You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Close [x]

Request Appointment


New Information to Sleep on

New Information to Sleep on

SleepingWe often fail to recognize or acknowledge its importance, but sleep, like a high-nutrient diet and exercise, is a crucial component of excellent health. As our lives become increasingly busy, we are sacrificing sleep: in 1942, mean reported sleep time for adults was 7.6 hours, and by 2001, the average was down to 6.7 hours.1 According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 63% of American adults report that their sleep needs are not being met, and 43% report that on weeknights they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep.2But we need adequate sleep to work optimally in our daily activities.3

Why do we need sleep? Our brains work best when we are well-rested: during sleep, our brains stabilize newly formed memories, and adequate sleep promotes learning and cognitive performance the next day.3,4 Sleep is also essential for proper immune function.5 Getting adequate sleep regularly may reduce the severity of cold symptoms and also may maintain sufficient numbers of natural killer cells.6 In fact, there is some evidence that poor sleep could impair the immune system’s ability to eliminate, small, newly established tumors before they become dangerous.7 In addition, melatonin, which is a hormone produced in response to darkness and during sleep, is an antioxidant and an inhibitor of cancer cell growth.8-10 Allowing the body to produce sufficient melatonin is essential. Inadequate sleep is associated with impaired learning ability, faster aging of the brain, impaired driving and work performance, overeating, obesity, elevated cholesterol, and increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and death from all causes. Plus, lack of sleep negatively affects our appearance and emotional state.4,11-21

Are you getting enough, good quality sleep? The precise amount of sleep required for adults has been debated, and differs between individuals. But, if you wake up to an alarm clock you are most likely sleep-deprived.6Here are some strategies to consider if you’d like to improve the quality of your sleep:6,22

Minimize electronic device use at night. Smartphones, computer screens, televisions and tablets emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin production. Using these devices close to bedtime can disrupt sleep.23 If you wake in the middle of the night, don’t turn on your TV, smartphone or computer; the light will turn off melatonin and cause you to feel more alert. Instead, relax, read under low light or meditate until you feel sleepy again.

Make your sleep environment as dark as possible. Don’t keep clocks that emit light or night lights in the bedroom; light-blocking curtains or a sleep mask can reduce exposure to outside light and enhance your sleep quality. Light exposure regulates our internal clock: bright light makes us alert in the morning, and a dark room at night promotes melatonin production and good sleep. Exposure to light soon before bed or during sleep reduces the depth and quality of sleep. Even a low level of light exposure through closed eyelids (such as a night light) can reduce melatonin production, and this disruption of our natural rhythms has ill health effects. Light exposure at night is associated with an increased risk of cancer, most strongly with breast cancer.24,25

Sleep on a consistent schedule, going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning.

Don’t wake up to an alarm clock if possible; the alarm clock wakes you abruptly and use of the snooze button can rob you of valuable REM sleep. When you wake naturally, your body prepares you during the final sleep cycles by shifting hormone production—reducing melatonin and increasing cortisol, which helps you to become alert.6,26

Minimize noise. How noise affects one’s sleep is somewhat individual, based on what is familiar and typical. Earplugs or “white noise” (for example from a fan) may help to prevent noises from disrupting sleep.27

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Although alcohol may cause you to fall asleep more quickly, it reduces the quality of sleep.28,29 Caffeine also disrupts sleep, especially when consumed in the evening.30

Exercise. Exercising regularly (especially vigorous exercise) promotes healthy sleep, but exercise close to bedtime is usually not recommended.

Sleep at a comfortable, but cooler temperature. Body temperature naturally drops during sleep. Sleeping in a warm room (above 75°F) or trapping in excessive heat with extra blankets may disrupt sleep.

Follow a high-nutrient diet. A low intake of vegetables is associated with poor sleep.31 Those following aNutritarian diet may get better quality sleep than people eating poorly, and therefore may require fewer hours of sleep.

For those who experience difficulty sleeping, morning light exposure (or light therapy) helps normalize melatonin cycling as a means of establishing better sleep patterns and resolving insomnia. In the mornings open the shades wide and get in a sun lit room, go outside or use a therapeutic light. Tart cherry juice, a natural dietary source of melatonin, may be an effective addition.32,33 Supplementing to achieve adequate omega-3 fatty acids and zinc may also benefit sleep.34-36 These natural methods are preferable to prescription sleep drugs, which are linked to a dramatic increase in risk of death. These findings demonstrated a three-fold increased risk of death associated with regular use and a 35 percent higher risk of cancer.37


