How to Go to Sleep Naturally: Holistic Tips for Deep, Restorative Rest

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Are you or someone in your life having a hard time sleeping?

Sleep issues are, without exaggeration, at epidemic levels right now. 

Everyone is tired, and everyone is tired of being tired. 

But this doesn’t have to be you. And it doesn’t have to be your loved ones.

There are natural, proven ways to get a better night’s rest and address chronic sleep issues (and no, I’m not talking about supplementing with melatonin). So, in this blog post, I’m sharing my top holistic tips and strategies for how to help yourself or someone else go to sleep—whether it’s a friend, your spouse or child, or another loved one.

We’ll talk about:

  • Why you should avoid melatonin and what to do instead
  • Targeted strategies, such as crafting a wind-down routine and making your bedroom a haven
  • The three main sleep problems people suffer from, and the natural ways to combat them

Rethinking Melatonin Supplements: A Natural Approach to Better Sleep


Despite getting the recommended hours of sleep, you and your loved ones could be suffering from poor sleep quality, which means you are lacking the restorative benefits that come with deep sleep and REM cycles. This sleep deprivation can leave you feeling groggy, foggy, and far from refreshed in the morning.

The common misconception about sleep deprivation is to reach for melatonin supplements as a quick fix.

Here's why I caution against it.

Relying on external sources of melatonin overlooks the body's natural ability to produce this sleep-inducing hormone. As a result, the body becomes so accustomed to the melatonin supplementation that it stops producing its own and becomes dependent on it to sleep.

Plus, there's evidence coming out that melatonin can potentially interfere with hormone balance, especially in young adults and teenagers going through puberty.

Other studies are saying there are significant quality issues with melatonin supplements as they are often full of contaminants.

I say, for those who want to know how to sleep better at night naturally, avoid all that and just support the body's melatonin production more efficiently through natural means.

Natural Sleep Aids: Monocot Grasses and Tryptophan

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Interestingly, our research has identified the most potent herbal remedy known for enhancing mood (by boosting serotonin levels during daylight hours) and improving sleep quality (by elevating melatonin levels at nighttime). This remarkable plant is none other than corn grass. 

Monocot grasses, especially corngrass, are rich in 6-MBOA, a polyphenolic compound that shares a structural resemblance with melatonin and serotonin. This compound is instrumental in boosting serotonin levels throughout the day and facilitates the synthesis of melatonin after dark. 6-MBOA's unique properties make it a powerful aid in regulating mood and sleep patterns by mimicking the body's natural hormonal processes.

Corn grass harbors unique natural substances that our bodies can transform into serotonin and melatonin as needed. This means it doesn't induce drowsiness in the same way direct melatonin supplements might. Instead, it supports restful sleep when you're ready to wind down, without leaving you feeling groggy the next morning. 

Clinical studies have revealed that extracts from corn grass can significantly lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. Moreover, they contribute to an increase in both REM sleep, which revitalizes the mind, and deep sleep, essential for bodily recovery.

In addition to these, tryptophan or its derivative, 5-HTP, are compounds that serve as precursors to serotonin and melatonin production, offering a holistic approach to improving sleep quality without the potential side effects associated with synthetic melatonin.

Incorporate these supplements as a better sleep solution:

  • Corn grass extract
  • Tryptophan (or 5-HTP)

Here's the clincher though.

Achieving better sleep isn't just about what we ingest.

It's also about creating the right environment and routines conducive to rest.

Here's what I mean:

Crafting an Ideal Environment for Restful Sleep


For anyone who is complaining of poor sleep quality, or just feels they aren't getting deep, restful sleep, the first places I like to look at are the bedroom environment and the nighttime sleep routine.

It's really hard to overemphasize the importance of these two factors. How you and your loved ones go to bed is going to impact whether or not you have good quality sleep.

I talk a lot about it in this free video, which you can watch here. But basically, there are a few techniques we can use to ensure we are getting a better night's sleep.

Let's look at a few:

Make Your Room a Haven

The bedroom environment plays a critical role in promoting good sleep habits. It shouldn't be a place where work or stressful conversations happen. It should be comfortable, inviting, and conducive to sleep.

Here are my top tips for optimizing bedroom conditions:

  • Temperature: The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. A too-warm room will adversely affect sleeping habits and make it difficult to achieve REM stages. Body temperature fluctuates throughout the night and a colder temperature will help optimize that regulation.
  • Noise: Unwanted noise can make sleep difficult. Use earplugs or a white noise machine to block out noise.
  • Comfort: This one seems obvious, but so many of us overlook it. The bed we sleep in should be comfortable. Evaluate if your mattress, pillows, or bedding needs to be switched up to suit preferences.
  • Clutter: A cluttered room can cause stress and anxiety. Keeping your room tidy and organized can help you achieve restful sleep faster.

