How to Get a Great Night’s Sleep for Optimal Health

Erik Lundquist, MD -

Nearly everyone has experienced poor sleep at some point in their life. However, when falling asleep too late and waking exhausted every morning, tossing and turning throughout the night, or even consistently sleeping a full eight hours but feeling fatigued all day becomes the norm, then it needs to be addressed.

We recently discussed the ways that sleep and stress are intertwined. We have also covered things that interfere with sleep, such as various lifestyle habits, medications, and physical and mental health conditions. There is one important aspect left to cover - how to actually improve sleep!

How to Get a Great Night’s Sleep for Optimal Health

What Helps Improve Sleep?

If you consider taking a prescription sleep aid, it is important to note thatin 2007, the FDA warned that rare but serious injuries, including sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and death, had happened with certain prescription insomnia medications. The symptoms were most common with Lunesta, Sonata, and Zolpidem. As a result, it required drug manufacturers of sedative-hypnotic drugs to add a boxed warning to the medications (1, 2). There are plenty of other resources to help you gain a better night’s sleep.


Turning off the bedroom lights typically helps us drift to sleep, the dark stimulating the brain to release melatonin. If you're experiencing sleeping problems, taking a melatonin supplement could help. Evidence shows that melatonin supplements not only help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, they also help regulate the sleep-wake pattern (3). A meta-analysis also found that melatonin supplements show promise in preventing phase-shifts from jet lag and improve insomnia in otherwise healthy adults, but to a limited extent (4). It is important to note that melatonin does need dark to help you sleep.

While melatonin’s sleep benefits are well known, it does have many other benefits. Melatonin also has anti-inflammatory effects, and several studies have found it reduces tissue destruction by regulating the cytokine production of immunocompetent cells (5). The sleep hormone may also be a promising drug for sepsis (2). Several animal models demonstrate that it can prevent multi-organ dysfunction and improve survival, and clinical trials in the pediatric population have also shown promising results (6). Additionally, the minimal side effects of oral melatonin make it a favorable adjunctive treatment in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock (6).


Oral melatonin isn't the only supplement that may improve sleep. Magnesium also plays a role in the sleep process, and additional magnesium in your diet plays a vital role in sleep regulation (7). Low magnesium levels are associated with poor sleep quality, insomnia, anxiety, and depression (7). In one study, elderly patients with insomnia took 500 mg of magnesium daily for eight weeks. The results found that, compared to the placebo group, the group taking magnesium experienced increased sleep efficiency, slept longer, spent less time falling asleep, had increased melatonin levels, and decreased cortisol levels (8).

Health experts recommend adults take 300 to 420 mg of magnesium daily, depending on sex and age (7). Some foods with magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, yogurt, milk, tofu, soy products, and whole grains like brown rice (7).

Vitamin D

Not getting enough sunlight and experiencing poor sleep? You may have a vitamin D deficiency, which is sometimes associated with sleep disorders, poor sleep quality, short sleep duration, and sleepiness (2). There is some evidence that vitamin D supplements can improve slee