Big Picture Sleep

Sleep Checklist

The basic daily checklist for quality, nightly sleep.

The daily formula for quality, nightly sleep.

Sleep Checklist

Item #1

Light is the premier signal to the brain that it is daytime.

Nothing signals daytime like bright sunlight. Heat lamps can be an incredible supplement on:

  • Cloudy days
  • Days where you’re stuck indoors
  • Even sunny days.

Get one 20-minute session of very bright light therapy (providing strong infrared & red) every day. This is especially necessary on days of little sunlight exposure.

Clear heat lamps are the superior artificial source of red & infrared — they’re cheap and provide optimal light frequencies.

Sunlight, of course, is the original, best source of infrared light — just don’t sunburn.

To reduce light at night is the partner of bright morning light.

The most harmful wavelengths at night? Blue light — which floods our modern world.

The darker your room, the higher your melatonin rises — ensuring better sleep.

Sleep Checklist

Item #2

Inadequate caloric intake leads directly to insomnia.

It’s super important to know your daily caloric needs — and meet them. Every day!

If you’re lying in bed and unable to sleep — with a history of undereating or hypothyroidism — it’s extremely unlikely you will fall asleep until you get up and eat. In nearly all situations like this, I recommend getting up and eating enough calories to enable you to sleep. Sometimes, this means you’re eating a very large late-night snack.

While eating at night isn’t optimal for health, when you’re behind on calories, you may not have a choice other than to catch up at night. Eat the calories tonight you need to promote sleep — but make it a point to eat early meals tomorrow so you don’t have to eat all night again.

Sleep Checklist

Item #3

Eating tells the brain “It’s daytime!”

Therefore, eating early in the day sends proper signals to the brain about when day/night is.

By contrast, eating late in the day does the opposite — and lowers melatonin at night.

Stay “ahead” of your calories! Late meals can be very problematic for restoring good sleep — so eat adequately for breakfast and lunch! Do not resort to “making up” for missed breakfast and lunchtime calories in the evening. Eat early, timely meals.

Sleep Checklist

Item #4

In addition to eating enough calories and timing meals properly, balanced meals are extra important when our digestion is weakened.


Balancing carbohydrates and protein is of first importance (2:1 = a solid middle-ground) . You also need to know whether you’re eating high/low fat — and how much fiber your gut can handle.

Also: Sugar vs Starch

Many people are avoiding one or both. This may work for some, but if you’re struggling with insomnia, it’s possible you’d benefit from some of both. There are some exceptions to this, especially when gut health is extremely troubled.

Sleep Checklist

Item #5

Movement Signals “Daytime”

Movement teaches the brain that “it is currently daytime” — and, therefore, during daytime exercise and movement, melatonin is properly lowered.

Get exercise while the sun is still up — not late in the evening, or before bed. Midday is best: mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Move All Day Long

Move in various natural ways all day rather than being sedentary most of the day. This further connects your brain to the natural circadian rhythm.

Movement Burns Up Glutamate

Movement also has the powerful effect to “burn up” glutamate in the body. High glutamate is nearly ubiquitous in poor gut health. Movement reduces it greatly.

Sedentary Jobs/School

If you find yourself at a job or in school, sitting much of the day, you need to make concerted effort to counter the lack of movement.

Make the most of any break time to move, stretch, and flex your muscles — sending signals to the brain that “we’re moving the body — it’s daytime.” Even standing while class or meetings are commencing can give you a chance to “move” when you’d otherwise be sitting.

A quick, 5-10 minute “exercise” session might be even more important if you’re sedentary most of the day.

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