Easy Ways to Improve Sleep

Many people have trouble falling and staying asleep at night. Here are some great tips on how to change up your bedtime routine to improve your quality of sleep.

Create a Sleep Routine and Stick To It

Your body works better on a schedule. If you are going to bed and waking up at different times each day and the amount of sleep you are getting varies, your body will not work efficiently. Set a time to go to bed and a time to wake up each morning. If you stick to your sleep schedule, your body will naturally fall into it. It will be easier to fall asleep at night and you will wake up feeling rested in the morning.

All Naps Are Not Created Equal

According to the National Sleep Foundation website, taking a short “power nap” increases your energy level and alertness. Longer naps can cause you to feel groggy when you first wake up, postponing the benefits of a midday nap. The exception is if you take naps in 90-minute increments. A full sleep cycle is 90 minutes. If you have the time, a 90-minute nap can increase memory and creativity while avoiding the groggy period following medium-length naps.

Prepare for Sleep

Have you ever wondered why it is easier to fall asleep in the dark than when your bedroom is lit up by lamplight or sunlight? Your body produces melatonin, a hormone that helps your body fall asleep. When you create a dark, comfortable sleep environment, your brain will queue your body to begin producing melatonin. Preparing for sleep by dimming light and stopping the use of electronics an hour or so before bedtime will let your body know that it is time to slow down and prepare for sleep. It is also important to make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive and that your bedroom is quiet, uncluttered, and at a comfortable temperature.

Staying Asleep

It is also important to limit all light in your bedroom, including lit-up alarm-clock faces and red and blue lights on electronics and phone screens. Any amount of bright light, especially LED, white, and blue light, can disrupt the production of melatonin and your quality of sleep. If you prefer some light, limit it to soft, yellow light.

Limit Sugar and Alcohol Before Bed

Refined sugar before bed can inhibit your ability to fall asleep easily, and alcohol can reduce your quality of sleep. Foods high in refined sugar cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a steep decline in blood-sugar levels later. The increase in blood sugar can make it hard to fall asleep. The decline in blood-sugar levels while you are asleep is one of the main causes of waking during the night.

Similarly, though a glass of red wine before bed can help you fall asleep, it can cause you to wake more often during the night. According to an April 2013 study conducted by the London Sleep Centre-Neuropsychiatry, “…alcohol increases slow-wave ‘deep’ sleep during the first half of the night, but then increases sleep disruptions in the second half of the night.” If you feel hungry before bed, try a sweet low-sugar snack like berries instead.

No TV Time

Falling asleep while watching television is a popular habit in many households. According to a 2014 consumer survey conducted by LG Electronics USA, 61% of Americans fall asleep with the television on. Watching television is more distracting than relaxing.   Television keeps your body awake and hinders the body functions that promote sleep. Most often, television stimulates the mind and body, and does not help to slow breathing or relax muscles.

Now that you have some good tips for a better sleep…Happy Dreaming!

Mr. Sandman is MIA: Modern Kids Lack Sleep

It’s 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night. Your eyes are heavy, and you’re reading your bright-eyed 3-year-old the fifth (or is it the sixth?) storybook before bed. Your teenage daughter, who just arrived home from a play rehearsal that went late, peeks in and asks if you were aware that your husband fell asleep in front of the TV while your 7-year-old is still up watching cartoons on her tablet. If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many American children are missing out on much-needed sleep, especially on school nights. Now that summer is coming to a close and school is about to start again, this may be a good time to reevaluate whether your family is getting enough sleep each night.


According to the NSF poll, parents estimated that their children slept less than the recommended amount, logging 8.9 hours for kids aged 6-10, 8.2 hours for kids aged 11-12, 7.7 hours for kids aged 13-14, and 7.1 hours for kids aged 15-17. The NSF recommends 10-11 hours per night for kids 6-10 years old, and 8.5-9.5 hours per night for kids 11-17 years old. 1-2 hours of lost sleep per night can add up pretty quickly.


So what is causing later bedtimes and the lack of quality sleep for our kids? How is this lack of sleep affecting them? There are many variables causing less quality sleep for the modern family. The use of technological devices leading up to bedtime, school night homework and activities, and even diet affect sleep. The NSF poll states, “Parents report that nearly three out of four (72 percent) children ages 6-17 have at least one electronic device in the bedroom while they are sleeping.” That statistic isn’t even counting the toddler and preschool age groups, or the parents, whose sleep is probably affected as well. A study reported in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that using technological devices with a bright display for an “exciting task,” such as playing a video game or watching a suspenseful movie, decreases the body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is a natural hormone in the body that is responsible for stimulating and regulating sleep patterns so it is probably best to limit the use of tablets, electronic readers, computers, televisions, and cell phones before bed.


As a parent myself, I can attest to my children’s weekday extracurricular activities and homework causing later bedtimes for all of us, not just for them. Extracurricular activities following school can postpone dinnertime, completion of homework, and previously established bedtime routines. My fourth grader usually gets to bed 1-2 hours later on nights she has dance class. My 13-year-old nephew has weeknight baseball games that last sometimes past 10:00 pm.

Sleeping_while_studyingSleep is very important for healthy brain development and maintenance. Our brains are still developing through adolescence. No matter what our age, our brains need to mentally detoxify and recalibrate during sleep in order to maintain good mental health and efficiency. If children and teens do not get enough quality sleep, they risk decreased academic performance and concentration, i.e. falling asleep in class or falling asleep while driving. Many behavioral problems, like ADHD, and mental health problems, like anxiety and/or depression can also be linked to sleep deprivation.**


So what can we do to improve our kids’ amount and quality of sleep?

