cures for Insomnia

Miscellaneous Articles About Sleep

SPECIAL REPORT FOR DOWNLOAD
Mastering The Mystery Of Sleep, Huffington Post
Sounds During Sleep Can Boost Your Memory
New Information on the Science of Sleep
Insomnia Worsened by Increased Nighttime Toilet Visits
Why Skipping Sleep Harms Your Brain
Practice Makes Waking Up From a Sound Sleep Easier
Sleeping Without an Alarm Clock
The Most Common Sleep Disorder: Insufficient Sleep
Mysteries of Sleep
A New Way to Sleep?
Sleepy During the Day? It Could be More Than a Sleepless Night
Aging Doesn't Cause Sleep Problems
Sleep Problems Can Ruin Your Health and Shorten Your Life
Skimping on Sleep Harms Your Health
SleepSmart and Wake up Feeling Refreshed
Harnessing Brain Protein The Key to Anxiety, Sleep Disorders?
Is Insomnia Wreaking Havoc Upon Your Health?
Eye Problems May be Causing Your Insomnia
Good Night's Sleep Essential for Immune System
Sleeping Secrets Revealed by Undercover Professor
Power Naps May Improve Your Memory
Adrenals Overactive
Sleep Problems May Complicate Many Illnesses
Inadequate Sleep Affects Hormone Levels

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