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I’m Jen Hansard, mom of two, ultra runner and lover of green smoothies, coffee & tacos. I took my family's health into my own hands while broke and without health insurance...and have helped 1 million+ other families along the way.

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How to Sleep Smarter, Not Necessarily Longer


I want to talk about one of my FAV things in the world: Sleep. Seriously. I. Love. To. Sleep. Just ask my husband. He used to get annoyed by it… but over the years he’s learned to love all of me. He even supports me on my quest to sleep smarter.

My favorite birthday present is the chance to sleep in. At first Ryan thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I was dead serious— give me sleep or give me no presents. So every year on my birthday, Ryan takes the kids out of the house in the morning and I stay in dreamland until my body decides it’s time to get up. No alarm clock. No noises. Just me and my bed on this lovely day.

The truth is: Sleep is essential to a healthy, happy YOU!

Yet that doesn’t mean we need to hibernate like a birthday bear. We just need to sleep smarter so we can reap the benefits.

Ya ready? Raise your hand if you…

• Struggle to fall asleep once you lay down at night
• Feel tired no matter how much you sleep you get (or caffeine you drink)
• Wonder if you’re ever getting enough sleep

Last week, I read an article about the importance of quality sleep and how everyone needs a different amount to function at their peak. Wait…what? You mean the standard 8 hours of shut-eye that has been ingrained in us since childhood may not be right for everyone? And there are things we can do on a daily basis to help promote quality sleep? #gamechanger



We all have different individual sleep needs. There are some lucky ones among us who can get away with 5-6 hours of sleep a night (I am definitely not one of them!), and others who need 10-11 hours to get through the day without feeling fatigued. Most of us though, need somewhere between 7-9 hours a night to function at our peak.

So how do you figure out how much sleep you personally need?

If you can, let yourself sleep naturally for a few days (performing this experiment over a long weekend is great!). Go to bed when you feel tired, and allow yourself to wake up without an alarm. Try to avoid alcohol or caffeine consumption in the afternoon during this trial period, as well (if you can give it up completely, even better!). This will help give you a better idea of your individual sleep needs, and clue you in to how many hours of sleep you should aim to get every night.

For myself, I found that the 7 hours of sleep I was getting each night wasn’t enough for me. My body functions best when I get around 9 hours of sleep. If I get less than that on a consistent basis, I get sleepy during the day, crave more junk food, and (I’ll be honest) turn into a little bit of a grouch.

Knowing I needed more sleep meant that I had to commit to an earlier bedtime. This was tough, considering I used the evening hours after the kids went to sleep to catch up on work and see what my friends were up to on social media. But I was determined to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. With a little trial and error, I came up with a 4-step calming bedtime routine that I use to prime my body for better sleep.


1) Power down electronics (yes, all of them!)
Technology stimulates your brain, and the light from some electronic devices (think TVs, smart phones, and computer screens) can interfere with your internal body clock and promote wakefulness instead of sleep.

Also, let’s be real, electronics can be addictive. How many times have you told yourself “I’m just going to do a quick Facebook check” and then an hour later you’re watching some video of a flash mob wedding proposal? #truestory

Finally, checking emails (especially work-related emails) right before bedtime can create worry, stress, and anxiety. Not a good mindset to be in when trying to fall asleep!

Consequently, once 5pm hits, I turn off my computer and put my phone on silent until the next day. I use this time to be present with my family, focus on my needs and start to relax.

2) Acknowledge worries + major to-do’s
An hour before bed is a great time to engage in some relaxing, pre-bedtime activities to wind down and trigger my body to know that it’s time to sleep soon. Honestly, it doesn’t take much in a day to get me triggered and stressed before bed. To combat this, I write down any worries I have and also important to-dos that need to be accomplished the next day. It’s like I’m doing a brain dump until I’m left with nothing but peace and quiet inside my head… and it only takes a few minutes to get there. You can do this at the kitchen table before you head to bed, which I find to be the most productive.

Another exercise is journaling out your thoughts. You could craft a poem, write out a prayer, create a gratitude journal— there’s no right or wrong way to journal. Do what comes easily to you and tweak as you see fit. The point is to release all those thoughts in your head and put them somewhere else for the night.

3) Enjoy some herbal tea or a light snack
Herbal tea is a wonderful, calming treat before bed. I’m currently obsessed with the Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime tea. My husband and I drink it every single night in bed together (and have it on an Amazon subscription so we don’t run out). I strongly recommend adding a relaxing herbal tea into your bedtime routine ASAP!

If your body needs some extra nourishment, having a light snack at least an hour before bedtime can also help promote quality sleep. I personally love our Spiced Almond Milk recipe, which combines almond milk and warming digestive spices to balance your blood sugar and stabilize your metabolism. The extra protein boost from the almond butter also helps curb hunger pains throughout the night.

