Great health depends upon getting a good night’s sleep. Yet, few of us are able to sleep well. Many, or most of us wake up feeling that we need much more sleep. Here’s a primer on how to get a good night’s sleep, even a great night’s sleep.

  1. Food:  avoid late meals.
  2. Food: avoid late-day high-sugar snacks. That means no meals high in simple carbohydrates, (sugar or fructose or artificial sweeteners): sweet drinks, ice-cream, many cereals from the carton, jams and spreads on crackers or toast, candies, hot chocolate, syrups made with sugar or fructose, etc. In addition to being a bad idea because of the effects of simple carbohydrates on the body, a frequently side effect of sweetened drinks or foods is indigestion or heartburn. If you experience heartburn at night think back to what you ate, or drank, which may have been high in sweeteners, within a 2 to 4 hours of bedtime.
  3. Food: animal protein late in the day, especially before bedtime is a very bad idea, if you are seeking a good restful sleep. To make a very complex digestive process simple to understand: animal products, including dairy, poultry, fish, are typically very high in fats which slow the digestive process. Consequently, you may find it tough to digest while trying to fall asleep. Fat slows digestion. Cheese, for example, contains a great deal of fat. Every other animal product, called proteins by many people, contain high amounts of fat.
  4. Food: avoid eating within 4 hours of bedtime any food that you already know jacks up your stomach acids before heading for bed. If you are reaching for an antacid to calm your heartburn before bed you are ignoring the problem caused by the food you eat. That same food/problem will rob you of a good night’s sleep. The antacid is not the solution. Avoiding that particular stomach-acid-flooding food is the solution. Smarten up.
  5. Food: avoid milk late in the day and especially before bed time. The old folklore was that milk will help to lull you to sleep. The contrary is more likely closer to the truth. Milk contains proteins and calcium. Both are hard on the stomach. Not something you want to pack into the stomach before heading for bed.
  6. NEURO-STIMULATORS and NEURO-TOXINS: Avoid artificial sweeteners and the many variations and nicknames given to those artificial sweeteners. Look up the side effects of what you are eating or drinking. Foods are often spiked with simple carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, food colorings, food dyes, and Monosodium Glutamate, (MSG). Let’s also keep in mind a host of other chemicals are added to foods to preserve them or make them taste better. Check the side effects of what you may think is an innocuous chemical additive such as Benzoates often found in beverages. You may find you unknowingly experience side effects to Benzoates such as: Benzoic Acid, or Benzoates of Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, etc.
  7. Drinks: avoid caffeinated drinks after 11 am, especially coffee. That means, stop drinking and sipping your coffee BEFORE LUNCH and keep away from it all day thereafter. Coffee has a 24-hour impact on your body. Mind you, you get your blast within the first 4 hours of drinking a cup of coffee. Don’t think it is purged from your system by nightfall. If you are aiming for a better night’s sleep, know that the effects last a long, long time, so the cup of coffee you had with breakfast is still screwing, somewhat, with your sleep late at night.
  8. Drinks: BOTH coffee, even decaffeinated, and alcoholic beverages increase stomach acid production. If you have heartburn when going to bed, it may be because of what you drank.
  9. Drinks: Avoid alcohol for the entire day. You may think you are having a social drink to relax yourself when you arrive home from work, but that drink is like your wake-up pill, not your sleep pill. By about 3 am to 4 am, when you ought to be sailing through you period of deep, REM sleep, your body is having a soccer game with a product that alcohol produces in our systems, ALDEHYDES, a product of digesting alcohol. KNOW THIS ABOUT ALDEHYDES : “They are STIMULANTS”.See End Note 1
  10. PATTERN: the body is like a gigantic clock. Mess with the timing and you have to take time, days, weeks, months, to reset your biological clock. Work towards your sleep objective. Creep towards it in baby steps, if necessary.
  11. POSITIONING: people with GERD, (heartburn that shoots up the oesophagus), may need to adjust the position of the entire bed, not just their head and neck, but the entire headboard area of the bed so they are actually sleeping flat, but the entire body is on a 10-, or 15-degree angle to help keep stomach acids from flowing along the oesophagus when sleeping.
  12. HABIT FORMING: Sleeping is a pattern. You have to train your body to adopt a habit of sleeping at a certain time, in a certain place, and in a certain way. DON’T BREAK YOUR PATTERN, even if you can’t sleep well. Keep to the same place, same time, same routine etc., as much as possible.
  13. LOCATION. LOCATION:  In real estate, location matters. In sleep, location matters. Ensure your sleep area is conducive to sleeping. If your sleep area is supportive of sleep, but, regardless, you awake at ungodly hours, CHANGE YOUR LOCATION for a few more hours of sleep potential, if you feel you need it. Notice I used the word “potential”. This may work if you stick with it long enough to develop a secondary area away from the bedroom as another sleep area.
  14. USE SLEEP TOOLS: If you sleep alongside someone who snores, buy ear plugs. If you have large windows, buy a good set of blinds or heavy curtains.
  15. USE YOUR TIME WISELY: your battle to adjust your sleep pattern may be a long one. Accept that. Don’t let yourself get frustrated. Years ago when I had every bad habit imaginable and could not sleep well, I’d arise at 3:30 am to train myself to learn to write for various USA publications. Though I did not achieve my objective of sleeping longer, I did achieve my objective of becoming a published writer and scored a number of USA publications to my credit while picking up another useful skill.
  16. ENTERTAIN YOURSELF: I certainly don’t mean, get up and dance around the room to loud music. But hey, if doing that for a few minutes helps, then go ahead and do that. What I mean is to find something that will help you enjoy the remaining few hours before you need to get out of bed such that you can remain LAYING DOWN and remain with your EYES CLOSED. Not that I am your shining example, but I really enjoy listening to KEXP.COM (from Seattle, Washington). When I can’t sleep as long as I want to, I will switch on my laptop, tune into KEXP.COM and return to bed with that station playing in the background. I lay there for the remaining few hours of my designated “sleep time” but laying down and with my eyes closed. That way I get to REST WELL while listening to my favorite station even if the rest of the day and evening is too busy to let me do so later in the day.
  17. BACKGROUND NOISE: Some people need to have some background noise such as a radio playing the background, quietly, in order to fall asleep.