Once the bedroom has been optimized, it's time to implement a wind-down routine.

The Importance of a Nightly Wind-Down Routine


Establishing a nightly wind-down routine signals to our bodies that it's time to sleep, helping us transition more smoothly into a restful state.

Avoiding electronic devices, keeping the bedroom cool, and practicing relaxation and breathing techniques further enhance our ability to achieve quality sleep and activate our natural circadian rhythm.

Here are some of my favorite practices:

Example of an Optimal Nighttime Routine

  • Turn off bright lights and light a few candles or turn on a dim lamp
  • Put your phone to bed (I have a spot in my kitchen where we all put our phones at bedtime)
  • Have a small, macro-balanced snack and a chamomile tea
  • Set bedroom temperature to 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (if this is comfortable)
  • Enjoy an episode of your favorite relaxing show or read a paperback book (limit screens)
  • Turn on a fan or a white noise machine
  • Write in a gratitude journal or practice mindfulness meditation
  • Do some breathing exercises or a body scan

Work on building the habit of winding down in the evening, using the above suggestions to optimize your circadian rhythm and avoid overstimulation in the hours before bed. 

Eat These Foods

To fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly, you need good blood sugar control. A straightforward way to achieve this is by having a small protein-and-carb snack like:

  • Nuts and fruit
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Yogurt and granola

Eating food combinations like these can facilitate that fall-asleep-quicker-and-sleep process (but a large meal or high-calorie snack like an ice cream sundae can interfere with your sleep patterns.


Ideally, your bedtime snack will have about 100 to 200 calories and help you begin a wind-down routine.

A wind-down routine will improve sleep quality, enhance rest, and make it easier to get into the REM stages of sleep.

My Own Wind-Down Routine

Here is my own personal wind-down routine for a 10:00 p.m. bedtime target that I practice almost every night. 

Feel free to use it as a guide:

  • Around 9:00 p.m. I start to wind down, letting myself relax. This is when I’ll have a macro-balanced snack (explained later in this post).
  • My family enjoys an episode of one of our favorite late-night comedians.
  • While watching our show together, I might have a glass of wine at this point; if not, I’ll have a cup of chamomile tea.
  • Chamomile helps relax the smooth muscle in the gut, which sends a similar relaxation signal to the brain to help us wind down.
  • When I’m ready to brush my teeth, I use this time to think of a few things for which I’m grateful.
  • This two-to-three minute “gratitude practice” is triggered by my nightly oral hygiene routine, so I never miss it.
  • After I brush my teeth, I take my evening supplements, which always include:
  • corn grass extract to help improve sleep quality (by up to 40%) and
  • omega-3s (to help balance inflammation and enhance overnight tissue repair).
  • Then I read! This is my secret weapon for a good night of high-quality sleep.

If I had a successful day (for me, this includes exercise in the sunlight, relaxing before bed, and a small snack), then I’ll usually start nodding my head after 10-15 minutes of reading a book (either a paperback or a Kindle to minimize blue light exposure) in my dim room (just a bedside light bright enough to read by) with a fan blowing cool air and soft white noise toward my bed.

If, for whatever reason, my mind is still at work and I’m having trouble shutting it off, I’ll do a set of deep breaths and a quick body scan—progressively relaxing each part of my body from toes to feet to calves, all the way up to my head. This simple process activates the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) and engages our natural anti-stress relaxation response. 

This is super important:

If I can’t fall asleep in 20-30 minutes, I don’t stress. I’ll simply get up, grab a glass of water, write down anything that might be on my mind and interfering with my ability to relax, and then do something else (like read) until I’m more tired.

By implementing a wind-down routine like this, your body and mind will be primed for sleep, and it will be easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. Not to mention, experience quality sleep which is restorative and improves energy, mental focus, and more.

Let’s take it a step further:

Uncovering More Underlying Issues

There are three main issues I see most often with people who have trouble sleeping. They are:

  1. Getting to sleep
  2. Staying asleep
  3. Getting quality sleep

Once you determine which area is the biggest struggle (most people are struggling with all three) then you can work on addressing the underlying issue. 

