Ever wonder why catching the right amount of ZZZ’s is so important? Well, it’s more than just about keeping under-eye bags at bay. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help regulate hormones, sharpen your brain, stabilize your mood, and give your skin that refreshed glow we all know and love. When you're well-slept, you're not just rested; you're revitalized, invigorated, and ready to take on the day. To put it simply, good sleep is the key to living your best life.
To dive deeper into the art of quality sleep, we sat down with Sleep Expert, author, and founder of Solve Our Sleep, Dr. Whitney Roban. From winding down routines to creating the perfect sleep environment, she gives us tips for getting the most out of your shuteye.
Welcome Dr.Roban! To get us started, what would be the biggest misconception or myth about sleep?
So, I always hear people say to me, oh, I'll sleep when I'm dead. Have you ever heard that saying? And people don't realize that so many important things actually happen while we sleep. And more happens while we sleep than when we're awake. So, you want to make sure that you get enough sleep that all the hormone regulation that takes place and your immunity boosting, all of that happens while we sleep. So really important that you focus on the good that happens while you sleep.
A big question that a lot of people have is, we're all sitting here on our screens all day long, whether phones computer all day at work. How does this screen exposure impact sleep patterns and how to mitigate outside sleep patterns?
So, we're all addicted to our screens. I am too, we admit it. There's probably nobody out there that isn't. But you have to realize that there's two ways that screens negatively impact our sleep.
One is the physical, and most people have heard of this by now, the blue light, right? So, the blue light goes into our eyes, it tricks the brain into thinking it's daytime, and our body decreases the production of melatonin. Now people now all know, because so many people take it, what melatonin is the sleep hormone, and we need that to feel tired. So that's how it physically affects us.
But then the other part that people usually talk about is the mental, the emotional aspect of being on your phone. You want your brain to be as relaxed as possible in order to fall asleep and how many people are relaxed on their phones. It's either right, you're either something you're looking at is giving you a positive emotional experience or a negative especially these days a lot of doom scrolling. So, we really need to stay off for the physical but for the emotional component too.
On the note of melatonin, what are your thoughts on supplements whether it is melatonin, magnesium, etc? Are they actually helpful and safe to take on a regular basis?
That's a great question because so many people are taking supplements and melatonin sales skyrocketed during the pandemic and still to this day a lot of people are taking melatonin.
That's another whole conversation in and of itself, but what people do have to realize just overall about supplements is that they're not FDA regulated. So, there's been research to show that melatonin, what's actually in the melatonin, is different from what it says on the label. So, you have to be really careful.
Also, people tend to not ask their doctors before they buy supplements. They just go to their local drugstore. So, it's really important that the doctor knows what medications you're on. Make sure there's no interaction effects.
If you want me to just say one thing that I would recommend, out of all the supplements out there that I personally take, is magnesium glycinate. And I actually do feel that it really helps relax the body and the brain, which is also what we said earlier we need for sleep.
And would you recommend taking it regularly?
Yes, you can take it every day about an hour before you go to sleep.
Moving on, can you tell us about the connections between sleep and mental health?
Sleep and mental health are so intimately intertwined. They also have a cyclical relationship and by that, I mean people with mental health issues tend to be poor sleepers. Sleep is difficult if you have anxiety or depression. However, let’s say you don’t even have any mental health issues at all, but if you don’t sleep well, you’re most likely going to feel more anxious and depressed the next day. So, it’s like a vicious cycle.
What are your go-to recommendations for people struggling with sleep in general?
Okay, so I'd like to think of sleep as a puzzle with three really important parts. Those parts are sleep schedules, sleep routines, and sleep environments.
Sleep schedules should really try to be consistent every single day, going to bed and waking up about the same time every day. People have actually asked me which is more important, going to bed at the same time every day or waking up at the same time every day? And it’s actually your wake-up time. We want to have a brief, consistent and relaxing bedtime routine. And we want our room to be dark, quiet, and cool. All those pieces together really will help with healthy sleep.
What are your thoughts on midday naps? Are they helpful or harmful?
I always get the nap question. I'd like to start off by saying that if you're very well rested, you probably shouldn't need to nap. But I'm not against napping and especially if you've had a bad night of sleep. There's just a couple of rules you need to follow.
One rule is all naps should end before 3 p.m. and that has to do with trying to keep that consistent bedtime we talked about. If you're going to nap late in the day, it's going to be very hard to keep consistent bedtime.
So, ending before 3 and the other thing is naps should be 30 minutes less. And the reason for that is we don't want to cycle into our deep sleep or else you'll wake up from that deep sleep feeling groggy, nauseous, and maybe worse than before the nap. So, setting an alarm for maybe 20 or 30 minutes and getting up, you'll have that extra energy that you need without feeling groggy.
What are your favorite materials or styles that you recommend for better sleep quality?
We don't want synthetics. The best materials for pajamas are silk and cotton and the reason being is that they're natural. They're breathable and they're light. You want to make sure that it's comfortable, it's light, you can move, but also that moisture and air are not trapped in to be able to breathe.
And as far as certain designs and how they fit your body, just be comfortable and loose. You don't want anything too restricting so you can move in turn. Most people don't stay in one position throughout the night, so we want to make sure that you're comfortable enough keep moving and you don't want to add anything that's too heavy where you can't move or you're going to get too hot.
Can wearing certain colors trigger mental ques that promote relaxation and better sleep quality?
There are colors that actually are known to promote sleep. The most popular sleep color is blue. Other colors that are like cool colors like green also do promote sleep, as studies have shown.
Is it possible to have a psychological connection to a PJ set that will trigger relaxation? I have a blanket that I've slept with for years now and I always feel weird when I sleep without it.
Right. The number one reason that people say they have sleep problems is because they're stressed, anxious and they can't turn their mind off.
So, anything that you will find calming and relaxing to you is great for sleep. And it's a very personal decision what it is. But if you sleep with a particular pillow, let's say, and you get a great night's sleep, that's going to be a cue the next night that pillow is going to help you sleep.
Same thing, if you have your favorite pajamas and you sleep well in them, you're going to want to keep wearing those same pajamas because it's going to trigger in your mind the thought of, oh, I get good sleep with this. So psychologically that will help the next night and saying, okay, I'm calmer now going to sleep, I'm more optimistic about my sleep because I know that I'm sleeping with this particular item.
Very interesting. Now that we've in January and it's post-holiday season, a lot of people are focusing on resetting and getting back into their routine. Do you have any tips for getting back onto a normal sleep schedule?
Sleep should be the number one priority of your self-care routine. To really hit the reset button after such a busy time of year, you need to be strict with yourself about going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Keep your bedtime routine brief and simple to avoid getting a second wind.
At the end of the day, sleep directly and indirectly controls so much of your daily life. There’s nothing that bad sleep can’t make worse but good sleep can’t make better.