If you’re having trouble sleeping, melatonin is a popular and easy remedy. It’s effective for many people, doesn’t have any serious safety issues, and is available as pills or gummies for pennies a dose. It’s also misunderstood, though: melatonin is not a traditional sleeping pill.
If you’re able to get to sleep, but have trouble staying there? Melatonin is unlikely to help.
Also worth mentioning that, thanks to the regulatory structure around ‘supplements’ – much of the melatonin you buy contains either no melatonin or way, way too much. In fact, even the smallest Over The Counter (OTC) doses are wildly higher than the doses used in clinical tests, so it might actually be kind of good that the odds are good there are no active ingredients in OTC melatonin.
It’s the middle of the night and you know you should be sleeping, but you can’t. Something is keeping you up: Maybe a coworker tried to throw you under the bus, or your friend said something rude. Whatever it is, you can’t get it out of your head, and you need to sleep for work tomorrow. It sucks.
I’ve had my share of those nights, and they’re the worst. It doesn’t even have to be something serious that’s keeping you awake, either. Sometimes it’s small; a snide comment or the assertion that you’re not doing your job well. Other times it can be serious, like hearing through the grapevine that someone important said something off-color about you. Combine this with even a little stress and anxiety, and your brain is off to the races at the worst of times—the middle of the night. I’m willing to bet you’ve been there too.
They say that the night before a race doesn’t matter – it’s the sleep the night before that which matters.
For those devices that can’t run f.lux without a jail break, consider purchasing orange safety goggles. They’re extremely cheap and work wonders and are not that uncomfortable. I’ve fallen asleep with them on. They’ll also help block out the light of your television or your blue-colored lighting around your home. You really don’t want any blue light in your eyes past sundown.
Diphenhydramine can have a sort of stimulatory rebound effect in some people and give them restless leg syndrome. This could mean falling asleep in a drug-induced haze and waking an hour or two later unable to sit or lie still, which makes the night so much worse. If this has ever happened to you, it’s probably not worth the risk.
Your usual sleep hygiene stuff is still helpful here, including temperature. Your body temp goes down when you’re asleep, and most people sleep best under warm blankets in a cool room. Taking a hot bath or shower can be soporific because exiting the hot water produces a perceived drop in temperature. Cracking a window in autumn can keep the room cooler.
I struggle with anxiety-induced insomnia, and ultimately I often rely on something to listen to to keep my mind quiet. It’s hard to ruminate when you have input. If white noise works for you, great. But if you end up needing a dull free access lecture or something to fall asleep, just go for it. I sleep with headphones a great deal of the time because I’ve been stressed lately. I’ll listen to Netflix episodes of things I’ve heard dozens and dozens of times, so it’s not that interesting, but it’s light and just enough for my brain to listen to to keep me from thinking about anything. Whatever works. The goal is sleep, period. You can be an A+ sleeper after you graduate/finish that project/reach that deadline.
It’s no secret that drinking coffee shortly before bedtime disrupts sleep, but a new study suggests that caffeine can actually affect our body’s internal clock, pushing back our natural rhythms by nearly an hour.
In less than a decade, reading has shifted from the medium it dominated for centuries—paper—to screens of various sorts. The change in habit has been accompanied by concerns over whether this could be influencing sleep. Exposure to light biased toward blue wavelengths, such as that produced by the screens of tablets, has been shown to alter the circadian rhythms that set the body’s clock.
A number of studies have suggested that this is a real problem—enough that the Mayo Clinic’s advice on getting better sleep notes that “Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.” Now, new research published in PNAS provides some hard numbers to back up these worries. But it’s a small study with some significant limitations, so this shouldn’t be seen as the final word on the topic.