In this podcast (episode #457) and blog, I talk to Matt Gallant, author and CEO of BiOpitimizers and Nootopia, about what affects sleep quality, the relationship between sleep and mental health, the pros and cons of taking melatonin, why we all need different amounts of sleep, how to improve sleep quality naturally, and so much more!
First, I want to emphasize that there is a lot of sleep information and research out there. We hear so much about how sleep is important and the dangers of not getting enough sleep that this can actually make us fear all the damage that we are doing to our brains and bodies when we can’t sleep. This fear impacts our sleeping patterns and our ability to think clearly during the day. I myself have done this. The more I tried to use the fear of not sleeping to force myself to sleep, the more I couldn’t sleep! This is why it is important to remember that we never do anything well if we are working under a cloud of fear or foreboding.
So, if you are someone who battles to sleep, or you know someone who struggles, then the first thing to do is take some deep breaths. This is not going to be a conversation about how if you don’t get enough sleep you will get sick or die. There is always hope! Your mind, brain and body are incredible. Once you find what works for you, including the right amount of sleep you need, then you will discover ways to improve your sleep quality and wellbeing.
It is also important to remember that you are not alone. Research shows that 67% of all Americans alone report frequent sleep issues, while 9-12% of the population is clinically diagnosed with insomnia. A lot of us battle to fall asleep and sleep well!
Thankfully, there are many ways we can all start improving our sleep quality-even those of us who think we have no sleep issues! This includes paying attention to what we do throughout the day. How we think, eat, move, and so on can affect how we sleep; our daily choices affect the state our mind, brain and body are in when we go to bed. Spending time with our loved ones, in nature, meditating and doing things that bring us peace not only make our days better, but our nights too!
Light is another factor to consider when thinking about your sleep quality. Natural light/dark cycles are important for optimum brain and body function and sleep. Making sure you get enough light exposure during the day, and reducing how much light you encounter at night before bed, can really help improve your overall sleep quality. In fact, exposure to blue light in the morning or early in the day, for example, can cause you to feel more tired 14-16 hours later, because your circadian clock plays a big role in how well you sleep. Likewise, dimming or switching off the lights around 90 minutes before your target bedtime, switching to red light, or using blue and green light-blocking glasses can really help tap into your natural circadian rhythm, optimize natural melatonin production, and sleep better at night.
When it comes to melatonin, it is better to try tap into your natural resources than take melatonin every night. In certain situations, it may be helpful to take melatonin; however, this should be the exception rather than the rule. When you tap into your natural circadian rhythm by controlling what you do during the day, your light exposure, and so on, you encourage the brain to produce melatonin naturally to help you sleep well at night, rather than just taking melatonin to help you fall asleep.
There are also several sleep supplements that actually help stimulate your body’s natural melatonin production for better sleep. One supplement I have started taking before bed is Sleep Breakthrough by BiOptimizers. It is designed to help you fall asleep faster and easier with the ability to move to a state of deep, restorative sleep quicker without making you drowsy. The formula is 100% melatonin-free and non-habit forming, so you can use it as needed without the risk of creating a dependency (for 10% of your order, using the code DRLEAF10 at https://sleepbreakthrough.com/drleaf). I simply mix 1 scoop of Sleep Breakthrough with 1 cup of water and drink it about an hour before bedtime. It doesn’t make me too drowsy, and I never wake up feeling groggy or tired!
I take this supplement alongside BiOptimizer’s Magnesium Breakthrough, which has been part of my routine for years. It is the only organic full-spectrum magnesium supplement that includes 7 unique forms of magnesium all in each pill. And, when you get all 7 critical forms of magnesium, that’s when the “magic happens”: pretty much every function in your body gets upgraded, from your sleep to your brain, from stress, to pain, and inflammation (for 10% off your order go to magbreakthrough.com/drleaf and use the promo code DRLEAF10 at checkout).
I love that Sleep Breakthrough can also help lower body temperature at night, which is another factor that can affect sleep quality. How? It contains glycine, which is an amino acid that research has shown can cause a drop in body temperature while promoting faster sleep onset and longer REM sleep duration.