4) Focus on ONE thing
The last thing I do every night is say a prayer of thanks in bed. You can try meditation, yoga, prayer, focused breathing or just a little quiet time. The point is that you’re being fully present on one thing to promote a sense of peace and mental clarity. My husband is the boss at his bedtime meditation + breathing combo. He used to struggle with falling asleep, but ever since he’s added this practice into his bedtime routine, he’s usually knocked out before I am.


I’ve made a commitment to sleep smarter and definitely feel better because of it. But I’m definitely not perfect. I don’t always get 9 hours of sleep every night, and I don’t always follow my evening routine to a T. That’s just part of life. Sometimes it can be really hard to make time for adequate sleep or space to unwind before bed (like when you’re a new parent, studying for finals or working long hours). I totally get it!

That’s why I always say to focus on progress, not perfection.

For instance, if you recognize that you’re not getting enough sleep right now, try to go to bed fifteen minutes earlier tonight. If you have a habit of scrolling through Facebook right before bedtime, try to swap it for a relaxing bedtime activity (like spiritual practice or journaling). Over time, small steps can add up to big changes.

Now, I’m curious…

What’s your bedtime routine like? Do you have any new commitments you want to make? I’d love to know, so post your answers in the comments below. Sometimes just sharing it with someone else is all it takes to make it a success. We got this!

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  1. Katy

    June 9th, 2016 at 3:11 am

    OH wow, I love those steps. My bedtime is nowhere near this ordered.

    Because I work full time and blog, I normally aim to be off the computer by 9.30/10pm. Then it’s a haphazard rush to get washed, change into pjs, sort out my bag for work the next day, possibly put some kind of outfit together and be in bed by 10.30 so I have time to read and journal before lights out at 11pm (on an ideal night). It seems so rushed and stressed but I tend to only have 2-3.5 hours at home to work on my blog, eat dinner with my parents, help out with dinner prep or washing up and prep my lunch for the next day. I’m hoping to change all of this when I go to study next year and hopefully have more time in the evening plus no parents to work around schedule wise. But right now I have no idea how to de-stress/rush my evenings.

    Any tips other than the awesome ones above!

  2. SGS Rawkstar

    June 9th, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Hi Katy!

    Thanks for reaching out! That’s wonderful that you’re already taking time to journal + read before lights out :). Those are two pre-bedtime activities that are great for winding down. I would definitely try some other suggestions from the blog post, like having some herbal tea and doing some deep breathing or meditating before bed. The biggest thing for me that helps me de-stress is doing all of these things mindfully, and not allowing myself to rush through them. I’ve also had to learn to prioritize my relaxation + sleep time. I know that can be a challenge when you have a full schedule, but I’ve found that when I give myself an extra half-hour to wind down at night, I have a more restful sleep, and can be more productive the next day!

  3. Katy

    June 10th, 2016 at 3:01 am

    Thanks. 😀

  4. SGS Rawkstar

    June 10th, 2016 at 7:34 am

    You’re so welcome :). Thanks for being a part of our community!

  5. Chris

    June 9th, 2016 at 8:41 am

    This is a great post Jen! Thank you for sharing.

    Two things I do to help with getting to sleep at night.

    1. I exercise every day for at least 30 mins. I push myself in those 30 mins. The rest of the day, I make sure I don’t laze around to much, unless I feel like I really need it.

    2. Invest in an amazing bed! 🙂 Having a comfy bed. Get the right mattress, pillows and sheets.

  6. SGS Rawkstar

    June 9th, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Great tips, Chris! I totally agree on both :).

  7. Lori Cave

    June 9th, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Huh, I do all of these things occasionally and usually one at a time. I guess my problem is that I don’t have a routine. Maybe I should think about changing that. I seldom have trouble going to sleep, but it’s usually on those nights when I think I need it most. I can see how a routine would help trigger sleep every night.

    Thanks for the eye-opener!

  8. SGS Rawkstar

    June 9th, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Lori!

    For me personally, I’ve found the routine to be a total game changer. Once I start powering down my electronics, my body just knows that’s time to start slowing down for the night. It takes some time, but it’s so worth it!

  9. Laura

    June 9th, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I have chronic pain after having my kidney removed due to a small disagreement between myself and cancer. So, I wake up after about 5 hours of sleep. I am sometimes able to go back to sleep but other times I start thinking stressful thoughts and it’s a lost cause. I am definitely not one of these lucky few that need 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I like the “brain dump” idea. I’m going to try that and see if it holds for the whole night. I also sleep better if I know I have a later start time the next day… like 10:00 or later. But sometimes I have an early meeting and then I start stressing out about not getting enough sleep and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Any ideas or hints to combat middle of the night wakefulness? I would love to hear your thoughts… thanks for posting this!!!

