A Confession: Learning How to Sleep Again

I’m going to go a little off the topic of food today but not off the topic of health. As you can probably attest, getting adequate and good-quality sleep is super important when it comes to feeling your best and experiencing good overall health. But what if you just can’t sleep even when you have the chance? Ugh. Unfortunately, this is something I can relate to all too well.

Learning How to Sleep Again on 100 Days of Real Food

My Growing Insomnia Issue and Getting Help

I used to be an excellent sleeper. In fact, my husband was even envious of how I could just fall right asleep the second my head hit the pillow. But then I had babies. And (inadvertently) started our full-time family business after getting laid off from my corporate job (hello pressure). And decided to write a book. And then another book (which is not fully done yet – don’t remind me!). And built and moved into a new house last year after our kids got redistricted (which involved making a meeellion tiny decisions). And tried to continue to stick to my self-imposed laundry schedule and grocery schedule and children’s ever-growing activity and social schedule with an occasional international trip thrown in the mix along the way.

Yes, I’m type A in case you’re wondering. But regardless, even when things seem like they’re (finally) starting to slow down the list somehow goes on and on – as any other busy parent can attest! And just to be clear, I know these are all good things in life that are keeping us so busy. But, as I read in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, just because things could be worse it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t want to make things better.

As a result of all those things I mentioned above, it has become harder and harder for me to shut my brain off at night. Whether it’s at bedtime or in the middle of the night when I randomly wake up and am devastated to find out it’s only 3 AM, I’m greeted by my new friend insomnia! So I decided it was time to figure out how to regain control of this growing problem of mine before things got any worse. That’s when I found Dr. Kristin Daley, a “sleep doctor” (as I like to call her) that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia here in Charlotte, NC.

Some of the tips I’ve learned from Dr. Daley have been incredibly helpful so far and, in some cases, so simple! I’ve found myself sharing them with friends whenever I get the chance. So today (with Dr. Daley’s permission), I thought I’d share those tips here on the blog since I know there are many of us out there who could use a little help when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling rested in the morning.

Sleep Tips from Dr. Daley

If you’re not a great sleeper, then the details matter and can make such a difference. These are simple tips for learning how to sleep that have been helping me so much lately. In fact, while I am still officially going through my “sleep training” to get myself on track, there have been a couple days where I’ve woken up to my 6:30 AM alarm feeling more rested than I have all school year! As in “ready to hop right out of bed” rested. I didn’t know how important some of these things were before now!

