3 ways to get better sleep this summer
The long hours of daylight add an extra challenge for Alaskans — a scientific one. Dr. Ross Dodge of Anchorage's PEAK Neurology and Sleep Medicine explains why.
"The brain is programmed to expect there to be periods when it is dark and periods when it is light. And that has impacts both on just how ready you are to do activities and it impacts the neurochemical balance in the brain that turns on the switch that allows you to go from wakefulness to drowsy then to sleep."
Our brains naturally produce a sleep-promoting chemical called melatonin that's triggered by darkness; bright light directly inhibits its release.
To fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer the National Sleep Foundation has a few recommendations:
1. Unplug devices at least 30 minutes before bed
2. Avoid large meals and alcohol before bed
3. Set a consistent bedtime
"The stuff we all know but have a lot of trouble adhering to, like turning off the cell phone, the electronics, dimming lights in the house that powerfully impacts when the brain is actually capable of falling asleep," Dodge said.
Whether it's sunlight or artificial light, Dodge says it all counts, but he's more focused on his clients' morning routines because one of the best ways to develop a drive for sleep is to have a consistent wake-up time.
"It builds up almost a debt for sleep, and the more powerfully you use that in terms of timing, the better it is to get you to sleep at night," Dodge said.
If you're still having trouble, Dodge says melatonin supplements can help. "Melatonin is a safe medication. It's one of the big concerns that patients ask me is does it impact my internal, my natural melatonin stores? And the answer is probably not."
That said, Dodge recommends people talk to their doctor about the timing and dosage that's best for them.
"The concern I have with melatonin is that it is best used if you consistently time it over periods of time of several weeks," Dodge said.
The National Sleep Foundation has more information about healthy sleep habits on its website.
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