Reclaiming Your Sleep

Question:

I’ve read that people often use melatonin to help them fall asleep. I need to try something because I can’t seem to fall asleep and it’s making me extremely tired throughout the day. Would you recommend this? If so how much and will it mess with my sleep cycle?

Answer:

These are some great questions! Way to do your own research and I’ve totally been there, and not being able to fall asleep can be super frustrating. To answer your first question, yes, melatonin is an effective way to help you fall asleep that I would recommend. Before we dive into how much to take and when let's note that melatonin won’t behave like a sleeping pill. It will only act as a sedative if your melatonin levels are low. If the reason you can’t fall asleep isn’t melatonin-related, this may not be the solution for you. If you do take it, try it 45 mins before bed and aim for at least .3 - 3 mg capsule (start on the lower end and gradually increase nightly until you feel the effects). I scoured the academic and evidence-based interwebs and I’ve come up with nothing but mixed information about melatonin disrupting your normal sleep cycle, so I would only use this as a temporary fix while you try to find the root issue if isn’t something standard like jet lag or stress. Before you run to your local health food store, let’s look at a few other factors that might be affecting your ability to fall asleep.

6 Reasons You Could Be Struggling to Fall Asleep

First, you drink the coffee, then you do the things?

Is coffee or caffeine bae? Perhaps you’re indulging a bit too much. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that your beloved is keeping you awake at night. Try having your caffeinated beverage or food of choice early in the day and definitely at least six hours prior to shutting it down for bed and always before 2 pm.

You’ve been drankin’

Who doesn’t like a glass of something after a long day, but your favorite nightcap could be putting a damper on your quality of sleep. As much as the world loves alcohol, alcohol is indeed a poison, so drinking too much before bed could put your detoxification system on overdrive, thus keeping you up at night. Limit your evening drinking to at least six hours before bed and alongside a meal.

Doing things in your bed other than sleeping or having sex: watching TV before bed, browsing the interwebs, and/or just playing on your phone

Take the electronics out of your bedroom, even if you’re temporarily removing them at night before bed. Electromagnetic waves from your devices placed too close to your head can inhibit your ability to fall asleep. Look into creating a bedtime ritual that begins to slow your brain activity down before actually getting into bed. If you need to do something before bed, listen to soothing music, read something that inspires you or write in a journal. Try to reframe how you use your bed. Keep your bed solely for sleeping and intimacy, so when you lie down, your mind and body know it’s time to sleep!

Your bed and/or bedroom is a hater

Have you considered whether or not your bedding, pillow(s), and mattress quality and style are matched for your personal needs? Invest in the best quality bedding that you can afford, trust me, it makes such a difference. Do you sweat at night? They make bedding sweat-wicking cool temperature bedding and pillows! Maybe invest in a fan or figure out how to keep yourself cool while your rest? Are you a side sleeper or a back sleeper? Invest in a pillow specific to your sleeping style to eliminate the tossing and turning to find your most comfortable sleeping position. Have you had your mattress for a over a decade and whenever you lie down, you wonder if you’ve found yourself in the sunken place? Do yourself a favor and let your sunken mattress go! Are you sleeping on an extremely firm mattress, but prefer something in the middle or vice verse? Check out your options for pillow top covers to make your current bed feeling like the dream bed at the Westin (I promise you it's #bedgoals).

Got everything covered with the comfortability of your bed and bedding? Wonderful! Is your bedroom not the most inviting and are you a creature of clutter (Marie Kondo saves lives)? What’s your lighting like? Would some blackout curtains help keep your room dark if you’re fortunate enough to have the sun shining into your bedroom? Make sure your bedroom is actually somewhere you want to fall asleep. Picture your ideal sleepy wonderland, and create your version of that filled with plants and cleanliness. Do whatever you need to do to keep the clutter out of sight and to create a peaceful sleeping haven.

Nighttime munchies gone awry

No matter how hangry you are before bed, the heavier you eat closer to your bedtime, the higher the likelihood of your digestive system remaining active while you’re trying to get to sleep. For the long days and late dinners, opt for something light like a mixed greens and fruit salad, or some fruit and dairy-free yogurt. On the other hand skipping dinner all together will have an adverse effect, so at least eat something small.

Sleep usually ends up at the bottom of your to-do list

Life is unpredictable, but setting yourself on a regular sleep schedule would be your best chance towards the road of effortlessly falling asleep. Adequate sleep is an antioxidant for your brain, so if the healthy functioning of your brain means anything to you, carve out the time to get to bed to get the suggested amount of hours of sleep your body might need (see the chart below).

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As always, thanks for writing!

All the love,
Sabine


References:

Healthy Sleep Habits and Good Sleep Hygiene. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2018, from http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits

Pizzorno, J. Murray M., Joiner-Bey. (2016). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine. (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

Russcher, M., Koch, B. C. P., Nagtegaal, J. E., van Ittersum, F. J., Pasker-de Jong, P. C. M., Hagen, E. C., … ter Wee, P. M. (2013). Long-term effects of melatonin on quality of life and sleep in hemodialysis patients (Melody study): a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 76(5), 668–679. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.12093

STREPchanges_1.png (951×913). (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/STREPchanges_1.png

Tags: sleep, melatonin, mindfulness, stress, supplements, insomnia