How to Get Real, Rejuvenating Sleep!



Get better sleep tonight. Here’s Dr. Mary’s Tips to Better Sleep (some of these you know by heart, and some are really good new pieces of data from recent studies too)!

  1. Stick to a schedule. Going to bed at the same time trains your brain for a consistent sleep-wake cycle. Each person needs a different amount of sleep each day, with the average adult ranging between 6 and 10 hours – that’s a huge range! Don’t be bullied into getting more sleep than you need from a spouse or worried parent that thinks you need more, but don’t chronically short yourself the precious time that you need to refresh your brain. There’s really no way to “cheat the system” with sleep, but there is a great way to help yourself feel better after a bad night’s sleep. See my article, Redefining the Power Nap BY CLICKING HERE
  2. Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink. Each serving of caffeine during the day impacts an hour of sleep each night, so if you’re drinking a bunch of coffee each day, consider watering it down with hot water for a lighter, less caffeinated coffee beverage. At this point, I’m choosing coffee that’s just ¼ cups brewed coffee – the rest is hot, calming, hydrating water. Or, get with the program! – the Reset Revolution, that is! – and switch out that coffee that anti-aging, hydrating, antioxidant rich teas instead. Finally, listen to your body. My body loves high carbohydrate morning meals for energy and protein at night to keep me full. Eating my bean meal at night puts me in perfect sleep mode and keeps me full all night – I hate to wake up hungry. Your body might be the same. Try it and see how it makes YOU feel. Sleep is dehydrating – imagine going a full 8 hours during the day without drinking anything – so be sure to give yourself 6-8 ounces of water before shut-eye.
  3. Create a Bedtime Ritual. For the best rituals, consult my Mom. She’s in the bathroom plucking and moisturizing and prepping for bed, then her prayers – this ritual is the same ritual that she’s followed ever since I met her almost fifty years ago, and probably was in place well before I came along. Choose the series of activities you like to do, and put them in place 90% of the time – you’ll be rewarded with great sleep! And clean teeth and youthful skin, if you brush your teeth and moisturize each night. For me, putting in my bite plate it like turning off a light switch in my brain.   I love my bite plate so much I travel with it in my purse or my bra – I’d never put it in my checked baggage. You’ll find the patterns that your brain loves and nurture them until sleep is easily anticipated.
  4. Limit Daytime Naps. This is an easy one. Avoid too much napping – it’s important to build up a sleep debt during the day so you’re tied at day’s end.
  5. Break a sweat once a day. Bonus points for breaking a sweat twice in one day. That’s when you know you’re in the Revolution.
  6. Keep a cool environment – 67 degrees or lower is preferred, but listen to your body. In the summer, I love to sleep in the heat with no air conditioning and light sheet. In the winter, I love to be buried under layers of warm bedding. As with everything, try to honor your body while still being respectful of the person you are sharing your bed with.
  7. Become a Luddite an hour before bedtime. Bright lights and electronics to stimulate your brain and may make deep, restorative sleep more elusive. Turn it all off an hour before sleep, or get those crazy light-filtering glasses from the paleo people. They are all wrong on diet, but they might be onto something with these glasses: Or, these, if you use prescription eyewear already:
  8. Be Honest with Yourself. If you don’t need to sleep nine hours. If the middle of the night is the perfect time to stretch your back or catch up on your news. If you need 10 hours each night and your partner thinks you’re crazy for sleeping your life away. Learn to love your sleep rhythms.


Did You Wake Up and Now You Can’t Fall Back Asleep? Fall Asleep Fast With One Simple Trick!

If you wake up in the middle of the night, here’s a quick way to put yourself back to sleep. Most often, snuggled under the covers, your core has warmed excessively. Unless you correct the overheating, you’ll have a tough time falling asleep. Cool down your core! The easiest way to do it? Toss a leg and an arm out from under the covers. The blood that circulates into the leg or arm will cool off and then return to the core, cooling off your entire system. In just a few short minutes, your body will be cool and ready to dive under the covers again for a few more hours of blissful slumber.


How to Feel Better After a Bad Night’s Sleep: Redefining the Power Nap

If you don’t sleep well, either once or chronically, then you’ll need to occasionally take a nap. If you’re a chronically disrupted sleeper, that’s totally OK.  In the US, with the heavy influence of the pharmaceutical industry, people are conditioned to believe that unless they sleep for 7+ uninterrupted hours, they’ve had a bad night’s sleep. That’s entirely untrue! Sleep is typically interrupted by 3-4 periods of awakeness of varying duration, sometimes lasting just a few minutes and sometimes just moments. Often, the person sleeping is not aware that a period of wakefulness happened. (The average adult can sleep anywhere between 6 and 10 hours each night, so getting those perfect 8 hours each night is simply mythological for some people, and totally unnecessary – and for others, not enough! Listen to your body and follow your rhythms regarding your sleep requirements)

Nighttime wakefulness is perfectly reasonable, if it is put in the context of personal safety that just a few generations ago was a real risk for most of us. It’s reasonable to wake up, assess your surroundings and listen for unusual sounds or worrisome noises, and then drift back to sleep. If this was Little House on the Prairie times, our families would be at serious and real risks most nights from natural disasters and dangerous animals. So if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, put it in the context of a healthy brain wired to protect yourself and your family. Allow yourself to move through your checklist of safety and security, and then go back to sleep.

However, for some of us, sleep is routinely disrupted by a few hours of wakefulness most nights. For these people, a power nap in the middle of the afternoon is a valuable addition to supporting a healthy brain. What I’m finding most interesting is the new data that is redefining the “power nap”. It turns out that just a few minutes of sleep – anywhere between 5 to 15 – can be remarkably restorative for the brain. If you find yourself exhausted in the mid-afternoon and needing a nap, don’t underestimate the value of these tiny catnaps – you may find that is all the napping you need to energize a tired brain and get you safely and productively through the rest of your workday.

Adapted from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (2 November 2016) doi:10. 1038./ejcn.2016.201


Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD

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