  1. White Noise
    I actually have a white noise machine that I use when traveling, but I was not using it at home. Now that my kids are old enough to come to me if they need something in the night, I was told to let that go and block out unwanted noise with the constant shush of a white noise machine (as opposed to one that has the rise and fall of ocean sounds). While it would be ideal to sleep in a completely pristine and quiet environment, it’s not exactly realistic for most of us to achieve in this day and age. No matter what you do, a car might drive by, a bird might chirp, your partner might snore, or your A/C might turn on. It does take a few nights to get used to sleeping with white noise if you’ve never done it before, so be sure to hang in there for this one. I’ve had this machine since my girls were babies. While it’s a little pricey, I love how small it is for travel, and it has been going strong for 11 years now!
  2. No Interruptions
    My husband is a night owl and would often do a little work or watch a little TV after I went to bed. That meant he would creep into our room to join me after I was already asleep, but no matter how quiet he was trying to be (and I know he was), it often sounded to me like he was literally busting through the door. I guess it’s that mother’s instinct of mine on hight alert! And I noticed that my quality of sleep was often really poor for the rest of the night after he came to bed. So we had to nip that in the bud, which thanks to #4 below has not been hard to tackle.
  3. Cool Bedroom (between 65 and 67 degrees F)
    This tip was a little shocking to me. I normally like it much warmer in our house! But apparently it doesn’t matter what’s going on from the neck down. Keeping your head cool is what’s key. So I invested in a heated mattress pad, which allows me to get into a warm bed every night while still following this important rule, which goes back to satisfying our instincts from the caveman days.
  4. Maintain a Strict Sleep and Wake Schedule
    I initially found this tip the most shocking, but (possibly thanks to the other areas of my life that I like to have so scheduled) this has actually been a much easier change than I expected. What this means is that I need to go to bed and wake up at basically the same time every day – even on the weekend. Yikes! AND, the most shocking part is that I’m only supposed to be in bed and sleep for 7 hours each night. I thought for sure I needed more sleep than that, but I’m willing to try anything at this point! The exact requirements may vary slightly from person to person, but this will result in higher quality sleep and help reduce tossing and turning for hours on end.The part I unexpectedly like about this new schedule (11:30 PM – 6:30 AM, with an extra 30 min until 7 AM on the weekends) is that there are no more decisions to be made about when I should go to sleep or wondering if I will be able to fall asleep or if my husband will want to turn in early with me, etc. I also no longer wake up in the morning and wonder if it’s a decent time to get out of bed yet or if I’m going to see 4 AM on the clock. If my alarm hasn’t gone off, then I just try to go back to sleep without having to look at my clock (which is a big no-no!). It’s honestly kind of freeing, and I am getting used to the 7-hour limit.
  5. No Light Exposure at Night (and I mean NONE)
    Say goodbye to your night light, digital clock, and even that little red light on your smoke detector (just put a piece of black electrical tape over it). And since you aren’t supposed to look at your clock at all in the night, it shouldn’t matter if it’s now living under your bed. Also under this category no computer or devices for your last 2 hours before bedtime. Watching TV is okay since it’s not usually right up in your face, but your iphone is definitely off-limits! (Which is honestly not such a bad habit to incorporate.)
  6. Exercise with Intervals
    I was already exercising (usually running 2 to 3 times a week), but apparently I wasn’t increasing my heart rate in brief intervals like I should be. You ideally want 10 different 30-second bursts when you exercise, so I’ve now incorporated sprints into my routine (which will help me run faster anyway!). It’s best to do this every day, but since I want to do exercises other than sprints (and 1 or 2 days a week the option to not exercise at all) I am just doing the best I can with this one.
  7. Unfiltered Outside Time
    This is one of those super simple tips that I had no idea was so important. Unfiltered outside time means no sunglasses, no windows, and no screens. Before meeting with Dr. Daley, I probably NEVER had unfiltered outside time because my sensitive eyes love to be behind sunglasses. This one will help set your circadian rhythm and jive nicely with that super dark room you’ll be keeping at night.
  8. Deep Breathing (for at least 5 minutes each day)
    I suppose some would call this meditating, but it’s really just as simple as 5 minutes of quiet, deep, slow breathing (without letting your thoughts take over) each day. This has probably been one of the harder tips for me to remember to do, but I understand the value and am trying!
  9. Write Down Your Thoughts
    This tip right here is just brilliant. If you sit down and write out a few bullet points with what’s on your mind at the end of each day (both bad and good stuff), then when your brain tries to “save the world” in the middle of the night you can know you’ve already tackled that issue by writing it on your paper. It will of course still be there waiting for you in the morning.
  10. Limit Food and Beverage Before Bed (yes, including wine!)
    I’ve never been an after dinner snack kind of person, but I do love my evening glass of wine. And in many cases, I feel like I need that wine to relax enough to fall asleep. The guideline is to limit your carbohydrates to less than 5 grams within 2 hours of bedtime. So for me, this means I can have no more than one glass of wine between 9:30 and 11:30 pm (my new scheduled bedtime). But I certainly don’t want to rely on wine as a “sleep aid” every night. So right now, I’m trying two nights on and one night off to get my body used to falling asleep all on its own again.
  11. BONUS TIP (from my mother-in-law): Have a Mantra
    I know this might sound all new-agey or something, but seriously – hear me out because it has saved me countless times from pointlessly lying awake at 3 AM for hours on end. Basically, come up with a meaningless phrase that you’ll repeat in your head over and over again the moment you wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t know about you, but when I when I randomly wake up my brain can somehow launch right into a thousand thoughts (good and important thoughts that I am convinced I need to remember the next day) but, alternatively, it is too hard to keep your brain clear and think of nothing. So, instead, block out the thoughts by instantly thinking of your mantra on repeat … it could be “99, 100, 99, 100” over and over or another phrase or number that has absolutely no meaning (and does not make you think of anything else important). When I wake up now I immediately start my mantra and within moments I am back to sleep. It is wonderful!


One of the best things about Dr. Daley is that (as you can see from the tips) she doesn’t believe in giving me sleeping pills to solve my insomnia. As soon as I learned this about her, I knew she was the right person to help me. She also isn’t a big fan of melatonin or other natural supplements because, in some cases, the results might just be a placebo effect, which won’t help in the long run. Being able to sleep all on your own is obviously the best solution!

Sleep Tracker Apps

I’ve been tracking my sleep (as well as my caffeine, exercise, outside time, and wine consumption) on a printed sleep chart for her. I know some watches and apps are popular tools for tracking sleep, but Dr. Daley said she has occasionally seen people who get a little too obsessed with the tracking feature and end up hurting their sleep cycles even more as a result. So just be careful if/when using those! We only do it occasionally!

This is the Sleep Tracker that we own and recommend. We actually bought it for our children, but I’ve tried it a few times and thought it was super interesting to see!

Insomnia and Anxiety

Another interesting tidbit I’ve learned is that at the root of insomnia and anxiety, you’re basically dealing with the same thing – your brain not shutting off. So (as someone who has had my fair share of anxiety in recent years), it’s a relief to know these tips are a great starting point for anyone who struggles with anxiety.

I really hope this advice helps you. If you try these tips out, please come back and let me know how it goes in the comments! :)

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109 thoughts on “A Confession: Learning How to Sleep Again”

  1. I got rid of caffeine completely about 5 years ago and I sleep like a rock for a solid 5-6 hours. It’s not quite enough but such an improvement over 8-9 hours of poor sleep.

