Updated: Apr 26, 2019

Sleep disorders affect millions of Americans, with insomnia being the most common of all sleep problems. About 30% of adults experience occasional insomnia, and 10% experience chronic insomnia.[1] More than 35% of adults report that they typically sleep less than 7 hours every night.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleeping less than 7 hours per night is associated with weight gain, depression, increased pain, diabetes, and heart disease.[2] Insufficient sleep is also associated with compromised immune function, impaired performance, more errors, and an increased risk of accidents. For many people, good sleep is not easy to come by. We toss and turn and wonder when morning will come.

Insomnia can result from many different causes and influences. When I work with patients, I evaluate them for potential triggers in their unique situations. Over the years I have seen some commonalities and have found that certain recommendations can help almost everyone. Here are 3 of my best recommendations to ensure a good night’s sleep:

Lady getting a good nights sleep in bed

1. Turn off the screens and turn on the red lights

Our biological clocks, orchestrated by a series of hormonal fluctuations, are ultimately regulated by light. Melatonin—the hormone that promotes sleep—is produced in response to darkness. But not all light affects us in the same way. Different colors of light have different effects on our physiology.

The blue wavelength of light, like what we see emitted from the screens on our phones and our laptops, is most helpful during the day because it boosts our energy and attention. The red wavelength of light, which was emitted more from the older incandescent light bulbs, is more conducive to sleep. If we look at screens before bed, it can interfere with our ability to fall asleep.

There are several ways to increase exposure to the red spectrum of light and decrease exposure to the blue spectrum of light as bedtime approaches. One obvious way is to turn off screens, including the television, computers, and handheld devices. You can purchase a red-spectrum light bulb to turn on in the evening hours. You can also purchase a pair of orange-lensed glasses that block the blue light and wear these glasses throughout the evening hours.  

2. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day

We have evolved as a species to wake up with the sunrise and go to sleep with the sunset. We rarely do that anymore, but studies show that the closer we can stay to that schedule, the healthier we will be. Night shift work increases the risk of many chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and breast cancer.[3] [4] [5]

Our bodies respond to routine. When we eat lunch at a certain time every day, we tend to become hungry at that time each day. If we go to bed at the same time each night, our body slows down and prepares for that each night. Set a reasonable bedtime that you can stick with, and make a habit of it. Wake up at the same time on weekends. It will make Monday mornings so much easier, and you will probably get a lot more things accomplished!

3. Try sublingual melatonin

Melatonin is one of the most commonly recommended natural sleep remedies, but not everyone has a good reaction to it. I have found that most patients respond well to sublingual melatonin. When you take a sublingual form, you hold the tablet under your tongue until it dissolves and enters directly into the blood vessels inside your mouth. By directly entering the bloodstream, the melatonin does not need to pass through the liver. The liver processes hormones, inactivates them, and prepares them to be eliminated from the body. If we take a sublingual form, it can enter the bloodstream without being inactivated by the liver. This is a similar approach that we take with many types of hormones: testosterone and estrogen, for example, are often given as patches, creams, or sublingual troches.

How to Get Care

Sleep disorders can be extremely frustrating and can affect all areas of life. The 3 habits explained here are an excellent place to begin on the path to better sleep. If you continue to struggle with sleep problems, we at the Care Group are here to help. We take an individualized approach to medicine to help discover your unique needs. We combine conventional and integrative therapies to achieve the best results for each patient.

Give us a call at 303-343-3121.

We look forward to hearing from you! 

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Melatonin is produced naturally in the pineal gland of the brain in response to changes in light exposure; it helps maintain healthy sleep patterns as well as antioxidant and immune activities. Melatonin can be taken as a supplement to support these functions by promoting normal levels of melatonin in the body.

Resources:

[1] American Sleep Association. Sleep and Sleep Disorders Statistics. https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep/sleep-statistics/. Accessed July 11, 2017.

[2] Consensus CP, Watson NF, Badr MS, et al. Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015;11(6):591-592.

[3] Ramin C, Devore EE, Wang W, Pierre-Paul J, Wegrzyn LR, Schernhammer ES. Night shift work at specific age ranges and chronic disease risk factors. Occup Environ Med. 2015;72(2):100-107.

[4] Vetter C, Devore EE, Wegrzyn LR, et al. Association Between Rotating Night Shift Work and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Among Women. JAMA. 2016;315(16):1726-1734.

[5] Lin X, Chen W, Wei F, Ying M, Wei W, Xie X. Night-shift work increases morbidity of breast cancer and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of 16 prospective cohort studies. Sleep Med. 2015;16(11):1381-1387.


About the Author: Dr. Gerard Guillory, MD is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has published two books on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In 1985, he opened The Care Group, PC. Today, his clinic is a Primary Care facility that is a hybrid of functional and traditional medicine treating patients with digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, and other conditions. You can learn more about Dr. Guillory here.