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Healthy Tip: Sleep Well

By Alana Sugar, September 7, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
Whole Body Essential Oils Do you ever wake up feeling less than refreshed after what should have been a good night's sleep? If so, move over! Falling asleep and staying asleep is a widespread problem. Stay tuned, though, there may be a few natural and relaxing strategies you can employ to help set the mood for a good night's snooze. When I first began researching this blog post, I wanted a scientific explanation as to why we need to sleep in the first place. I went digging around for the answer and learned something surprising: Scientists can tell us exactly why we need to eat, drink and move around, but they don't know exactly why sleep is so critical to our survival. The good news is that how you live your day can affect how you sleep at night. For example, your dietary habits, level of exercise, daily stress levels and caffeine or alcohol intake, as well as medications, hormone changes and illness can all affect the quality of your sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults need between seven and eight hours sleep each night. During deep sleep, our bodies restore themselves. Scientists believe during that time, our bodies regenerate and help the healing process such as repairing tissues and releasing hormones. Here are some simple strategies to help you get a good night's sleep.
  • Keep regular hours. Over time, this trains your body to sleep and wake close to the same times daily.
  • Get regular exercise. It may be best to exercise early in the day since evening exercising may be too energizing for some people.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening as this can affect sound sleep. (Check back next week for my post all about caffeine.)
  • Avoid going to bed on a full stomach; this can cause digestive distress and keep you up at night.
  • But don't go to bed really hungry either! Have a light snack if needed: a small glass of warm milk, a little piece of fruit, or a few whole grain crackers.
  • Don't drink too much water or other liquids before bed-time as this often requires middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.
  • Keep your diet as healthy as possible with a focus on whole foods - fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats. Avoid junk foods, heavy fried foods, sugary sweets and desserts as these can tax the digestive system.
  • Create a natural winding-down period by keeping to quiet activities for a couple of hours before bedtime.
  • White Tea
  • A small cup of chamomile tea after dinner may help you begin the relaxing process.
  • Read a book or listen to soft music.
  • Try some gentle yoga stretches.
  • Enjoy a warm bath at night. Often, warm water helps relax the muscles from a stressful day.
  • Try some comforting and relaxing essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile. A few drops on an eye pillow or cotton ball at night may help you relax into a peaceful sleep.
  • You also may enjoy a soothing foot massage with a little lavender oil.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. For many people, it's easier to sleep in a cooler temperature. Try using a fan.
  • Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable - not too firm or too soft.
  • Be sure to keep your bedroom quiet and dark when sleeping.
  • Try a natural, safe homeopathic remedy for calming and sleeping. Check with our Whole Body Team Members for recommendations.
Remember that lots of people have periodic nights when sleep seems to elude them. If you have trouble on an ongoing basis, though, it may be worth consulting a qualified health care practitioner for further advice. Got a good tip for a good night's sleep? I'd love to hear.
Category: Healthy Eating




gina says ...
Great tips. I will use these in the future, as I've been known to have sleep troubles and don't want to rely on my small glass of red wine EVERY night!
09/07/2009 8:21:18 AM CDT
Judy Manisco says ...
Alcohol and Hidden forms of MSG (Monosodium Glutamate, Natural Flavors, Broth, Spices, even Soy Sauce) can distrupt sleep and cause nightmares.
09/07/2009 12:08:49 PM CDT
Pete says ...
Awesome stuff. My trick to going to sleep is to jump rope as fast as I can before bed time for about 10 minutes. I am so gone after that, I fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed, it is also a great way to keep the heart in great shape. :)
09/07/2009 12:09:40 PM CDT
mcoker says ...
I love the Sleepytime Extra tea you guys sell, by Celestial Seasonings. It has chamomile and valerian root, both are very calming and relaxing. Melatonin is also very good as a sleep regulator, and completely non-addictive. I also find that if I'm laying in bed trying to sleep, but am not sleepy, it's good to get up and go somewhere else for a little bit and not reinforce being awake while laying in bed. I'll go sit in a comfy chair in my living room, turn on a dim light, make a warm cup of milk with whole grain oats, and read some excerpts from Warrior of the Light. 10-15 minutes later, I'm usually yawning and ready to go to sleep :-)
09/07/2009 12:18:32 PM CDT
Melinda Potcher says ...
my BF & I have been trying all of the suggestions above, but we still have issues sleeping to the extreme - what homeopathic options are there?
09/07/2009 12:23:42 PM CDT
Melanie says ...
You should also position magnets under your matress (used in magnetotherapy), your head should be at the north (and foot at the south), if this is not possible try the east. Get rid of all electrical devices in your bedroom such as cell phone, computers...
09/07/2009 12:25:43 PM CDT
Lexi says ...
I found that resting my legs parallel on a wall and my back to the floor helps move all the blood/fluid that's built up in my legs from sitting at a desk all day. Keeps the "restless legs" at bay. Another helpful tip- don't watch the clock. If you wake up in the middle of the night and realize that you have to get up in 3 hours it's harder to fall back asleep and can actually keep you up longer. If you don't note the time, you don't realize how long you have been awake and/or how much sleep you are missing out on.
09/07/2009 12:42:26 PM CDT
Dave says ...
I'm pretty good at following most of those, but it is very difficult for me to sleep in a completely quiet and dark room. I also don't wake up if the room gets lighter. After a hurricane when we lose power I use a very dim light and fan to help me fall asleep. As for the question at the top, I'm lucky if I wake up refreshed once a year, and usually if I do, as soon as I get out of bed I'm tired. Usually it takes me hours to wake up, but then when I get going, it's hard to stop!
