Getting those Zzzzzzzzs

Tossing and turning? Here are helpful tips for a relaxing snooze

By Barbara Pierce


Our minds and bodies are active all day. So it can be a challenge to turn off, wind down, fall asleep, and stay asleep. About one third of us get less than the recommended amount of sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is critically important for both your mental and physical health. Experts recommend we get between six to eight hours of sleep per night. Anything less will have an adverse effect on your health.

Lack of sleep can turn anyone into a crotchety grouch. Not getting enough sleep can lower your sex drive, weaken your immune system, interfere with clear thinking, and lead to weight gain. When you don’t get enough sleep, you increase your risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and even car accidents.

Entrepreneur and marketing executive Zack Holland, designer and co-founder of cloudten, offers these tips to improve your sleep and overall quality of life:

“Practice the ‘10, 3, 2, 1 Rule’” Holland suggests: “10 hours before bed, try to stay away from caffeine; three hours before bed, stay away from food and alcohol; two hours before, abstain from work, and one hour before, turn off your screens.”

— Lay off the caffeine 10 hours before bed: Most of us appreciate the benefit of coffee first thing in the morning. But, to get a good night’s sleep, don’t drink anything caffeinated after noon. That means sodas as well as coffee.

Caffeine remains in our system for anywhere from three to five hours; it can cause your sleep to be disrupted. Even decaffeinated coffee or the small amounts of caffeine in chocolate can affect your sleep. And some pain relievers contain caffeine.

— Stay away from food and alcohol for three hours before bed: Don’t eat heavy foods and big meals too late. They overload your digestive system, which affects how well you sleep. A big meal puts your stomach and intestines to work, which makes sleep more difficult. Avoid fatty foods that stress your digestive system, and acidic or spicy foods late in the day can result in heartburn and upset your stomach.

If you need a bedtime snack, have crackers and cheese or peanut butter, cereal, yogurt, or fruit.

Alcohol can make you sleepy at bedtime, but after its initial effects wear off, it will make you wake up more often overnight.

Easy on the beverages

Dial back the consumption of any beverage — water, juice, warm milk or even herbal tea. You can cut down on trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night if you stop drinking two hours before bedtime. If you have to get up at night, it can be hard to get back to sleep.

If you do get up to go to the bathroom, don’t turn on any lights; keep a dim nightlight in the bathroom.

— Abstain from work for two hours before bed: Give your brain a chance to wind down and relax. Avoid physically or emotionally stimulating activities as they trigger the release of cortisol, which increases your alertness.

Exercise definitely improves the quality of your sleep. However, it is important to exercise early in the day as exercise releases cortisol.

— Turn off your screens one hour before bed:  Eliminate screen time — TV, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and video games — one hour before bed. The flashing screens, intense colors and brightness all stimulate our brains and make it difficult to relax and fall asleep. Turning off technology gives your brain a chance to wind down.

The soft blue glow from a cell phone, tablet, or digital clock on your bedside table may hurt your sleep. Cover any displays you can’t turn off.

Have a consistent routine. Go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps set your internal biological clock.

Once you disrupt your cycle, it may take a few days to get back on track. Even if you have difficulty falling asleep, try to adhere to your regular times.

If you’re revved up just before bed, take an extra few minutes to do something relaxing. Going to bed with your mind still racing is counterproductive. If you’re still tossing and turning after 20 minutes, get up. Watching the clock can add stress and actually keep you up.

Holland’s last tip: “You spend on average one-third of your life in bed. So, the fabric touching your skin should be chemical-free and made in a healthy and holistic environment.”

His most recent project is a direct-to-consumer brand focused on bedding (

Your bedroom should be a place of relaxation and rest, not a work office or gaming room. Start with purchasing a comfortable mattress and pillows. Too much light filtering in can hamper sleep.

If outside noise keeps you awake, consider a white noise machine or earplugs. Turn the thermostat down at night, no higher than 75 degrees as we fall asleep easier in a cool environment.