1. Moore DW: Gallup. Eyes Wide Open: Americans, Sleep and Stress. 2002. 
2. National Sleep Foundation. Sleepy Connected Americans 2011.
3. McCoy JG, Strecker RE: The cognitive cost of sleep lost. Neurobiol Learn Mem 2011, 96:564-582.
4. Walker MP: The role of sleep in cognition and emotion. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2009, 1156:168-197.
5. Opp MR: Sleeping to fuel the immune system: mammalian sleep and resistance to parasites. BMC Evol Biol 2009, 9:8.
6. Dement WC, Vaughan C: The Promise of Sleep. New York: Delacorte Press; 1999.
7. Hakim F, Wang Y, Zhang SX, et al: Fragmented sleep accelerates tumor growth and progression through recruitment of tumor-associated macrophages and TLR4 signaling. Cancer Res 2014, 74:1329-1337.
8. Canaple L, Kakizawa T, Laudet V: The days and nights of cancer cells. Cancer Res 2003, 63:7545-7552.
9. Blask DE, Brainard GC, Dauchy RT, et al: Melatonin-depleted blood from premenopausal women exposed to light at night stimulates growth of human breast cancer xenografts in nude rats. Cancer Res 2005, 65:11174-11184.
10. Schernhammer ES, Schulmeister K: Melatonin and cancer risk: does light at night compromise physiologic cancer protection by lowering serum melatonin levels? Br J Cancer 2004, 90:941-943.
11. Aldabal L, Bahammam AS: Metabolic, endocrine, and immune consequences of sleep deprivation. Open Respir Med J 2011, 5:31-43.
12. Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypertension: analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hypertension 2006, 47:833-839.
13. Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Sleep duration as a risk factor for diabetes incidence in a large U.S. sample.Sleep 2007, 30:1667-1673. 
14. Gangwisch JE, Malaspina D, Babiss LA, et al: Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypercholesterolemia: analyses of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Sleep 2010, 33:956-961. 
15. Kim S, DeRoo LA, Sandler DP: Eating patterns and nutritional characteristics associated with sleep duration. Public health nutrition2011, 14:889-895. 
16. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, et al: Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med2011, 364:2392-2404. 
17. Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, et al: Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol 2006,164:947-954. 
18. Spiegel K, Leproult R, Van Cauter E: Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. Lancet 1999, 354:1435-1439. 
19. Cappuccio FP, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, et al: Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep 2010, 33:585-592. 
20. Theorell-Haglow J, Berglund L, Berne C, et al: Both habitual short sleepers and long sleepers are at greater risk of obesity: a population-based 10-year follow-up in women. Sleep Med 2014. 
21. Williamson AM, Feyer AM: Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med 2000, 57:649-655. 
22. National Sleep Foundation. The Sleep Environment. [http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/the-sleep-environment
23. National Sleep Foundation. See. [http://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/see.php
24. Yang WS, Deng Q, Fan WY, et al: Light exposure at night, sleep duration, melatonin, and breast cancer: a dose-response analysis of observational studies. Eur J Cancer Prev 2014, 23:269-276. 
25. Stevens RG, Brainard GC, Blask DE, et al: Breast cancer and circadian disruption from electric lighting in the modern world. CA Cancer J Clin 2014, 64:207-218. 
26. Stepanski EJ: The effect of sleep fragmentation on daytime function. Sleep 2002, 25:268-276. 
27. Hu RF, Jiang XY, Zeng YM, et al: Effects of earplugs and eye masks on nocturnal sleep, melatonin and cortisol in a simulated intensive care unit environment. Crit Care 2010, 14:R66. 
28. Geoghegan P, O'Donovan MT, Lawlor BA: Investigation of the effects of alcohol on sleep using actigraphy. Alcohol Alcohol 2012,47:538-544. 
29. Feige B, Gann H, Brueck R, et al: Effects of alcohol on polysomnographically recorded sleep in healthy subjects. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2006, 30:1527-1537. 
30. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, et al: Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med 2013,9:1195-1200. 
31. Katagiri R, Asakura K, Kobayashi S, et al: Low Intake of Vegetables, High Intake of Confectionary, and Unhealthy Eating Habits are Associated with Poor Sleep Quality among Middle-aged Female Japanese Workers. J Occup Health 2014. 
32. Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, et al: Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food 2010, 13:579-583. 
33. Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, et al: Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.Eur J Nutr 2012, 51:909-916. 
34. Montgomery P, Burton JR, Sewell RP, et al: Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study--a randomized controlled trial. J Sleep Res 2014, 23:364-388. 
35. Scorza FA, Cavalheiro EA, Scorza CA, et al: Sleep Apnea and Inflammation - Getting a Good Night's Sleep with Omega-3 Supplementation. Front Neurol 2013, 4:193. 
36. Song CH, Kim YH, Jung KI: Associations of zinc and copper levels in serum and hair with sleep duration in adult women. Biol Trace Elem Res 2012, 149:16-21. 
37. Kripke DF, Langer RD, Kline LE: Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study. BMJ Open 2012,2:e000850.

Go to top of page