Anthony Ogorek, CFP®, Ed D.

Many people think taking the drug melatonin can help give them a better night’s sleep.  Not necessarily true. It is not regulated by the FDA. Taking it can shift off your brain’s ability to produce melatonin (which is the hormone that lulls you to sleep). It can also negatively interact with other drugs you may be taking. The best way to fight jet lag is when you get back to your city – go outside for 10-15 minutes of sunlight to reset your sleep clock.

In order to have a good night’s sleep, you need true darkness in your room. Before you go to bed check to see what light pollution you may have in your room. Typical sources could be an alarm clock, shades that do not completely block out the light, an alarm system panel, night lights, smartphone charging and someone else in bed reading their phone or iPad. If you find it difficult to eliminate all sources of light, try wearing an eye mask. You may be surprised at how refreshed you feel in the morning.

People developed sleep issues when we added lights to our homes. The blue light emitted by your smartphone is just like sunlight. It pushes back the release of melatonin by 45 minutes for adults and by 90 minutes for kids. If you enjoy reading before going to bed, go back to reading a book as an alternative to your smartphone or iPad.  Apple products have a setting called Night Shift Mode which reduces the blue light exposure from the screen, substituting a yellowish tint instead. It is meant to trick your eyes into thinking that they are not seeing daylight. Unfortunately we don’t know if this trick works because it has not been scientifically tested. If people are outside for a couple of hours the impact of the blue light was not as great. 

In order to sleep well it is useful to practice mindfulness in the hour prior to going to sleep.  Many people work right until the end of the day. Your brain needs a transition period before hitting the sack. Breathing exercises and mindfulness can help you to transition before going to sleep. Once your brain knows that something is stored safely, it throws it out. So a technique to help you fall asleep and stay asleep is to write down everything you are concerned about that can be addressed the next day.

Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc with seemingly unrelated medical conditions. There is a lot of research making connections between sleep and a wide variety of illnesses. Take the quality of you sleep seriously. It can improve your memory as well as your overall health.

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