  2. Such a great article – thank you! We’ve had to work on setting good sleep habits with our daughter and use most of what you’ve suggested here! For myself, I have also had a hard time “shutting my brain off” at night. I had tried all kinds of products that didn’t require a prescription because I was concerned about getting addicted, but also had concerns with some supplements like melatonin. I’ve done some research and found a “new” product, REST CBD from MissionFarmsCBD.com that is amazing for me. It is interesting how insomnia and anxiety are so related which makes sense how CBD can provide such relief. It was VERY important to me to find a CBD product that I knew was organic, free of pesticides, and a company that I could trust. https://missionfarmscbd.com/the-science-behind-cbd-and-sleep/

  3. I am 71 and dealing with age related sleep problems. I am going to try this. I do many of these things already but will work on a few more. I have an eye condition which precludes my not wearing sunglasses.
    Is that a problem?Do you know if any older folks have tried this.

  4. Just found this post, but these are great tips. I will be printing them out and working on them. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Not only has your book changed my life and now this!! I was literally waiting to pick up anxiety medicine at the pharmacy as I was reading this. I have dealt with anxiety in the past, but my sleep was the newest problem. I thought my anxiety was back, but striking at night. Turns out I just needed to follow all these tips instead! Now I’m sleeping better and not taking any medication to do so. Forever grateful that you shared.
    Thank you

  6. If you are getting in bed at 1130, how long does it take you to fall asleep? If it takes 20 minutes, does that mean you’re actually getting six hours and 40 minutes of sleep? And is this OK? Thanks. Dealing with insomnia off and on myself.

  7. Nicole Hodge Pittaluga

    All great tips! I bought an extra white noise machine for my toddler’s room in case his burned out. We ended up using the extra in our room and we are sleeping so much better!

  8. This is an amazing post. Thank you so much Lisa. I’m 31, with two little kids, and a teaching career. I recently started suffering with anxiety and insomnia. It feels good to know I’m not alone. I will definitely be trying to follow these tips.

  9. Does the outside time have to be in direct sunlight? I am very fair and burn easily. I could definitely do that much outside time, if it would be in the shade.

  10. I use to have insomnia until I learned meditation. Now I can just count down & go to my secret place that is relaxed & peaceful & I fall asleep quickly. Also if I awaken in nite I can count down & am quickly back to sleep.

  11. I am a Pernancy, my body change so lots to adapt with it. I can’t sleep, I feel so anxious . When I go to met my doctor, She said don’t worry about it . But how can I do this, I feed so tired cause sleepness. I will try your advice, hope it can help me. Thanks!!!

  12. I too have issues with insomnia. I used to sleep fine but after having children my sleep habits started to get progressively worse. After the birth of my second child, I was sleeping VERY little (like once a week for a few hours)! The more I didn’t sleep the worse my anxiety and ability to sleep would get. I was like a totally different person – I remember spilling milk on the counter and bursting into tears. I couldn’t cope with anything. Finally my husband convinced me to seek help and I learned that I have all three types/symptoms of insomnia – I have a hard time falling asleep (this is probably the worse of the three), wake often during the night and wake up early without being able to fall asleep again. It was so bad that I was prescribed trazodone to help me sleep. I know a lot of people are against taking meds but I wanted to say that sometimes they are needed and that it’s ok. I seriously could not cope with life because I was sleeping so very little. It has been such a relief to take the meds! My anxiety around sleep is completely gone. While I occasionally have nights when I still can’t sleep, I am sleeping soundly (with dreams/REM sleep) most every night. This has impacted my ability to function and be a good mom/wife in so many ways. If someone reading this is having similar issues and trying the tips Lisa wrote about is not helping, I would encourage you to seek medical help.

  13. This is pretty fascinating. I have suffered from insomnia since my first pregnancy 10+ years ago.

    Some of it is hormonal (example: pregnancy insomnia, and then I noticed that I got insomnia 3 nights in a row, every month. Turns out it’s when I ovulate. Ask me how I know. Because my second child was the result…)

    But yeah, I cannot turn my brain off. And I’m stressed. I’m on vacation and haven’t slept in 2 weeks. First, it was the stress of finishing work before vacation. Then, it was sharing a bed with my toddler on vacation. This problem is 2-fold: first, I go to sleep before he does. So I was delaying my bedtime for him, and then I couldn’t fall asleep. Second, he rotates and kicks.

    Finally last night I got some relief – husband offered to swap.

    So I went to bed at my normal time in the main bed. Glorious! (toddler was awake an extra two hours!!) But once my husband got him to bed, he crawled in with me and started snoring, and woke me at 1 am. Then I couldn’t turn off my brain and was up until 3:30 am at least. I moved to the bed with the toddler. He kicked. Then I went down to the couch.

    Of course, I realized that I am in that time of the month where hormones keep me awake (and by the way, now it happens 2x a month). I usually try sleeping pills (Unisom).

    What I like about this list is that there are a few new ideas for me. The HIIT (I do it occasionally, but not often). Deep breathing / meditation. No lights (our computer is in our bedroom and the “on button” is really bright. I actually started draping a headband over it.)

    Also limiting food and beverage. I made the mistake of drinking too much water one day last week and was up FIVE TIMES.

    (and from one of the earlier comments – I’ve tried essential oils…don’t work for me).

  14. Hi Lisa!

    I’ve had sleep issues in the past, too. One thing that was not mentioned here was your “sleep space.” My doctor said that your bed should be used for sleep and sex – that’s it. Eating, watching TV, talking on the phone, etc, makes your brain forget that beds are resting places.

