Home > Self Help Guide > Module 7: Get a Great Night’s Sleep

Get a Great Night’s Sleep

Created and maintained by Kim Crawford, M.D., F.A.C.P.M., A.B.A.A.R.M.

Sleep issues are a complex topic and also one of the most common problems. Getting 7-8 hours of deep, restful, and uninterrupted sleep is essential for optimal health. We will cover common sleep issues, their causes, and how to solve them.

Want deep, restful sleep? Who doesn’t?

Do you wake up exhausted? Need help falling asleep or staying asleep? “Why can’t I sleep anymore?” is a very common question asked to doctors. This is such a complex topic which most doctors treat by handing out sleeping pills or people take it into their own hands and start taking things like Benadryl – which is demonstrated to decrease cognition after only 2 months of use. Without proper sleep, the health of your body and mind will suffer.

The four common sleep issues

1) Sleep initiation

Many people have trouble falling asleep due to stress. Some people feel that their head is racing with various and often negative thoughts. Another cause is that if you are highly caffeine sensitive, any caffeine after noon might keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Another issue affecting sleep initiation is how long before heading to bed do you stop eating? This is something people often do not associate with poor sleep, but it often has a negative effect. Not only can eating before bed interrupt your sleep but also so can late-night exercise which for many gets the blood flowing a bit too much. Exercise should be completed 4 hours before going to bed.

If you smoke, nicotine is also a stimulant. It can impair sleep initiation. I hope no one reading this is a smoker because (as you know) smoking causes more than just sleep problems, and you can find blogs to help you quit for good.

Although not a stimulant, light and sound can also dramatically affect sleep initiation. Some people are very light sensitive (think about night-lights and LED’s), and others are sound sensitive (think about using silicone earplugs). Most people have some sleep interference if they use tablets, smartphones, and computers in bed. Television viewing in the bedroom can also interfere with sleep initiation.

2) Multiple awakenings

If you are getting poor sleep from waking up either during the night or too early, this has several potential causes. Reasons may include LED’s, snoring spouses or dogs, and excess food and/or fluids before bedtime. Something that many people are unaware of is that, while it might help you get to sleep if you’re stressed, alcohol is a big wake-up culprit.

If you are peri-menopausal, low progesterone can disrupt all stages of sleep and low/fluctuating estrogen levels can wake you up with sweats.

Adrenal fatigue is almost always associated with wakes ups. In stages of adrenal fatigue 2, 3, and 4 (especially 2b-4) it is pretty universal and often the first sign of adrenal fatigue. What is adrenal fatigue? It’s a burnout, and it sure does wreck energy and sleep. You can learn more about adrenal fatigue in Module 2: Regain the Energy of Your Youth.

Mild or moderate depression can also cause frequent wake ups, which you may not recognize as a mood issue.

Lastly, a low MSH caused by innate immune system dysfunction (most commonly caused by CIRS; sometimes by certain cancers) can disrupt your sleep as well.

3) Difficulty re-sleeping (getting back to sleep)

Most of the time this is due to anxiety or being unable to clear your head due to being over-worked and over-scheduled. Sometimes this is an MSH issue; as mentioned above. Since the fixes and usually the causes for this are the same as for sleep initiation, this is addressed separately under the Solutions section of this page.

4) Unrefreshed sleep

Obviously, if you are waking up all night, you’ll still feel tired in the morning. However, if you are sleeping through the night, it may be you are not getting enough REM or deep sleep. Causes can be types of stress, mild depression, and even melatonin deficiency.

You might have an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. Other causes may be that you are getting inadequate amounts of sleep which is becoming rampant as we tend to work harder and longer. I don’t care what anyone says, they are compromising their health with 4 hours of sleep per night.

Self Assessment

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Webinar with Dr. Kim

This webinar covers the simple steps to a great night’s sleep. You will find additional answers in the next portion of this self help guide: Solutions.


Download and/or print these PDFs below for in-depth solutions.

Solutions Handout

Your Sleep Environment

Melatonin – The Whole Story

Helpful articles

The following articles are from Dr. Kim’s Aging Well blog and address some of the concerns in this guide.

Do You Need a Magnesium Supplement? Here’s How to Tell

A Review of the Natural Sleep Aids

Have a question for Dr. Kim? 
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