09/07/2009 1:12:06 PM CDT
elizabeth says ...
Sleep machines are very helpful for us, either using rain or (my favorite) ocean waves can drown out random noises or create steady ones when it's really quiet.
09/07/2009 5:41:27 PM CDT
GourmetOnADiet says ...
How funny, I just wrote a post on this and you definitely have different tips than I do. I'd love a lavender foot massage! My tips are here: http://www.gourmetonadiet.com/2009/08/sleep-city.html
09/07/2009 6:31:43 PM CDT
daisy says ...
Try going gluten free and see if it help. I went through period where I couldn't sleep at all at night and was tired all day, turns out I had celiac disease and now I sleep like a baby.
09/07/2009 8:59:53 PM CDT
Helen K Garber says ...
not mentioning products is hard when it comes to helping people with a sleep issue. My husband created that safe homeopathic remedy for calming and sleeping that is selling well and helping Whole Food customers in the Southern CA region. We just wish that it can be available as soon as possible to all Whole Foods customers in all the stores. Sleeping well is important for everyone.
09/08/2009 11:09:10 AM CDT
Holly says ...
Dr. Garber's Natural Solutions "Sleep Formula" is a homeopathic formula that I have used successfully for myself and my clients. Because it's homeopathic, there are no hang-over effects that so many sleep aids have. It also aims to actually heal the issue. I know that it is sold in all the Southern California Whole Foods stores, and I highly recommend it.
09/08/2009 7:43:23 PM CDT
scott penton says ...
thanks for the tips, I'll have to try them
09/09/2009 3:53:01 PM CDT
S Hoffman says ...
Another natural sleep aid, and one that all women should take anyway, is a 500 mg calcium/magnesium supplement before bed. Magnesium relaxes and calcium can deepen sleep.
09/09/2009 4:04:48 PM CDT
molly yellin says ...
sleep is such a difficult thing for me that although I have tried just about everything once in a while it will be just a wonder full sleep night. I seem to be in good health and I eat well balanced meals. My mom had said even as a young child I was noy a "sleeper" I don't doze off in club chairs and trains and I feel that very sleepy people may noy be as healthy as I am. MY
09/09/2009 6:03:27 PM CDT
Bob D. says ...
Thank you for all your suggestions. When I go to bed - I don't want to start or have substantive discussions with my wife, nor read, nor watch TV. Period. Those activities tend to energize and stimulate rather than help me just "vege out". A difference in routines and peferences doesn't help, either. She likes to read before sleep,-I don't. This can cause some subtle resentment, - not a healthy way to go to sleep. And the snoring,,,! I have also noticed that a single ibuprofen tends to help me (personally) get a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep before the inevitable bathroom call. Tough getting older.
09/09/2009 10:20:35 PM CDT
Jamie says ...
30 minutes of meditation before hand will help if you have a very stressful life. I went through a period I woke up religiously at 2 a.m. every night, and could not go back to sleep (it was a recurring dream) and after about 6 months I was so drained that I couldn't hold even a small conversation. Once I started the meditation, my sleep was deeper and after 2-3 days the nightmare stopped. I try to practice meditation at least 2times a week to keep what's important on top (myself) and everything else in the back. There are some meditation podcasts that help you learn the basics.
09/10/2009 10:06:03 AM CDT
DJ says ...
I have no trouble sleeping. With 3 kids and a fulltime job I'm lucky if I don't doze off during dinner. My three year old on the other hand did not sleep well. She didn't like to go to sleep and often would wake up a couple of times a night. I began a steady routine of bath before bed and I put a drop or two of lavender on her pillow at night. This has greatly improved her sleep habits.
09/11/2009 2:07:30 PM CDT
James_M says ...
Taking magnesium before going to bed will guarantee a restful nights sleep. http://www.ultrawellness.com/blog/magnesium-relaxation-mineral
09/15/2009 12:57:31 PM CDT
summer_in_austin says ...
I am a VERY sound sleeper; I fall asleep FAST and tend to stay asleep. I do two things every night: 1) Use lighting as a transition cue; as you get closer to going to bed, start turning off the bright lights in the house/room and start using dim/low lights. Step 1: During the last hour or so before bed if I'm watching tv to relax, I have only 1 lamp on (across the room, not right next to me). Step 2: When I get up to brush my teeth/wash my face, etc. I turn off all of the lights except a plug-in nightlight in the bathroom. 2) Mentioned above - don't have anything to drink in the last hour or so before bed (and go to the bathroom twice: 1)when i start getting ready for bed and 2)after finishing washing up/brushing etc --- go directly to bed then)
09/16/2009 8:43:17 AM CDT
Micky M says ...
Thanks for these helpful tips. Lack of sleep has really been bugging me and I will try to out a few if not all of the above suggestions into action. I also enjoyed reading the additional suggestions sent in by other Whole Foods readers.
09/23/2009 2:38:03 PM CDT
Kim Scuderi says ...
I've been listening to hypnotic sleep tapes to help me get into sleep mode faster. I keep it by my bed with earphones so I can listen if I wake up in the middle of the night. The padded tiny earphones are more comfortable and it doesn't disturb my husband.
09/25/2009 9:04:41 PM CDT
Bo says ...
What I often find is that the right comfortable sleeping position is the key factor in getting a good nights sleep. I have personally tried everything imaginable in my attepts to get a good nights sleep. Still looking but love your post
10/27/2009 7:25:57 AM CDT
gi says ...
this is great!!
12/04/2009 5:08:47 AM CST