Optimizing Your Health: Sleep Hygiene

By Dr. Myles Spar, MD, MPH

Getting adequate sleep is an essential part of maintaining our mental and physical health. But everyday stressors and poor habits can wreak havoc on our sleep patterns. Though many men believe they can operate on less than seven hours of sleep, several studies have shown that to be unlikely. In fact, recent data shows that only 5% of the population can function on less than seven hours of sleep consistently—which mea ns the other 95% of us need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep every night to perform at and feel our best. 

If you’re consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, you may be suffering from the effects of sleep deficit. Sleep deficit will affect your energy, ability to lose weight, and brain function. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help get into a healthy sleeping routine.

The first area to focus on is your quality of sleep. When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, your body needs two specific types of sleep: deep sleep and REM sleep. Deep sleep is important when it comes to resting the body, while REM sleep is necessary for recharging the brain. 

The best way to monitor these types of sleep is with a tracker, like the Oura ring or the Whoop, which measure sleep, stress, and resting heart rate. Monitoring your sleep with one of these devices can be really helpful in identifying which lifestyle triggers may contribute to poor sleep, such as drinking too much alcohol, eating a lot of sugar, or exposing yourself to blue light right before bedtime (more on that below). 

Beyond sleep tracking, there are plenty of other ways you can work on your sleep hygiene. The first is to use your bed for sleep and sex only. This means not lingering in bed reading, checking emails, or paying bills, all of which will train your body to stop associating bed with sleep. 

The second step is to optimize your sleeping environment. Lower body temperatures help with sleep, so keeping the bedroom dark and cool is ideal. I use something called the chiliPAD which thermoregulates your mattress via remote control. Additionally, the blue light that comes from your computer, phone, and TV screens is stimulating and a big no-no when it comes to sleep time. Avoid screens an hour before bed, and be sure to cover any small blue lights that electronics in the room may omit overnight. If you’re someone who needs to read on your phone before bed, make sure it’s in “Night Shift” mode if it’s an iPhone and invest in a pair of blue-light filtering glasses. 

It’s also worth noting that consuming social media before bed can have a drastic impact on your quality of sleep because it is often stimulating to the brain. When I was working with NBA players, studies showed that those who looked at social media before bed had a decrease in their shooting accuracy. Avoiding this type of content before bed is the best way to prepare your body for a night of restful sleep.

Generally, I don’t advocate for prescribed sleep medications because they can be addictive and cause unwanted side-effects, like temporary amnesia. Instead, if you need supplemental support with sleep, melatonin can be really effective. Most people will benefit from two-to-three milligrams a night, though some men report that taking just one milligram before bed can help with sleep. 

I especially like to combine melatonin with the amino acid L-theanine, which boosts the brain’s GABA neurotransmitters and helps to regulate anxiety. If melatonin doesn’t work for you, valerian root is another supplement that can be helpful. 

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment.  If you are experiencing an emergency, dial 911 or contact a medical provider immediately. Consistent with Vault Health, Inc.’s website privacy policy, Vault Health, Inc. is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content found at links to other websites.  The content of this article represents the views and opinions of the individual author.  

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