    Loved your article, love your site!

  15. I cannot recommend Dr. Daley highly enough! So glad you found her, Lisa. I, too, was an insomniac with some anxieties, and following her tips has changed my life. Thank you for sharing this with the world! Now I can point friends to your blog post, when they ask me how I finally started sleeping peacefully.

  16. This is a great article. I work with patients who struggle with tinnitus (noises in the ears or head) and they frequently have sleep issues. I recommend most of these things here. One thing I’d change re top #2, it does not have to be white noise. As a matter of fact most people prefer nature sounds over white noise. Or even pink or brown noise over white noise. (So ocean waves may be better for many people). Also instead of a pricey noise machine use an app on your phone or tablet. A favorite with my patients (and myself) is “relax melodies” and you can mix sounds together to personalize it. Or search nature sounds, sounds for sleep, relaxing sounds, etc.

  17. THANK YOU for sharing this info! I’ve been struggling with insomnia and I look forward to trying the suggestions you have listed. I agree with your Dr. about sleeping meds and supplements. They can make insomnia worse! Continued success on your new sleeping routine.

  18. There can be many reasons for poor sleep. Thyroid, vitamin deficiency, other meds you are one, stress, environmental issues, etc. Even if you sleep 7 hours you may not get REM sleep, which you need to restore your body. You may have sleep apnea but be careful they don’t miss diagnose you. You may wake up 8 times over 8 hours of sleep, this is not sleep apnea. But if those 8 times are during REM sleep them this is something to look at. I suffer from headaches, migraines (they are different), Food, environmental and chemical intolerance. A Naturopath Doctor saved my life from going out of control by changing my food to whole foods and vitamins. We were working on my sleep when I moved out of state. I sleep 8 hours a night but I do not get REM sleep. I am working on better health every day. It takes time, lots of reading and believing in NEW THINGS. The very first Dr. I went to with all my sundry of symptoms gave me the name of two shrinks. I knew it wasn’t all in my head. I was eating the wrong Fuel for my body and the 2nd Doctor help me to determine what my triggers were. Good luck to you all on your journey, you aren’t alone.

  19. All the doctor’s suggestions are excellent! However, someone mentioned doTERRA. Lavender Essential Oil is terrific. It has helped many people I know. It helped reset my internal clock. I was waking up at 2:30 am every night wondering what was causing this upsetting body habit. The first night I tried the Lavender, I slept through the night!!!! There is more information on a Facebook Page. Need Essential Oils

  20. I find this blog so helpful as a new mom, but this post in particular really struck me – I already try to do some of these things, especially the strict bedtime/waketime schedule, but it’s so hard with a baby who still wakes up in the middle of the night! It’s inspiring to read about all you accomplished after having your kids. I’m really struggling right now to find a way to get anything done with one baby; guess I’ll have to dig around on here a little more in an attempt to borrow your secrets!

  21. #9 changed my life! I heard this from someone years ago when I would wake up at 3 am and my mind would spin with all of the things I had to do that week. I started writing a list every night after dinner and somehow that to do list looked so much smaller on paper. Love your blog!

  22. First of all, I love your blog. It was recommended to me by my cousin when I started to recognize how horrible processed foods are. Your blog helped me start thinking about shopping, cooking and eating differently. I now teach others about these same concepts and refer them to your blog as well. I have been a registered nurse for 15 years, but left that career to educate and empower people about how essential oils can transform the way we take care of ourselves and our families. My husband and his entire family has suffered from insomnia their entire lives. So when we were introduced to essential oils (we use doTERRA), he felt that if there was an oil that could help with his sleep he would be a believer. Well, they did help to the point that now he falls asleep within 10 minutes and doesn’t even rely on the oils every night anymore (it took him about 2 weeks to notice a difference and a month to start falling asleep on his own though the time frame is different for everybody). It’s as if the oils helped his body reset to the balance it wanted to be in. If you or anyone else on this thread is interested enough to try them, I mail free samples all the time. I just love how these natural medications help our bodies heal themselves and the world needs to know about them!

  23. Lisa, what a really great article! I have suffered with insomnia since the birth of my second child (maybe even prior to that–during pregnancy), so I will definitely be trying some of your doctor’s tips on getting a better night’s rest. I’m currently nursing a 7 month old baby and get up 2-3 times still at night. I realize until my baby sleeps through the night, I will be much more rested but do you happen to know if those tips still apply to someone in my situation? Is it possible to feel somewhat rested with my baby’s current feeding schedule? I wonder what your doctor would say about napping during the day. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  24. Thank you for posting such a valuable insight into the whole health picture….sleep! I am a holistic health coach (IIN) graduate and my husband is a local dentist in town (Dr. Forrest Norman III) Thru our sons needs (started with chronic ear infections which led to mild yet therapy needed for speech) has all resulted in an area called myofunctional therapy–I’d encourage you to check out the book “Close Your Mouth”. Very user-friendly info that has changed our sleep in amazing ways!

