Nov. 18. 2015
Nutrition Articles
McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

Just like a morning routine, a nighttime routine sets you up for success and a restful night’s sleep. Discover my 5 tips to sleep better, longer, and deeper.

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives or maybe this speaks directly to you now with the routines, schedules, and business of fall creeping back in; sleep. Sleep it vital to our human functioning, but especially when sleep becomes an issue it feels like a sticky cycle you can’t get out of right? You don’t sleep well one night then the next day you’re not focused, not being as productive, not present, etc., which may cause you eat unhealthier foods, become stressed easily, throw off digestion, and a host of hormonal dominos. Let’s put an end to sleepless nights with this Ultimate Nighttime Routine for Better Sleep- you may want to bookmark or share this for later!

“In this new series, I’m focusing Wednesdays to be all about wellness and optimizing our wellbeing. Join the conversation and share in the comments below.”


I’ll be the first to say, scratch that, my mom will be the first to say that I’ve always been a great sound sleeper. I can’t recall a time before last year, where I had trouble sleeping- even in college going through so many life changes, nothing seemed to phase my sleep. It wasn’t until last year, I had so much going on with growing Nutrition Stripped, huge changes in my personal life, shedding negative energy, and dealing with stress in a more profound way, etc.; you know, nothing out of the ordinary I’m sure you don’t face as well. But I get it. Life happens and sometimes our sleep will completely suffer because things are out of balance in our lifestyles. Sleep will always show you what’s going on in your body during the day, here’s a couple things to look at about sleep before we get started with creating your routine!

  • Reasons you might not be sleeping as well as you can: Stress, anxiety, nutrient deficiencies, illness, high cortisol levels (i.e. stress as well), digestion issues, supplements/stimulants/medications, hormone imbalance, noisy neighbors, puppies, newborns? eh, it happens ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
  • Just how important is sleep? Well, really important. Bad sleep can affect weight, cognition, insulin sensitivity (here and here), cortisol (here), androgens (here), thyroid hormones (here and here), and growth hormone (here and here).
  • What are the optimal hours we should sleep for? Most say 8, yet studies have shown anywhere between 7-9 hours a night. Again no matter what studies show, it’s all about what works for you! For me, 8 is my sweet spot, yet 9 is normally what I get in the fall and winter, and at 5-6 you don’t want to talk to me haha! It’s not just about the hours you sleep, it’s about the quality as well, reaching REM sleep is key for restoring health.
  • Does lack of sleep make you gain weight? Most likely! Less sleep has been associated with fat gain, weight gain, and general obesity.

Setting up your ritual:

Just like a morning ritual is so important (covering soon!), your bedtime ritual and routine is just as important, it sets yourself up for success and a restful night’s sleep. Here are my 5 tips to sleep better, longer, and deeper!

1. Let It Go

Some of my clients, myself included, who have sleep issues and insomnia are because of racing thoughts, thoughts that can’t seem to go away because of overstimulation with being on social media, on the computer, around electronics at night or before bedtime. Most of us go through our days unconscious, and what I mean by that is not being 100% present and in the moment causing us to finally hit that space as soon as we lay our heads on the pillow! Do you notice things just boiling to the surface as soon as you lay down? That may be a good sign that you’re not addressing thoughts as they come in, letting go of bad energy, and observing those thoughts throughout the day. Work them out and let them go! Also, the more you focus on being a “bad sleeper” the more you set it up in your mind that you’re a “bad sleeper”! Try positive affirmations at night that reinforces a good night’s sleep, even simple ones such as: “I will rest easy tonight”, “I’m going to sleep well”, “I give myself permission to let thoughts go and rest”, “I will sleep”, etc.

YOUR TURN: try positive affirmations, journaling, setting all technology to “sleep” at bedtime, or meditating to relax.

2. Essential Oils

Lavender is one of my favorite essential oils for creating a sense of calm, peace, and relaxation. Try adding a couple drops to coconut oil and then rubbing it on your arms, neck or chest where you’ll be able to easily smell it while sleeping. Another tip is I often spray my pillow case with a mixture of essential oils in rose water! Be sure to use pillow cases that aren’t fancy because the oil can leave little marks on it. Another option is to invest in a room diffuser, I absolutely LOVE essential oil diffusers and have one in my room that is set to diffuse for a certain amount of set time.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium is one of many minerals we as a society are chronically low in, whether it’s stress, environmental exposures, digestive issues, or if you’re an athlete and sweat a lot- magnesium could be low. Why does this matter? Well if you’re having frequent headaches or not hitting the hay hard enough, then you may want to try magnesium. I enjoy using this powdered magnesium drink whenever I feel I didn’t get a restful sleep the night before. If you try magnesium always check with your doctor (even though you should be fine) and use sparingly, magnesium is also used to move digestion along, too much of this and you’ll be uncomfortable the next day!

4. Eat Well

I think this goes without saying, but balancing your blood sugars throughout the day with meals that are high in fiber, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates will keep you feeling amazing and will help sleep later on. Also, drink plenty of water, dehydration is no fun. [p.s. remember talking about eating carbs at night? Well, eating carbs at night can actually help you sleep by increasing your serotonin and melatonin levels- try it for dinner!]

YOUR TURN: Explore the recipe page and find some comforting warm meals that soothe you from the inside. My favorite, is sipping Turmeric Milk before bed!

5. Move Your Body

Moving your body and exercising is key to overall health, but especially when helping you sleep! If you can’t head to the gym, no worries, try an at home yoga DVD, YouTube videos from Shape magazine or another reputable resource, walk around your neighborhood, go to a park, have fun jumping rope, etc. Aim for at least 30 minutes just to get going!

Added Bonuses:

  • Hit the infrared sauna,
  • Sleeping in cold temperatures,
  • wearing cozy PJ’s,
  • mentally going through a nightly gratitude list,
  • meditation,
  • journaling a stream of consciousness for 10 minutes to “clear your mind”,
  • sleeping with fans on for white noise and cool breeze,
  • not eating too close to bedtime (close the kitchen at least 2-3 hours before bedtime),
  • drinking hot tea like chamomile,
  • avoiding caffeine entirely or at least after noon,
  • take a hot bath.

Sleep helpers + things I use to sleep better:

lavender essential oils | silk pillowcase | air diffuser | HEPA air purifier and filter (I have 2 in my home and swear by these, not just for white noise but for air purity and cleaning!) | bed fan | white noise iPhone app | cuddling with puppies! (I meannnn, who doesn’t?)

YOUR TURN: What are your favorite tips on sleeping better, any remedies you’ve explored? Let me know what you think when you give this recipe a go! I love seeing what you come up with so don’t forget to take a picture if this post inspires you and tag it #nutritionstripped on Instagram!

OPTIMIZE, YOU DESERVE IT! I work 1-1 with women just like you all over the world to help optimize their health, reach goals, feel and look amazing! Sign up here to chat with me about how we can work together and take the first step to make this your healthiest and happiest year yet.

xx McKel