How to improve sleep

Simple Science Based Tips To Fall Asleep Fast

cortisol sleep stress Jun 18, 2024

If you struggle with getting to sleep, you HAVE TO WATCH THIS VIDEO! I'm going to show you some small tweaks you can make for the best night's sleep along with a guide on how to plan your day for optimal rest and recovery.

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Proven Ways to Get Better Sleep


What if I told you that by tweaking a few simple things in your daily routine, you could fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed?


Part of your sleep problems may have to do with psychological issues like too much stress, stimulation, or ruminating thoughts but there’s also a chemical, biological aspect to why you’re struggling with sleep.


Today I want to talk to you about how to improve the quality of your sleep by taking control of your chemistry and physiology, and then I'll show you exactly how to plan a day for the best night's sleep.


A big issue we all face with our sleep is the hormone cortisol. It’s a stress hormone, but it also affects our sleep/wake cycle.


Cortisol levels rise naturally in the morning and it’s part of the chemistry that wakes us up. As the day goes on, our natural cortisol levels start to decrease, reaching their low in the early evening and beginning stages of sleep.


More cortisol = wake up

Less cortisol = go to sleep


Now let's factor in the cortisol that’s produced due to your stress. Every time you experience stress - which you do all day long - cortisol is released and added to circulating levels. (And it stays in your body for several hours afterward.)


As the stress accumulates in your day, so do your cortisol levels. By the end of the day, you're physically tired, but the high levels of cortisol are preventing you from falling asleep.


And then things actually get worse: you’re stressed out about not being able to sleep, which produces more cortisol, which makes it even harder to sleep. And ironically, sleep is what you need the most because a good night's sleep turns off the production of cortisol.


So how do you break this loop?


I've got a set of strategies on how to optimize your “DAYS” and your “NIGHTS” to prepare your body chemically for great sleep.




Decrease caffeine & alcohol. Caffeine in large amounts stimulates cortisol (especially on an empty stomach) and wakefulness. And it stays in your system for longer than you think - it takes 5-7 hours for just 50% of the caffeine you ingest to leave your body. And research shows that people who drink large amounts of caffeine don't get as much good sleep as they think they do - the quality of their sleep would actually be a lot better if they cut back on their caffeine late in the day.


Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, but research shows you’ll also wake up more often during the night. And it disturbs your REM sleep, which is where you get the maximum amount of high quality recovery.


Absorb sunlight. Sunlight exposure ensures that our cortisol levels peak earlier in the day, which is better for nighttime sleep. Cells in your eyes send signals to your body and brain as a wakeup call. It then starts the countdown to getting tired for sleep. And indoor ambient light is not strong enough – you need to go outside for sunlight.


Y. Okay, I couldn’t come up with anything for the letter Y, but without it this whole acronym framework doesn’t work 😆


Speed up your heart rate. Exercise is the #1 way to rid your body of cortisol. Research shows that people who exercise regularly fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more rested.


Here’s a direct quote from a report Harvard did on sleep: “Exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to improve the quality of their sleep they get.” It's a biggie!




As we move into your nights, think back to when you were a little kid - there was an orchestrated bedtime routine to get you to wind down and get ready for sleep. Unfortunately there’s no “switch” that can be flipped for sleep. It’s more of a process. So think of these next few tools as your bedtime story with a warm glass of milk. 😉


No bright lights or blue lights. Your body reacts differently to light at different points in the day. As we’ve talked about, light exposure stimulates wakefulness. Even small amounts of light in the evening can mess with your sleep and circadian rhythms. Dim your lights and either decrease or stop your exposure to blue light from phones or screens.


Intentional activity like reading, meditation or a brain dump. We all need things to help us slow our brains from the stress and chaos of our busy days. Meditation reduces cortisol and slows our breathing - 2 things that happen naturally when we sleep.


Go to bed at the same time every night. Yes, even on the weekends. Do you enjoy jet lag? When you're going to sleep and waking up at different times, it's creating jet lag, which messes with your circadian rhythms and sleep wake cycles!


Hot shower or bath. We experience a natural drop in body temperature at the end of the day, which is part of the process of our body preparing us for sleep. We can recreate or emphasize this by raising our body temperature in the bath or shower, and when we get out there's a dramatic drop, which prepares our body for good sleep.


Temperature of your bedroom should be cooler than the rest of the house. Again, this relates to working with your natural drop in body temperature. Research shows that 65 degrees is ideal for most people.


Set an alarm for this whole process to start. It's easy to get distracted and then all of a sudden it's late and you rush to bed. But what you just learned is that there’s a process that need to happen. So set an alarm that signals you to start your wind down routine.


Putting this all together, here’s what an ideal D.A.Y. and N.I.G.H.T. routine could look like:


6:30 a.m. you wake up (and don’t hit snooze).


By 7:00 a.m. you step outside for some quick sun exposure - all it takes is 5 minutes on a sunny day or 20-30 minutes on a cloudy or rainy day. Maybe this is where you piggyback another healthy habit like a morning walk?


7:30 a.m. at the latest you're back inside. You're sipping on that first cup of delicious hot coffee or tea. Bonus tip: have some breakfast containing protein.

Exercise. As it relates to sleep, getting it done earlier in the day is typically better. When you exercise it speeds up your metabolism and energy. If you do it too close to bedtime it might interfere with your sleep. If you're doing intense exercise it's recommended that you complete it at least 60-90 minutes before sleeping.


2:00 p.m. you stop caffeine intake - or by noon if you're sensitive to it.


5:00 p.m. No alcohol. Maybe you have a decaffeinated, non-alcoholic beverage of some sort if you need something?


6:00 p.m. you dim the lights.


9:30  p.m. your bedtime alarm goes off and you begin your sleep sequence: you turn off the TV and decrease bedroom temperature.


9:45 p.m. you take a hot shower or bath.


10:00  p.m. you read, meditate or journal.


Somewhere around 10:15 to 10:30 p.m. you're drifting off to sleep. 😴


Be diabolical about getting good sleep! It’s the foundation of building a strong physiology that creates resilience and a better you.


If you're the kind of person that can fall asleep just fine but then wake up during the night and can't get back to sleep, watch this video on how to solve these problems.


10 Micro Strategies to Boost Your Energy & Resilience

Instead of reaching for that candy bar or cup of coffee, here are 10 QUICK & EASY WAYS you can increase your energy and resilience by changing your chemistry and physiology.


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