  25. I don’t know if anybody else mentioned this but a major cause of insomnia can be a malfunctioning thyroid. Even if your thyroid tests fine by regular standards, it may still be off. A naturopathic doctor can test for this by ordering tests for additional hormones that conventional doctors don’t check. This completely solved my sleep and anxiety issues which started after having my second child at age 36. The goal is then to treat the thyroid naturally and encourage it to heal. I have never been on thyroid medication but my sleep is great and my anxiety gone. Thyroid malfunction can happen from pregnancy, menopause, illness, and stress. Just my two cents. :)

  26. My insomnia had a great deal to do with some medication I was taking. Within days of stopping it I was sleeping 10 hours a night in deep deep sleep. A few weeks later I was back at a fairly normal 7 to 9 hours a night. I started dreaming again and have a new found energy that still amazes me. I still have those nights but they don’t elicit panic anymore. I need to have night lights though since I am older and live by myself and have run into my share of objects at night. I keep them as low as possible. Great article and absolutely wonderful doctor!

  27. I literally just discovered yesterday that my daily kombucha habit, which I love, might be adding to my insomnia! I didn’t realize that kombucha is a diuretic and was drinking as the opposite- a hydrating drink. Therefore, I was not drinking any water in the am’s when I had my kombucha. I was dehydrating myself. Dehydration causes anxiety – one of the first symptoms – which can result in sleeplessness from the anxiety. I too have too much going on and can’t shut my brain off at night! I’m hoping I discovered the cause! Oh and another thing- if you’re taking turmeric, take it in the morning! It’s a stimulant!

  28. Thank you for your blog. I hit full blown menopause 16 years ago and have struggles with insomnia ever since. I was wondering…since I have hip issues and can’t run, do you have any suggestions for how I can achieve the exercise with intervals?

      1. If you want to add interval training/low impact exercise to your daily regimen, you may want to check out suzannebowenfitness.com. She offers over 200 workouts (more added all the time) online; you can work out in your own home (with little to no equipment) whenever is convenient for you. You simply need an Internet connection and ten bucks per month. You can even try it for free. I did, and I’m hooked. :)

  29. Stephanie Chandler

    I’m so thankful for your honesty and for sharing what your professional doctor has suggested (thank you to her for allowing you to share as well!). I’ve had sleep issues for a while, and many of your symptoms match mine. I’m getting better, but I’ll be adding many of the tips you shared!
    Currently, I have a few that you shared already:
    -Dark room
    -No clock (or looking at my phone for the time)
    -White noise (I use a great app called Noisly)
    -Deep breathing (a therapist friend of mine suggested this)
    -Exercise (This has been a HUGE change for me as I used to wake up with achy or jumpy legs)
    -No eating before bed
    -No caffeine after 3pm, and only a small amount of caffeine earlier in the day (about half a cup of coffee or one cup of caffeinated tea)
    -Lavender essential oil (I’m not a huge fad user of essential oils, but this actually makes a big difference in me getting that deep, restful sleep)

    I also have a husband with similar “stay up late” habits, and he would come in and scare me awake, then my adrenaline would keep me up for 2 hours! We still haven’t solved this issue yet, but your candidness that you have that issue as well may help me talk this through with my husband. He has been wondering why I’m so freakishly sensitive and such a light sleeper when he sleeps like a rock! Maybe when I incorporate a consistent bed time and wake time he will get on board too :)

    Thanks for all you do, your blog is such a resource and I am constantly recommending it to people!

    1. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for sharing your extra tips, I have found it to be very helpful. I will definitely be trying Lisa’s and your tips. Also, my husband, just like yours teases me about being such a light sleeper, especially sensitive to noise. Luckily we go to sleep together now, but I”ll have to share with him my new plan for getting more rest at night. Thank you for your comments!

  30. Thank you for sharing your experience and tips with the world! I too struggled with insomnia following the birth of my second, along with anxiety-driven PPD. My experience taught me that sharing these challenges is the blessing that comes from going through it – so that we can help others overcome as well. I used several of these that you mention, but there were a few other things that really helped me, too:
    #1: Acupuncture. Not chiropractic-based, but actual Chinese acupuncture.
    #2: Herbs. My acupuncturist got me on natural herbs that induce sleep. These things are amazing without causing harm or risk.
    #3: Hormone therapy. Progesterone is the hormone in your body that tells your body how to get and stay asleep. Especially when breastfeeding, your progesterone is really low. A doctor prescribed me a bio-identical progesterone cream that I only had to use for a week until my progesterone came back up on its own. From night #1 of use I was able to fall asleep, and fall back asleep easily if I woke up. It was a game changer and could be especially helpful for anyone going through menopause. Important to note: use only bio-identical hormone therapy, not synthetics.
    #4: Melatonin and a Magnesium supplement. The dissolvable melatonin tablets from NatureMade work best for me. For the magnesium, I found that this one works really well vs. a pill (http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Vitality-Raspberry-Lemon-Flavor/dp/B000OQ2DJQ?ie=UTF8&psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00).
    Within a couple weeks of introducing all of these things, I was back to sleeping really soundly. The only thing I use on an ongoing basis is the melatonin, The others I use if I start having any sleeping trouble again. And the acupuncture is great to use on a tune-up basis. When I start feeling anxiety creeping back, I go see her. I hope anyone struggling with this finds any of this information helpful – it is such a tough experience to go through and I feel for you!

