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My 16 BEST Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep: Part 1

Angeli Sivaraman
Angeli Sivaraman
5 min read
My 16 BEST Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep: Part 1
Photo Cred: Wei Leong - This is me falling asleep on Rocco after a day of tree planting

Table of Contents

First off, I want to shout out to my BFF Wei who came to visit me this week and helped me draw and solidify the logo I wanted for this website! Wei darling, your work is so appreciated! You are the best! I love you!!

For today’s post I am diving into tips on how to improve sleep. I have worked in healthcare for 5 years, and I run into patients all the time who can’t sleep. I totally empathize because I have struggled with insomnia since I was a child! Such a frustration. But guess what! You can improve your sleep. Sleep is so important. Better sleep translates to improved mood, energy, concentration, heart health, focus, and just feeling so good! So let's dive in.

I have divided the steps into things we can do before we can get into bed (today's post) and things we can do once we're in bed (next week's post).

As a disclaimer, often there is an underlying cause to insomnia, which commonly can be associated with mental health. If you are suffering from mental health issues, I invite you to check in with yourself and see if you need additional assistance from a trained medical professional to hone your treatment approach (this may include meds, therapy, or both!). For the purposes of this article, I will focus on things we can do on our own to improve our sleep, and again I invite you to check in to see if additional treatment is necessary.

A couple of definitions before we begin:

  • sleep onset: the time it takes to fall asleep
  • sleep maintenance: the length of time one stays asleep

One thing I'd like to mention is that our sleep needs can change from night to night. That is perfectly normal! If we can reframe our expectations of our sleep, from the "8 hours a night" to "what does my body need tonight", hopefully this can help us feel better about the sleep we are getting. Additionally, even if you are a sound sleeper, there may be nights where you still find yourself awake. Using our beginner's mind with a healthy dose of self-compassion and acceptance can alleviate some of that suffering here.

So here are some tips for what to do before you get into bed:

  1. Establish a daily meditation practice: Have you ever experienced your mind racing once your head hits the pillow? Wanna know why that happens? Because it’s the only time we gave ourselves to be still. Thoughts can affect feelings, so if we can take some time to notice our thoughts and feelings during the day, we can process those thoughts and feelings before our heads hit the pillow. Giving ourselves time to sit in our mindful awareness assists with noticing what is going on in the present moment.  Journaling can be a wonderful adjunct to meditation and is immensely helpful for organizing our thoughts and processing our emotions. I love journaling!
  2. Identify your automatic negative thoughts around sleep: this is huge! if we think or believe something negative about sleep, chances are we are not going to sleep well. Thoughts like “I don't know if I'll fall asleep” or “I only have this much time till morning left” (in the middle of the night) are anxiety provoking! These are called automatic negative thoughts, and can really derail our sleep. Identifying these thoughts is part of something called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Realigning them with more objective and truthful thoughts can help offset much of the anxiety surrounding insomnia.  This takes a considerable amount of consistency and effort for you to start to see changes. You'll need a journal to do this. But this can be game changing! I highly recommend the book “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” by Dr. Gregg Jacobs to help with this.
  3. Eat an early dinner: eating late means you are still digesting when you want your body’s energy to focus on rest. Eating or snacking late at night not only disrupts sleep due to digestion, but can cause acid reflux due to lying down right after eating food. It is not a great feeling to wake up in the middle of the night from acid reflux, trust me. Try to eat at least 3 hours before you plan to lie down!
  4. Exercise daily, at least 4 hours before bedtime: exercise tires our bodies out, but paradoxically can give us more energy. For this reason, aim to exercise during the day with enough time to wind down afterwards. The picture above was taken after a day of planting a tree! I was so exhausted I fell asleep on Rocco while my friend snapped a picture of us.
  5. Turn off screens! Or at least wear blue-light glasses: Especially leading up to the hour before bed: lights cause the brain not to produce something called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is released after the sun sets to help regulate our sleep-wake cycle and rest. Our brains can’t tell the difference between sunlight and screen light, so too much screen time can trick our brains into wanting to keep us awake! Another thing I would like to note: melatonin may help us wind down, but it does not help us stay asleep! So if you are tempted to buy some melatonin OTC, it will only help with getting ready for sleep and may help only marginally with sleep onset, but not necessarily with sleep maintenance. This is a huge myth that I wanted to debunk about melatonin.
  6. Turn down the lights later in the day: similar to above, simply turning off some lights in the living room or room you are spending the evening in can make a world of difference in helping us wind down for the day.
  7. Choose a restful pre-bedtime activity: this can be anything from a crossword puzzle to reading, coloring, writing, or drinking a warm cup of non-caffeinated tea. Whenever I fall back into a bout of insomnia, the first thing I do to reset is make warm chamomile tea before bed. The warm tea and the chamomile is a signal to my body to relax. Other examples of nighttime teas include valerian root and lavender. Check to make sure these teas don't interact with your medications if you take any!
  8. Avoid napping: if you suffer from insomnia, napping can really derail your sleep plans. Aim to avoid napping until you have an established sleep routine with good quality sleep for most nights of the week for several months before you try napping. Once you are feeling more confident about sleep, nap for no more than 15-20 minutes so as to avoid deeper stages of sleep during the day.
  9. Limit alcohol: While alcohol is a depressant and can decrease sleep onset, it can shorten deeper sleep cycles that occur later in the night (such as REM, where you dream). This can cause disruptions to sleep maintenance and create lighter sleep. I notice when I drink alcohol, my sleep is much lighter and less satisfying. If you struggle with sleeping, consider skipping alcohol until you have readjusted your sleep to your liking.
  10. Set a bedtime alarm! we have alarms for everything else, why not this?

For now, these are some tips for what to do before you get into bed.  Stay tuned for next week when we review what to do once you are in bed. A good night's sleep does not have to be out of reach! Trust me, this was one of hardest things I had to go through. It can be so frustrating it can make you cry! And it’s possible to change it if we look at our thought and behavioral patterns and make some adjustments.

Sleep tends to change based on our age, our mental health, our moods, our emotions, our stress, the recent events of our lives, and so much more. If we are able to address and process some of those things, a good night's sleep can be ours to enjoy again.

Please reach out if you have any questions! You got this!


Quote: “Sleep is the best meditation” - the Dalai Lama


  1. Jacobs, Gregg D. Say Goodnight to Insomnia. New York, Henry Holt:  2009.
  2. Danielle Pacheco. "Alcohol and Sleep". Sleep Foundation. March 11, 2022. Accessed: April 11, 2022.
  3. Matt Walker. Ted Talk: Sleeping With Science. November 2021. Accessed: April 12, 2022,

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Angeli Sivaraman is a spiritualist, meditator, nature junkie, and dog mom. She is the creator of Sage Elephant, a blog about spirituality and wellness. She can be reached by email!