Written by Sabato Sisillo, M.D., FCCP, Chief Medical Officer
Sleep medicine as we know it today is much different than when I was in training 30 years ago. Over the last several years I have been reviewing new studies on the importance of sleep. Below are some of the ways that one could optimize sleep. For me personally, sleep is the most important thing that one accomplishes in a 24-hour cycle.
The most important thing to do to optimize sleep, is to expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. Viewing sunlight by going outside within 30 to 60 minutes of waking is the best way to start your biological clock. If possible, expose yourself to sunlight for 5 to 10 minutes within the first hour of sunrise. On a cloudy day extend that to 15 to 20 minutes. It is also important to expose yourself to Sunset, which tells your brain it is time to wind down and get ready for sleep. If safety allows, do not wear sunglasses in the morning.
Try to wake up at the same time each day. Try not to deviate for more than 30 minutes on each side of the hour. It is also important to go to sleep at the first sign of feeling sleepy. Try not to push through the sleepy phase, which then leads to going to sleep late.
Your bedroom should be only for sleep. Keep it cold and dark. Do not watch TV in bed. Your body temperature should drop by one to three degrees to fall asleep and attain proper sleep. Taking a hot bath or hot shower prior to sleep is one way to get your body temperature to drop.
Avoid drinking alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, I recommend no alcohol intake for four to six hours prior to your sleep time.
I do not recommend any over-the-counter sleep aids, including melatonin which interferes with your body’s natural circadian clock and melatonin levels.
You may consider taking one of the following supplements 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime; Magnesium Threonate, 145mg Magnesium Bisglycinate, 200 mg
Expect to feel really alert approximately one hour before your natural bedtime. This is a naturally occurring spike in wakefulness that sleep researchers have observed.
Avoid caffeine 10 to 12 hours before bedtime. Caffeine has a half-life of 10 to 12 hours. Whatever you take in at 9 a.m., half of that dose is still in your system at 9 p.m.
Avoid television or any device with blue light, one to two hours prior to sleep. Avoid bright lights between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. This interferes with natural circadian rhythm. Candlelight and moonlight do not interfere with your sleep circadian rhythm.
Limit naps in the middle of the day to less than 90 minutes.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep within 20 to 30 minutes, get up out of bed, and go into a different room. Try reading a book until you get sleepy once again. Or try “Yoga Nidra “protocols found in a YouTube video.
Remember, if you optimize sleep, the remainder of your day will be more productive and less stressful.