  31. Thank you for this article. I too have had problems with sleep for many years. I will try your doctor’s suggestions.

  32. Thanks for sharing these thoughtful tips (and for your willingness to share a little about your own life). We appreciate all you give to us! Inspirational.

  33. Like Andrea, I too slept great until a total hysterectomy 10 years ago, resulting in overnight, full-blown menopause. My “sleeping like a baby,” days were over. Immediately. I literally struggled for years until I finally broke down and told my doc, “Just give me drugs, anything to put me out of my misery.” So he did (Ambien) and while it allowed me to sleep, it’s not the same restful, restorative sleep I’d been used to. And yes, you can do some pretty crazy stuff on Ambien! Now, while already incorporating several ideas you’d mentioned – such as white noise (free apps for smart phones), my sleep is better. For me, the major improvement came with bio-identical hormones and a small dosage (a quarter of the recommended) of medical marijuana which address health issues that contribute to insomnia. Obviously, these interventions aren’t for everyone, but for some, like me, a true God-send.

  34. Thanks for sharing your personal stories and being so open to so many people! I know you’ve helped MANY throughout the years.

    Regarding this topic, my mother in-law, a high-powered executive, struggled with severe anxiety and insomnia not too long ago and her doctor recommended reading the book Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. Since reading it, my MIL made sure all of the executives and HR teams at her company read it because it resonated so much with her. I hope you can find some time to read it.

    Hang in there!

    1. Yes, I’ve too read about Arianna Huffington having plenty of her own insomnia issues …we are not alone! Good for your mom for trying to help.

  35. Thanks for these tips Lisa! I’d be curious to know if there is any additional “pre-bedtime” routine, and if so what does that look like for you in the hour + leading up to your bedtime. For example, are there things you need to do when getting ready for bed or once you’ve gotten into bed? Thanks!

    1. Not really – we’ll either read, watch tv, or just hang out. I do give myself about 10 or 15 minutes just to get ready for bed before my designated “bedtime.” That’s about it!

  36. I can relate to your insomnia problem cause the same thing was happening to me. I would fall asleep right away but then wake up at 3 or 4 am and then lay awake for what seemed like forever.
    I discovered a few things that really helped:
    1) No wine after dinner. My doctor confirmed this when I mentioned it.
    2) no caffeinated beverages
    3) take a quality magnesium supplement at bedtime.
    I sleep a lot better now and rarely wake at night and if I do, I go right back to sleep.
    I hope this helps. Sleep is so important for your health.

  37. I have the same issue, able to fall asleep but wide awake at 3 or 4am with my mind running a hundred miles an hour. I too do not want to take sleeping pills! I will try the above suggestions. Thank you so much for sharing!!! :)

  38. Martha Roskelley

    Thank you!! These tips are great. I have suffered from insomnia for several years, and after therapy for my anxiety and meditation and yoga, things are improving. I still need to make some changes and these tips will help a lot. I appreciate sharing them with us.

  39. My youngest has picked up this insomnia habit this last year. We have also found left to her own devices when she is sleeping, it is not always the most restful sleep. Anxiety from some school issues is most assuredly the main reason. When we do a blend of essential oils on her back or feet, she sleeps all night restfully. We have found a few blends. Vetiver, Frankincense, and Juniper Berry combination is our favorite. A premade blend named Balance and Sandalwood is another. We will visit the suggestions mentioned and try to improve her lifestyle quality.

  40. Good sleep hygiene is certainly important. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your personal story and making yourself vulnerable. I have many patients with anxiety and insomnia issues and I will be pointing them to this article. I think you do a great job of highlighting the important aspects of good sleep hygiene and even some new aspects that are now better understood. If I had to highlight the most important, it would be exercising with intervals. We are finding out that interval training is not only important for sleep, but for overall general wellbeing and health. Another great article! Thanks!

  41. Great advice!! I too struggled with being woken up when my husband would come to bed after me. I recently aligned my sleep/wake up times with his, and what a difference! Thanks for passing along these great tips! This is very helpful!

  42. A magnesium deficiency (very common) will also cause problems sleeping. I had been a light sleeper MY ENTIRE LIFE, and about 3 years ago, I began supplementing with magnesium. Now I sleep through the night, and deeply.

    1. Christina, what type of magnesium do you take (since there are many different types) & what dose? Any brands you really like? I’ve been interested to start supplementing with Magnesium. Thanks so much :)

      1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

        Hi Mindy. I also use magnesium for my sleep issues and it has helped greatly. I use a magnesium citrate vs an oxide because it is more bio-available. You might chat with a naturopath or an regarding types and brands.

  43. Wonderful advice! Thank you so much. I was always able to effortlessly fall asleep…until menopause. Now, I sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up, filled with anxiety about crazy things. I am relieved to read these tips and can’t wait to see how they work for me! God bless!

  44. Oddly enough, I was just thinking about you not too long ago and trying to process all of the things you have to juggle. I am sorry that you are having difficulty sleeping! You certainly have a lot on your plate. Glad you are finding a way to take better care of your sleep needs!