But supplements are not the only thing to consider when you want to improve your sleep quality. Your room temperature is also important. Your body decreases its temperature when it sleeps, so keeping the room you sleep in cool using fans, lighter sheets/blankets, air conditioning, cooling pads and so on will help your body maintain this lower temperature. This, in turn, will reduce disruptions in your sleeping patterns, and balance your natural melatonin levels.
Another great way to improve sleep quality is to try go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Obviously, there will be times when you are traveling, on holiday, or having a fun night out, that will interrupt this schedule. However, if you can, stick to a sleep schedule as much as possible. It can improve your sleep patterns as it helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, which will make your time asleep more restorative.
One helpful way to do this is to develop habits or rituals for both going to sleep and for waking up. For example, you can read a few pages or chapters of a book before turning off the lights, play some relaxing music as you shower and get ready for bed, or do a quick meditation for sleeping. Even journaling or drinking a warm cup of tea are excellent habits to develop before sleeping!
An important ritual in my family is making sure that we eat dinner at least 3 to 4 hours before bed. Not only does this give us time to catch up on the day and spend quality time together, it also helps us all sleep better at night, since eating a big meal too close to bed can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm by affecting the digestive cycle.
For more on sleep and mental health, listen to my podcast with Matt (episode #457). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
You can now also join me on Patreon for exclusive, ad-free content! Sign up for a membership level that suits you, and receive access to ad-free exclusive bonus podcasts!
My latest ad-free podcasts on Patreon include:
This podcast is sponsored by:
BetterHelp. You don’t have to be in a crisis mode to benefit from therapy. Therapy can provide preventative and protective strategies, so that when things do get tough, you will know what to do—it is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. And this month, BetterHelp online therapy wants to remind you that you matter just as much as everyone else does, and therapy is a great way to make sure you show up for yourself! BetterHelp is online therapy that offers video, phone and even live chat sessions with your therapist, so you don’t have to see anyone on camera if you don’t want to. It’s much more affordable than in-person therapy and you can be matched with a therapist in under 48 hours. Visit betterhelp.com/drleaf, and join the over 1,000,000 people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. In fact, so many people have been using BetterHELP that they are recruiting additional counselors in all 50 states! I am proud to say that this podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp, and Cleaning Up the Mental Mess listeners get 10% off their first month at betterhelp.com/drleaf.
NOOM. Being healthy is about way more than fitting a certain clothes size or looking a certain way. I personally want to have more energy to do the things I love and spend time with the people I love. Whatever your reason is for wanting to make a change, Noom is ready to help. Their program uses psychology to help you learn how to make healthier choices every day so that you can break the cycle and change your habits for good! I find the app’s quick daily lessons super helpful, and have learnt so much about the relationship between what I eat and my health. I have also started overcoming my FOMO around food—I no longer have that “fear of missing out” when I eat meals with my loved ones, which has really helped me enjoy this holiday season! I also think it is great that you get to choose your level of support, from 5-minute daily check-ins to personal coaching. Stay focused on what’s important to you with Noom’s psychology-based approach. Sign up for your trial today at Noom.com/DRLEAF. And check out Noom’s first ever book, The Noom Mindset, a deep dive into the psychology of behavior change. Available to buy now wherever books are sold.
2:40 Why we shouldn’t stress about sleep
4:00 Some ways to avoid worrying about getting enough sleep
6:00 Preparing for sleep starts during the day!
7:05 The truth behind sleep trackers
8:50, 12:29 How light affects sleep
12:45, 31:00 Why it is better to optimize our natural melatonin production
19:30 The different stages of sleep & why they are important
22:40 Supplements that can help improve sleep quality naturally
24:00 The importance of body temperature when sleeping
28:25 Why a sleep schedule is so helpful
34:30 How eating right before bed disrupts sleep quality
37:00 The benefits of quieting down the brain before bed
Switch On Your Brain LLC. is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.