Sleep: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Getting Some Great Zzzs

Why can’t anyone seem to sleep well anymore? One reason is that most of us are unwittingly doing virtually everything in our power to prevent sleep from happening. Between our overly-wired up lifestyles and all kinds of work and life stressors, it’s easy to understand why few of us are resting easy these days.

I’ve often written about sleep because people always ask me how to do it better and where to find a simple plan that will make their problem go away. In that cut-to-the-chase spirit, I’ve arranged my top tips into a step-by-step guide to help you sleep better tonight – and set the stage for more restful nights to come.

So, here goes!

A few things to note: My sleepy-time plan assumes a seven-hour sleep window, with an actual under-the-covers, in-bed with the “lights out” time of 11pm, and a rising time of 6am. You can shift the start and end times to work with your schedule, as long as you allot yourself a seven-hour sleep slot, which is roughly the average number of hours most adults need to function day to day.

And remember, going to bed and getting up around the same time, seven nights a week, is one of the most important things you can do to establish good sleep habits. This reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release those all-important sleep and wake hormones.

If you’re ready to commit, then let’s set the alarm, and start the clock on your next trip to Dreamland!

1pm: Yes, believe it or not, sleep prep begins now!

Sleep patterns are influenced by the light you receive during the day. So either get outside during the day if you can, or if possible, do some exercise. Exercise increases the amplitude of daily rhythms and tells the body to promote deeper sleep cycles. To help with sleep, the best time to exercise is at least six hours before bedtime. (For some people, exercise too close to bedtime can disrupt their sleep cycle.)

3pm: Put down the coffee and take in no more caffeine today.

That afternoon cup of Joe can interfere with your ability to sleep for up to eight hours after your last sip, so skip it if you want to sleep better tonight.

630pm: At dinnertime, keep meals simple.

To save prep time during the week, try doing the bulk of your cooking on the weekends. No time on the weekends? Then keep a few bottled (not canned) jars of pole-caught tuna fillets, olives, capers and red peppers on hand. Toss with organic mixed greens and raw, chopped veggies, so you can assemble a healthy dinner in a flash.

645 pm: Eat slowly and consciously, savoring the food.

With most of our breakfasts eaten on-the-go and our lunches wolfed down at the desk, dinner is the one meal most of us can actually make time for. Think of dinner as a delicious prelude to sleep – a calming ritual to help you start unwinding from a stressful day.

745 pm: Now’s the time to put down your fork to help prep your belly for bed.

Try to finish eating at least three hours before bedtime to insure that the digestive process tailing off before you crawl under the covers.

8pm: Last call for liquids.

Cut yourself off at least 3 hours before bed – to extend your bouts of uninterrupted sleep, particularly if you tend to get up to relieve yourself in the middle of the night. Another tip to reduce overnight bathroom trips: avoid sugars, grains and carbs at night.

9pm: Turn off and tune out.

With apologies to Timothy Leary, it’s time to turn off and tune out – as in completely power down anything with a screen, including computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, TV’s, Gameboys, etc. This will help calm and soothe your over-stimulated brain, thus signaling to your noggin that bedtime is near. Remove any distractions (mentally and physically) that will prevent you from sleeping

10pm: By now you’ve wound down your gut and brain. What’s next? Your nervous system.

Turn off or dim all unnecessary lights and curl up with a soothing read. Avoid newspapers, thrillers, or other genres that might set your pulse racing. Next, try a short meditation to ease the body into a sleep-friendly state or listen to calming music.

1030pm: Now you’re in the home stretch, so give your body an extra nudge to help you sleep.

Consider a few calming minerals, amino acids or herbs. My favorites include: magnesium; amino acids L theanine, 5 HTP; taurine; lemon balm; passion flower; chamomile; magnolia and valerian root. (You can also try my Be Well Sleep Formula, which contains many of these, together in capsule form.)

11pm: Kiss your mate goodnight.

Slip on an optional (but very helpful) sleep mask, then it’s lights out and off to sleep.

If 11:45 pm rolls around and you’re still awake, get up and out of the bedroom. Keep the lights dim and try a calming activity, like reading or knitting for an hour or so before returning to bed. (Remember, no electronic screens!) .

Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.

Frank Lipman, M.D.

Pioneer in Functional Medicine
For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How to Be Well, The New Health Rules, Young and Slim for Life, Revive and Total Renewal.After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalitiesIn 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non-Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness. He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, “If antibiotics are right, he’ll try it. If it’s an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things.”In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives. He is also the instructor of the mbg Video Course, 14-Day Detox.
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Frank Lipman, M.D.

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