  45. Hmm, I need to try this!
    Two questions:
    1. What if kids are still waking regularly? Do we lengthen our sleep time to adjust?
    2. What do you do for those last 2 screen free hours?

    1. Do the dishes, bake some muffins, play checkers, call your mom, talk to your family, read or write a book, knit a sweater, do whatever people did for entertainment before cell phones and tv!

    2. It’s okay to watch TV since it’s much further from your face than your phone or computer. We also like to read at night sometimes as well. I’m not sure about the kid question, but I know for me if it took me two hours to fall asleep I’m still supposed to wake at the same time no matter what. I hope that helps.

  46. Thanks for the reminders about maintaining good sleep practices. Recently, a friend suggested I try a sleep hypnosis app. To my surprise and in spite of my skepticism, it’s probably the most effective practice I’ve ever used. $3 and no drugs!

  47. These are great tips! They go beyond the standard ones we all see and address the different facets of insomnia. I haven’t seen the tip about exercising in intervals! So interesting!

    My friend had a stroke in his early 40’s (he’s a healthy, real-food eating, incredibly active person) and during his recovery, the doctor’s suggested a sleep study. He decided to use a Zeo (I think that’s the brand) and track his stats as well as his habits. Two of the factors he found to affect his sleep quality were whether he had enough water that day and how late he ate dinner.

    Good luck with the sleep training, Lisa!

  48. Thank you so much for this! I to struggle with this issue, usually I fall asleep quickly but wake up around 2 or 3 am and am up for hours. I received a fitbit flex for Christmas and it tracks your sleep patterns and I was shocked to see just how restless i am during the night, most nights I have 27 or more episodes of restlessness. I thought this might be normal until one of my friends recently posted a screenshot of her fitbit flex sleep and it showed just 3 episodes of restlessness. Most of these things I do, like the interval training, the same bedtime, no light, but the deep breathing and the writing before bed are two things that I will definitely be incorporating into my bedtime routine moving forward. Thank you so much for sharing this. From your neighbor to the south, Greenville SC

  49. All great advice.but I’m surprised your doctor didn’t add “no screen time for an hour before bed”. The light generated from screens (tvs, phones, ipdads, etc). Is a stimulant. There are multiple studies on this. Read a book, knit, play a board game simply unwind.

    1. If you are prone to wake ups try a “sleep mantra” that is a meaningless word you repeat over and over and over in your head if you wake up in the middle of the night. That has helped me so much, too!

  50. Having children is the biggest impediment to having a good night’s sleep … I sincerely wish you the best in your quest to find a good night’s sleep again. When one has 8 solid hours of snoozing, the day after is so much better than the ones spent in a groggy state.

  51. I was interested in your blog post about insomnia. My husband has suffered from insomnia for years and we belive it is due to PTSD. He started taking some nutritional supplements that have helped him sleep through the night every night since he started them! It’s really amazing. Just thought I’d share this with you. Thank you for all your usefull tips! :)

  52. Loved this blog! I have a terrible time trying to sleep, it may be hormonal since I have had a hysterectomy. I was wondering what was the recommended time in unfiltered light? Thanks.

  53. I had a sleep study done and was surprised to learn that even as a mature adult (mid-50s) when one is sleeping well, he or she will not usually get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you are getting up a lot, thinking it is because you need to go to the bathroom, it may be that you have interrupted sleep – i.e. sleep apnea. It turns out I had borderline severe sleep apnea. I now sleep with a C-Pap machine and sleep soundly like I did as a young girl. My fuzzy thinking cleared up, and I have felt like a new woman. Sleep apnea is so bad for your heart, and the classic symptom is loud snoring. It is well worth getting it checked out.

    1. Kaye, I second that. Lisa, it is worth getting a sleep study to understand what’s going on. Apologies for the long comment, but sleep disordered breathing is far too often not considered along with insomnia (and there are plenty of non-invasive, natural ways to treat it.)

      When we sleep, the airway goes floppy—and thanks to modern development and processed foods, our jaw and airway grow differently from how they’re supposed to, which is why most people are susceptible to interrupted breathing (which translates to interrupted REM sleep and thus, perhaps, your insomnia).

      I commend Dr. Daley’s great tips and for not wanting to prescribe sleeping pills. I’d add to that recommendation that you check up on the quality of your sleep (not only the quantity) with a sleep study, as Kaye says.

      I tell all my patients—we get one life, it’s worth making sure we get as much uninterrupted REM sleep as possible! Great post, Lisa, thanks for your openness about such an important health issue and hope you start sleeping better soon!

      1. I did a sleep study last fall and started with the C-PAP w/ full face mask in late January. It has made a big difference in my qualify of sleep. My biggest problem is that if I do wake up and the machine is going full-blast, it is so loud and there is so much air being blown into my face that I cannot fall back asleep and end up turning it off.

  54. The first thing my sleep psychologist told me was that I wasn’t allowed to do anything in bed except sleep and have sex. If I was lying in bed for more than twenty minutes without sleeping, I had to get up and sit somewhere to read in low light until I felt sleepy.