For example:

Increasing GABA and Lowering Cortisol to Fall Asleep

If you or your loved ones often make comments such as “I want to sleep but my body won't let me” or “I lay in bed for hours and I can't sleep,” this could be an indication that cortisol is too high and GABA production is too low.

A frequent scenario could be that you get in bed, you are tired, and you are ready to sleep. But as soon as your head hits the pillow, your brain starts racing. You start thinking about your to-do list, about what happened that day, and what is going to happen tomorrow.

This is a pretty solid indication that you are dealing with elevated cortisol levels, and thus, you’re going to have some trouble sleeping, as well as falling asleep.

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. One of its functions is to wake up the brain—as in, the fight or flight reaction. If the cortisol levels aren’t coming down around bedtime, the brain can’t calm down. 

On the flip side, GABA levels may be too low. GABA is the body’s primary relaxing neurotransmitter. If GABA levels are low, then you won’t feel relaxed enough to fall asleep. 

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is to lower cortisol and increase GABA production. Ideally, we want that to happen simultaneously. And the most effective way I have found to do this is by supplementing with a probiotic called Lactobacillus Rhamnosus R0011.

Probiotics for Better Sleep

There are a lot of different lactobacillus rhamnosus strains out there, and they all help with various issues. 

But the R0011 is a specific strain designation that is anti-stress. It works by biochemically lowering cortisol (turning down a negative signal) and raising GABA (turning up a positive signal). 

This probiotic strain won’t make you sleepy on its own, but for those who have difficulty falling asleep, it’s going to help resolve one part of the problem. 

Now, how about if you are struggling to stay asleep?


Managing Cortisol and Blood Glucose to Avoid Waking Up at Night

If you have trouble staying asleep—as in, you wake up frequently and have a hard time getting back to sleep; or you wake up, fall asleep, wake again, fall asleep, and so on, this can point to a blood glucose issue, which ties into elevated cortisol as well.

Let me explain.

Someone who frequently wakes up or has sleep disturbances in the middle of the night is likely experiencing blood sugar crashes.

Blood sugar crashes can often happen due to stress. And because stress triggers the fight or flight response, guess what goes up?


People who deal with this never get deep sleep or rest. A good night's sleep? What's that? They might say. Because they stay in light stages of sleep, they aren’t experiencing REM stages where the body and brain recover. 

It’s no wonder they’re stressed! 

So, here's how to help someone sleep better:

Modulate the blood sugar levels overnight.


The best way is with a small, well-balanced snack before going to bed.


Balanced Bedtime Snacks for Uninterrupted Sleep

Now, this is important:

Avoid the cocoa puffs, ice cream sundaes, and chips before bedtime.

And stay away from large snacks or meals. We don’t want to over-tax the digestive system, as this will lead to lower sleep quality.

Instead, craft a “macro-balanced” snack.


By macro-balanced, I’m referring to macronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. 

Add fiber as well.

This is especially important for kids but applies across the board. A well-balanced snack in the 100-200 calorie range is perfect. 

Some options are:

  • Yogurt and granola
  • Crackers and cheese
  • A small protein smoothie

This will provide just enough fuel to keep blood sugar from crashing overnight, leading to deeper, uninterrupted rest.

With these methods, you, your friends and loved ones should be well on your way to experiencing healthy sleep cycles, deeper rest, better recovery, and more. This will lead to happier days, less stress, and better mental and physical health overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you help someone fall asleep?

How to help someone go to sleep: 

Try turning on a fan or white noise, turning all lights off, setting the room temperature to 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, and making sure the bed is comfortable. This, and breathing techniques, can help someone fall asleep quickly.

For chronic insomnia or chronic sleep disorders, a holistic, comprehensive approach that goes beyond convenient sleep medicine like melatonin, and takes into account gut health, sleep hygiene, physical activity, and more, is the best way forward.

How do you help someone who says they can't sleep?

Addressing insomnia or other sleep disorders is the first step, and this may require a diagnosis by a sleep specialist. However, there are plenty of ways to improve sleep quality such as creating a nighttime sleep routine, optimizing the sleeping space, and incorporating certain supplements as excellent options to explore.

What can help put someone to sleep?

A relaxing environment, soothing music, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, a warm bath, a bedtime routine, and optimal sleeping conditions can all help put someone to sleep.


Sleep is a science, and by utilizing a holistic approach, you and your family, friends, kids, and loved ones can achieve deeper, more restorative sleep. 

By addressing underlying issues, incorporating specific supplements, and crafting better routines, you can reclaim restful nights and energized days forever.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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