1.  Talk to your kids and/or your partner about the importance of sleep and the benefits it provides.

2.  Set bedtimes for everyone in your household, including you.

3.  Limit use of technology at least an hour before bedtime.

4.  Provide your kids with a comfortable sleep environment (comfy bed, dim light or no light, and cooler room temperature).

5.  Do not overbook your kids with multiple extracurricular activities, and try to schedule activities earlier in the evening, or try to do homework earlier in the day.

6.  Most importantly, set a good example for your kids. If you have good sleep habits, they will most likely follow suit.

For more information on the effects of sleep deprivation, check out my previous blog post, “Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence.”

** Refer to the following links:



Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.


lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.



Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.



This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence


It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?

According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…” Sleeping_angel All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep!   For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html

Best and Worst Sleeping Positions For Your Body


Most people have experienced mornings where they wake up with aches and pains, wondering what they did to hurt so badly. The rest of the day they are irritable and uncomfortable with joint and muscle cramps.

The sleep positions they are unconsciously choosing could be the culprit! Proper posture, even while sleeping, is important to feeling your best the following day. These infographics from American Infographic on Tumblr shows the best and worst sleep positions and the benefits and drawbacks of each.



3 Myths and Interesting Facts About Sleep

Jackie_Martinez_in_B&W_sleeping_with_a_bookSleep is a complex process, and there is a lot we don’t know or have wrong about it. The Huffington Post just published the article 3 Crazy Myths and Facts about Sleep that clears up several myths with some interesting truths about sleep.

Myth #1: Getting up at night for, say, 15 minutes just means I lose 15 minutes of sleep. Unfortunately, when life wakes you in the middle of the night, you lose way more than just those minutes out of bed. Waking to change your pajamas after a hot flash, answer the phone if you’re on call, or of course, comfort a crying baby is harder on us than we ever thought.

I’m surprised it took until 2014 to officially research this, but a first-of-a-kind study in the journal Sleep Medicine looked at the effects of sleep interruption over two nights. The first night, all the study participants slept for eight hours. Then researchers then measured their mood and ability to pay attention. Good so far.

A few nights later, the participants were split into two groups: half slept for only four hours, while the other half slept for eight hours but got woken up four times for 10 to 15 minutes at a stretch. So technically, they spent at least seven hours asleep — three hours longer than the four-hour group — just interspersed with awakenings. Then everyone’s mood and attention was measured again.

Anyone who’s ever had a newborn or been on call for work knows the results: the mood and attention of folks with interrupted sleep were just as bad as those who slept for only four hours. Both groups felt depressed, irritable, and had a hard time getting going. Plus, performance on the attention task got worse the longer they kept at it. Indeed, whoever coined the term “sleep like a baby” clearly never had one.

Myth #2: My brain holds my internal clock. Yes, the master clock, technically called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, is in your brain. But almost all your organs, plus your fat and skeletal muscle, follow some sort of daily rhythm as well. Your gut, liver, and kidneys in particular have strong rhythms.

That’s why you feel so lousy when you have jet lag, and that’s why you often wake up groggy or feeling thrown off when you sleep in on the weekend: your whole body is affected.

And over the long term, throwing off your body clocks through overnight shift work, frequent jet lag, or just wacky sleep habits can put you at risk for some serious diseases, including breast cancer and colon cancer

Circadian disruption is also thought to be a final push that sends some of those merely at risk over the edge. For example, only 30 percent of alcoholics develop liver disease. Why? Well, a 2013 study found that circadian disorganization, common in shift workers, increases “permeability of the intestinal epithelial barrier,” or in other words, a leaky gut. In the context of what the researchers called “injurious agents,” i.e., booze, a leaky gut puts folks at higher risk for liver inflammation and disease. They concluded that while there are many factors that determine whether someone with alcohol addiction develops liver disease, circadian disruption may be a swizzle stick that breaks the camel’s back.

Myth #3: If I can’t sleep, I should just wait it out… sleep will come. On the contrary, if you know you’ll be staring at the ceiling for awhile, get up. Yes, your bed is cozy and warm, but here’s why. Much like you probably associate biting into a lemon with puckered lips and Pavlov’s dog associated the bell with food, thereby salivating, you want to associate your bed with one thing: sleep (well okay, two things: I’ll let you guess the other).

When you lie in bed for more than about 15 or 20 minutes without sleeping, you start to associate your bed with wakefulness. And when you watch TV or fool around on Pinterest in bed when you can’t sleep, those too become associations with bed.

With time, bed could mean sleep, or it could also mean CSI, preschool science project pinboards, or planning your day in your head. Yes, even thinking and worrying qualify as activities you don’t want to do in bed.

So what to do? You can still do all these things, just don’t do them in bed. Get them done before you head to bed, and if you can’t sleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something non-stimulating like reading (on paper, not a tablet!) until you feel sleepy. Then try again. If you still can’t sleep, rinse and repeat: get up again to avoid associating the bed with anything but sleep and sex.

This is what behavioral psychologists call stimulus control and it’s the most effective way to combat chronic insomnia. It may take a week or two, but it’s been shown to break the bad habits that maintain insomnia. Before you know it, you’ll be so good at sleeping you’ll do it with your eyes closed!

For the full article click HERE.