Thanks to the natural health experts at Bastyr University, who have generously sponsored this series, the tenth challenge of our Working on Wellness Series had us finding ways to improve our sleep.

Who couldn't use a better night's sleep? With the holidays around the corner, we decided to try to find out how to maximize the quality of our shut-eye, even as the quanity is about to take a hit.

We turned to Mindy Cetel M.D., the founder and medical director of the Integrative Insomnia and Sleep Health Clinic. A fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, board certified in both sleep medicine and neurology, Dr. Cetel has been practicing Sleep Medicine since completing her fellowship at Stanford in 1991.


Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Sleep requirements vary person to person, and are likely genetically determined. The answer for how much sleep you need, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is "the amount that lets you feel rested and function well.'' While there isn’t a magic number of hours for a good night’s sleep it’s recommended to allow the opportunity for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Getting below 6 hours of sleep on a regular basis starts to risk health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

Make a ritual of winding down for the evening at least one hour before target sleep time. Dimming lights to candle light intensity or lower, and getting washed and ready for bed will signal to your body that you are "done for the day". Then engage in a pleasant relaxing activity until feeling waves of drowsiness before attempting to sleep. It’s best not to try to force sleep, just set the circumstances to allow it to occur.

Set your intention to be “done for the day” and to remain “done” throughout the night. We are never truly done, but we must decide to call it quits.  We must give ourselves permission to change from a “human doing” into a “human being”.

Sleep on it. Lest you feel guilty about ending your productive day by going to sleep, neuroscience shows “sleeping on it” gives rise to breakthroughs in learning and creativity. In sleep, our brains cement the day’s learning into permanent memory, and integrate it with existing knowledge to forge new conclusions.


Jet lag recovery time can be reduced by eating according to the new time zone before you travel.  The timing of meals helps set the body’s time clock.

Avoid "junk foods". Sleep deprivation increases cravings for “junk foods” high in sugars and fats. At the same time, "junk foods" impair the brain centers responsible for good judgement, leading to a double challenge for weight management.

Try drinking tart cherry juice. In a small study of people above age 50 researchers found that consuming 240ml of tart cherry juice twice a day led to decreased insomnia. The reason may be related to a substance in tart cherry juice that increases tryptophan and decreases inflammation.

Try to stop eating at least 3 hours before bed to avoid reflux. But if hungry, a light snack is fine.

About Our Sponsor

The nutrition faculty at Bastyr University is on a mission to support the local community through health and nutrition education. Bastyr University opened its campus in San Diego in 2012, while the main campus in Washington State recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Bastyr is a global leader in evidenced-based natural health education, and the local campus located in Sorrento Valley offers two nutrition degrees: Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Culinary Arts (BSNCA) and Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness (MSNW).

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