  55. As a therapist, this is a huge issue for a number of patients. Your list is a very good start. I would also recommend no artificial light about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime because of the impact it has on your circadian rhythms. That means no cellphone, computer or television. It has had a huge impact on my ability to sleep through the night. I have a routine about 45 minutes before bed: get my next day’s lunch ready, wash my face, brush my teeth, lay out my clothes, write in my journal, etc.

  56. I sewed myself a sleep mask a few months ago and it has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE for my sleep habits. Now instead of pulling the curtains all the way shut and making sure no light is peeking around the shades, I put on the sleep mask and call it good. Plus, they are super simple to sew (even by hand!).

  57. These are great tips Lisa. Thank you.

    I just completed whole30. And as many people have experienced, I slept SO well during my 30 days. Like a rock honestly. Previous to whole30 I was taking Tylenol PM every night to take the edge off. Because I knew if I woke up, I’d have a difficult time getting back to sleep. I too have the anxious over active brain.

    SO – my question to you with that is, have you considered making more significant changes to your diet to see if that helps? Almost everyone who completes whole30 raves about their high quality sleep. Clearly you already eat a very healthy real food-style diet. But perhaps it’s still the sugars, alcohol, dairy causing problems with sleep? I know you know a lot on this area but I encourage you to at least investigate the whole30 book (It Starts With Food) and website to see if this may help you further. Good luck!

  58. Lisa- I worked with Dr. Daley as well and she is amazing. I credit her with bringing me back to health after a devastating bout with anxiety and insomnia. She is wonderful! It’s been three years for me and her ‘prescription’ for me still works- no pills required. Good luck to you and thanks for sharing with others.

  59. Lisa- I worked with Dr. Daley as well and she is amazing. I credit her with bringing me back to health after a devastating bout with insomnia. She is wonderful! Good luck to you!

  60. I’d be interested in knowing whether it is recommend to stick to your 11:30-6:30 schedule after an interrupted night of sleep (i.e. When your kids wake you at night).

  61. You are speaking to me with this post! Several tips I haven’t tried yet. I’m so worried about going to the doctor about my insomnia as I don’t want sleeping pills so I’m happy to hear you’ve found someone who doesn’t believe in them. Going to talk to my husband about it too as I have the same problem with being woken up by him. And it seems I’m trying to go to bed too early. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  62. Don’t forget that for some, there might be an apnea issue as well. You don’t necessarily have to snore to have apnea (it’s a pause in breathing). I know for me, I have apnea, and once I’d startle awake, I’d be an insomniac some nights. So if the tips you gave don’t work, it’s worth having a sleep study to ensure there’s nothing else going on. I’m definitely going to incorporate some of your tips with my apnea mask (the sunlight, especially).

  63. I have to share this tip – Try putting your phone on airplane mode during the night. I just made that change and it has had a huge impact!

    The EMF waves that your phone gives off makes it much more difficult for your brain to turn off and sleep deeply. I’m not getting any more sleep, but my sleep is more restorative. I also turn my wi-fi off each night, and notice a difference.

  64. Did your doctor have any opinion on sleepmasks? I’ve become a really light sleeper the last few years, using both a fan for white noise and a sleep mask, and I’ve become pretty dependent on both. Id like to get away from the sleep mask but any sort of light that peeks in will wake me up, so I’m feeling kind of stuck. It’s also not the most attractive option!

  65. Thank you so much for this. This is something that I have dealing with since before my kids were born. (It has got worse since then). Can’t wait to try these :)

  66. Thanks very much! I’ve struggled with insomnia since childhood; now, as a mother of young children running my own business, it’s been all too easy to use exhaustion as a tool for making sure I don’t struggle to fall asleep each night. This is not a healthy or happy way to live. I’ve read several books and many articles about this, but the advice is often repetitive — the information in your post looks extremely useful and a bit different, and I will definitely give it a try. Thanks again for sharing. Our bodies need sleep as much as we need solid nutrition, and I know many parents who struggle to get it.

  67. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing all of this! I am definitely going to implement your suggestions in my life. I’m wondering though, why only 7 hours of sleep at night?

    1. Apparently studies show 7 is enough for most (not 8 as many of us have also heard). I always thought I needed even more sleep than that (up 9 hours sometimes), but so far I am surprisingly managing on the 7! And feel like I’ve been given the gift of time. I would just recommend trying it. The goal is to actually be sleeping all the hours you are in bed. No more tossing and turning!

      1. Interesting. What advice have you been given or would you give if you are awake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep? Also, how did you address your husband wanting to go to bed later than you?

  68. I’ve suffered from insomnia for years and my biggest problem is my husband coming in after I’ve been sleeping for a few hours. These tips are great and I will have to have a serious conversation with him tonight! Thanks for posting!!!

  69. Thank you for sharing this! It’s actually nice just to know I’m not the only one who deals with these issues!

  70. I’ve come across this same issue as my last baby finally started waking up at night. I’m suddenly expecting bouts of insomnia and I think like you I have to “relearn” how to sleep. Thanks for the pointers – I’ll try them and let you know if they’ve helped my situation!

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