As discussed in our previous post, we live in a society that undervalues sleep. In a 2016 survey from Consumer Reports one third of respondents reported having tried either a sleep drug or a dietary supplement in the previous year, and 68 percent of Americans admitted that they struggle to fall asleep at least once per week. Yet Dr. Mary Colfer believes that there’s a healthier, more effective alternative to prescription sleep pills - practicing good sleep hygiene.
According to Dr. Colfer, practicing good sleep hygiene simply means falling into an optimal daily routine that can help you sleep better, such as setting aside enough time to fall asleep and getting into a pattern of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
If you are one of the many Americans who struggle to fall and stay asleep at night, this may sound easier said than done. Fortunately, Dr. Colfer has some tips for those who struggle to get some shut-eye:
Avoid caffeine after 1pm and naps longer than 30 minutes
Get at least 15 minutes of sunshine during the day to help your brain make melatonin at night
Don’t use electronics an hour before bed when possible
If you must use technology before bed, wear blue light-blocking glasses or change your device to night-time mode
Take a warm bath
Avoid eating meals late at night
Try practicing meditation to manage cortisol surges
In addition to these practices, it’s important to manage one’s bedroom environment to ensure that it is conducive to a well-rested sleep. Having a good mattress, comfortable pillow and covers, no light, minimal sound, and a room temperature of 60-67 degrees is just as crucial as forming healthy bedtime habits.
Interestingly, Dr. Colfer discourages patients from taking prescription medication, even when practicing good sleep hygiene fails to have positive results. This is because many of the chemicals that help you fall asleep more easily have the negative side effect of decreasing slow-wave sleep and REM, causing daytime sedation and dependence. In some cases, sleep medication can even result in constipation and difficulty emptying one’s bladder, as is the case with antihistamines.
Instead, she recommends supplements. In order to sleep well, we need an increase in melatonin and GABA and a decrease in cortisol and glutamate. A few supplements that increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), for example, are melatonin, adaptogens, vitamin D, and exercise. Above all else, Dr. Colfer suggests that patients meet with her to develop a personalized health plan, tailored to their unique needs.
To schedule an appointment with one of our physicians and learn how we can empower you to achieve your health goals, call 888.531.3844.