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SLEEP: Behavioral Optimization


OPTIMIZATION OF SLEEP

The causes of sleep disruption are myriad: genetic, hormonal, chemicals/compounds, social, environmental, disease states, etc. While the work up and treatment of sleep disturbances is beyond the scope of this blog we will review certain lifestyle interventions and supplements that can aid in improving sleep in general.

The first part of this article will focus on improving sleep hygiene through behavioral modification. Sleep hygiene refers to the practices and habits necessary to obtain a good night’s sleep that result in an alert individual the next day. The second part of the article will focus on safe and healthy supplements to aid in the quest to improve sleep length, depth and quality.

BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION

Optimally one would sleep and wake with the setting and rising of the sun to leverage evolutionary internal hormonal diurnal and nocturnal clocks, specifically cortisol and melatonin. While this may be difficult from a social perspective, attempting to recreate this schedule by adjusting your personal sleep hygiene can be very helpful. Leveraging millions of years of evolution in your favor for precious, healthy sleep is easier than you may realize.

LIGHT

Utilize proper materials to appropriately reduce total light exposure prior to sleeping.

Electronics

Especially consider minimizing exposure to blue light. This light corresponds to a wavelength range of 450 - 490 nm. This wavelength of light preferentially stimulates production of cortisol and decreases production of melatonin. Electronic screens (i.e. TV monitors, cell phones, electronic pads, etc.) emit large quantities of this wavelength of light. Consequently, making it a point to avoid exposure to these electronics during the evening at least one to two hours before retiring can be helpful in reducing exposure. Tip: many newer hand-held electronics have a blue light reducing option that can be programmed into the device for the evening. Look for this option in Settings.

Cover, tape, turn off and hide diode lights from in-room electronics, clocks, chargers, etc. It is amazing how much ambient light these LED’s produce, especially in a darkened room and especially when present in multiple numbers.

Blue Light Glasses

Consider purchasing blue light blocking glasses and wear one to two hours before retiring. These glasses are made of an amber-yellow plastic that specifically block the frequencies of blue light at the upper end of the visible spectrum described above.

Black Out Curtains

Consider purchasing black out curtains for the bedroom. While not an especially fashionable interior design statement they can be very effective in reducing ambient light from the street, moon, etc. At minimum consider purchasing darker cloth curtains that are opaque and are effective in reducing light transmission.

Sleeping Mask

If black out curtains are not an option consider a high-quality sleeping mask. This device can make a significant difference in sleep quality by reducing the amount of ambient light that makes its way through your eyelids to your retinas. Low intensity light has a great effect on how your retinas perceive the environment through your closed eyes, even while sleeping. Again, such an environmental stimulus will translate into a biological one by altering cortisol and melatonin production, subsequently altering your sleep pattern.

Fader Switches

Consider placing faders switches on all lights in your house and reduce these one to two hours before bed. Candles can also be an option however it is mandatory they are all blown out prior to retiring.