Most people have to work at developing a pattern, a habit, of sleeping.

Do check with your doctor, as well. Be sure you are not blood deficient in any of the necessary nutrients, minerals, etc. But DO NOT TAKE VITAMINS on the assumption that they are safe. They are not free of side effects and are just like any other drug or pharmaceutical or chemical. When ingested they may pose serious long-term harm. So, be smart and know the side effects to everything you shove into your mouth. Talk to your doctor to rule out any illnesses or diseases that may contribute to chronic insomnia.

I have an interesting story from my past as a university student to help demonstrate what a difference a great doctor can make on one’s life…and, in this case, on one’s ability to get a good night’s rest.

Back in university I went nuts, like most 1st-year university students do. I studied late into the night, often pulled all-nighters, smoked cigarettes like a madman, drank gallons of coffee, drank alcohol and occasionally did so when binging, ate greasy and fat-laden foods…you get the picture. I complained about being UNABLE TO SLEEP. D’uh!

When I made it home for Christmas break I went straight to my family doctor to tell him of my woes about bad sleep habits. He prescribed reddish-colored pills about the size of an American quarter coin. Those pills made me sleep like a baby and I dreamed in technicolor, too. When my prescription ran out, I returned to my doctor to hesitatingly ask for more. I was rather worried that those narcotics were so powerful that I’d be addicted for life. He laughed and said those pills were merely “…a massive dose of vitamin B-12.” He then admonished me to cut back on the partying, do fewer all-nighters, and learn to eat plenty more vegetables instead of all the grease-laden proteins. There you go. An old-time doctor who knew his stuff. I didn’t need sleeping pills. I just needed to eat better, get into a sleep routine, and until then my doctor had me take some vitamin B-12 to top up my reservoir. So, check with your doctor, and your solution might be as simple as mine was.


  1. POWER FOODS FOR THE BRAIN By Neal D. Barnard, M.D. Grand Central & Lifestyle, New York. 2013. p. 126