  10. SGS Rawkstar

    June 9th, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Laura!

    I’ve heard one of the best things to do when you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night is to get up and do a quiet activity (reading, journaling, deep breathing) outside of the bedroom and in soft lighting. When I can’t sleep, I usually read for 15 minutes or so on my couch. After that, I’m usually ready to go back to bed!

  11. Diane

    June 9th, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    I try to stop looking at Facebook and email by 9:30pm. My bedtime routine is then to wash my face, floss and brush my teeth, change into pjs and hop into bed, where one of the dogs always joins me. I then like to play Solitare, Sudoku, and/or Whirly Word on my iPhone. I know it’s electronic, but it does tend to make me more sleepy. Typically, I don’t even know when my husband comes to bed. Lately though, I am waking up about 3am, sometimes having trouble going back to sleep. :(.

  12. SGS Rawkstar

    June 9th, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Hi Diane!

    I’ve totally been there on waking-up in the middle of the night. I’ve heard that one of the best things to do when that happens (and you find yourself tossing and turning) is to get up and read, journal, or do some deep breathing in another room and with soft lighting. I like to get up and read for 15 minutes or so. By then, I’m usually ready to go back to sleep!

  13. Ian

    June 13th, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Some good tips there, I’m a bit surprised that there’s no mention of gentle exercise, such as walking the dog, and reading a little. Did you really say no electronic devices after 5pm? Surely that’s a bit early, especially for those that work during the day and want to catch up with friends, watch the news or a decent drama or film most of which start at 9pm, or type up their blog, edit digital photos etc. I would suggest that if people can turn off their electronical equipment an hour before bed. Then go for a walk, drink a herbal tea and read a little before going to bed they should be fine.

  14. SGS Rawkstar

    June 13th, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Hi Ian!

    Thanks for reaching out! Everybody is so different, and we absolutely encourage all of our community members to find what nighttime routine works best for them. This is what Jen has found works best for her, personally, but it’s definitely not a one-size-fits kind of thing :).


  15. Susan

    June 15th, 2016 at 11:35 am


    Are these recipes vegan?

  16. SGS Rawkstar

    June 15th, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Hi Susan!

    Thanks for reaching out! Our smoothie recipes are vegan, and all of our meal plans are vegan or vegetarian (although some have options to add meat!).

    Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions!

  17. Omi

    July 4th, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Looking forward to the challenge and getting my digestive system back on track. And increased energy will be a welcome plus. 🙂

  18. SGS Rawkstar

    July 5th, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Omi!

    Thanks for reaching out! We’re so happy to have you join us for the Challenge :). Can’t wait to hear how you feel after the full 30 days!


  19. Heather G.

    August 29th, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I sleep throughout the night SoSO soundly, its crazy, i can fall asleep while my husband and i are “Watching” a show or movie on netflix. Most of the time we fall asleep on the couch with the tv on till 3pm. i wake up, wonder why i’m not in the bed and tell him to go to the bed because i am going to the bed. sometimes he stays in his recliner and didn’t hear me lol i probably fall asleep on the couch between 8 and 9pm while waiting for my husband to come home from work. he gets home at 10-11. i sleep till 11 then stay up till 12 or 1 chilling with him while watching tv..etc. then wake up at 5:40am for work (m-f). he wakes up at 8 for work. LUCKY! i make the smoothies everyday and i am tired by 1pm or 2 and start waking back up after i eat lunch (no smoothie) . still could use some energy. what am i doing wrong. i think i get enough sleep. i dont want to be tired anymore.

  20. SGS Rawkstar

    August 30th, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for reaching out! Are you using your green smoothie as a meal replacement? If so, we suggest adding protein + healthy fats to ensure you’re fueling your body with a complete meal. This should help keep your energy up + hunger at bay. Learn more about our favorite meal replacement combos here…


    You can also try adding our favorite energy boosting ingredients to your green smoothie, or enjoy a protein rich snack in addition to your smoothie. Some of our favorites are a handful of almonds or a hard boiled egg.


    Hope this helps!

  21. Noviming

    August 31st, 2018 at 1:26 am

    Thank you for sharing Jen! I definitely need to try those tips.
    My question is, should we read a real book before bed time or e-book is just fine?
    Thank you

  22. SGS Rawkstar Amanda

    August 31st, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Hey Noviming,

    I am so glad that you enjoyed these helpful tips on how to better your sleep. For me personally I sleep the best when I get to read a book right before bed. I usually sit in bed and read until my eyelids can barely open then I put my book down and go right to sleep.

    I hope that works for you too! 🙂

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