Sleep health is an important and well-known topic, but in the rush of our personal lives, it can be tempting to disregard healthier strategies. Specifically, the concept of putting away electronics, such as our phones and computers, at least an hour or so before bed; when we have such little “quiet time” throughout the day, it’s tempting to keep them out until the last minute. Other suggestions are easier to follow; a quiet, dark room is ideal, and soft ambient music can help for many as well. About a quarter of adults in the US report insufficient sleep throughout the week, and even a few hours under the ideal 7-9 hours a night can immediately affect our daytime performance and put us at greater risk for long-term health issues. There are OTC supplements and prescription medications that can help, but most, if not all of these options aren’t permanent solutions. About 4% of adults take hypnotic-type medications, like Ambien and Lunesta; they’re highly potent, and very effective for many people, but they’re not meant to be taken continuously, for long periods of time. Even if they’re not habit forming in a recreational sense, they can be physically habit forming, and rebound insomnia from uninterrupted, chronic use can make matters worse.
That’s not to say that they don’t have their place, but merely that they’re not the end-all-be-all. Melatonin is more easily available, and more “mild”, but it too can lose its effectiveness after continued use, and its effectiveness varies widely from person to person. Other supplements, like Kava, can also help, but again, they shouldn’t be relied on. As with anything, moderation is key, and developing good sleep hygiene is the best long-term solution. Of course, there are those with insomnia and other sleep disorders, meaning the effectiveness of even the most consistent sleep hygiene practices reach the point of diminishing return rather quickly. If you’re such an individual, consulting your doctor may help immensely. There are other types of sleep disturbances common amongst the general population; hypnagogic hallucinations are common, wherein hallucinations occur as one is falling asleep. These can be accompanied by sleep paralysis, and in some cases, feelings of acute terror. Such instances can be very jarring, and they can make it difficult to fall asleep. Overall, sleep-related issues are incredibly common, and there's often no easy solution, but developing consistent habits and consulting with your doctor can be the first step(s) in the right direction.