6 Ways to Improve Sleep Without Counting Sheep

By Lauren Fischer
Improve Sleep

A great night’s sleep doesn’t begin when your head hits the pillow — it starts when you get up in the morning. There are actually steps you can take throughout the day to improve sleep and wake up rested.

Rise & Sunshine

The body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle, is controlled by light exposure. In order to establish a consistent sleep-wake pattern you need to get morning sunshine exposure, according to Chris Masterjohn, who has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences.

Aim for half an hour of sunlight exposure within one to two hours of waking. Try taking a walk outdoors or eating breakfast on the porch.

No Caffeine Eight Hours Before Bed

For most people this means no caffeine after about 2 p.m. However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine and may need to stop caffeine much earlier in the day or all together. Experiment with stopping caffeine intake at different times of day to determine how it affects your sleep.

Include Carbohydrates at Dinner

According to Masterjohn, carbohydrates are helpful for sleep for two reasons. One, they push tryptophan into the brain, which later becomes melatonin, the hormone that helps control sleep-wake cycles. Two, your body uses stored carbohydrates during the night to maintain stable blood sugar. Low blood sugar can make it difficult to fall asleep and can be a cause of waking during the night.

Decrease Blue Light

According to Masterjohn, electronic devices emit blue light that mimics daylight. As discussed in No. 1, sunlight is the regulator of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Blue light from our devices confuses the body about time of day, resulting in irregular sleep-wake patterns. Have no fear. You do not have to forgo electronics all together. There are apps that change your device’s daytime blue light into warmer evening light, like f.lux for Mac, f.lux v4 for Windows and Twilight for Android. iPhones have a “Night Shift” setting under “Display & Brightness.” Set these apps to start two to four hours before bedtime to keep blue light from disturbing sleep.


Magnesium helps calm the central nervous system, preparing the body for rest. About an hour before bed supplement with magnesium in one of the following ways:

  • Drink Natural Calm, a magnesium powder that comes in several flavors and dissolves into water.
  • Take a relaxing Epsom salts bath.
  • Apply topical magnesium oil to the soles of your feet.

Upgrade Your Sleepy Tea with Raw Honey and Collagen

Sleepy tea provides calming herbs and a relaxing pre-bed ritual. You can upgrade your bedtime tea by adding up to 1 tablespoon of raw honey and a scoop of collagen. Raw honey helps maintain stable blood sugar throughout the night and collagen provides the amino acid glycine that has been found to improve sleep quality and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

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Lauren has been a member of the Gainesville community since her freshman year at the University of Florida in 2001. She graduated with her master’s in nursing in 2008 and practiced as a pediatric nurse practitioner in Gainesville and Live Oak, Florida. Seeing patients, especially children, with compromised quality of life due to poor lifestyle choices sparked Lauren to seek additional education in holistic nutrition and wellness. She became certified as a Nutrition Therapy Consultant through the Nutrition Therapy Association in 2015. Lauren aims to provide accurate and actionable health and wellness information that will help people live happier and healthier lives.