In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, we spoke to 5 sleep experts for their professional advice. Sure, we all know scrolling through our phone before hitting the hay could impact our sleep cycles, but what are some things that you may NOT already know!?
Hear from a sleep doctor, a Feng Shui expert, a pharmacist & natural wellness expert, a sleep coach, and a biohacker. Keep reading for the inside scoop!
What is one thing most people don’t know can impact your sleep?
Patricia Lohan, Feng Shui expert: Having things under your bed can have a huge impact on your sleep, especially things that are not reflective of the central elements of Feng Shui - rest, romance and relaxation. We want to focus on having these three core things in your bedroom, and having stuff under your bed can have a very negative impact, so I'd recommend clearing out under the bed, and keeping it nice, clear and clean. If you do have to store things under the bed, we recommend just linen and very non-emotional items.
How can toxic chemicals commonly found in bedding and mattresses affect your health?
Mollie McGlocklin, Sleep Consultant: Unfortunately, suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and all-around unhealthy chemicals for years have shown up in the bedroom, chiefly thanks to the standard process of adding flame retardant to mattresses. The sad irony is that we often invest in our beds in the hopes of getting sufficient sleep, and perversely those investments can bring with them disturbed sleep by disrupting hormones and mood in a way that aggravates rest.
Dr. Lindsey Elmore: There are dozens of toxins in our mattresses and bedding that may be leading to us being sick.
Flame retardants like polybrominated biphenyl ethers have been associated with thyroid disruption, nervous system and neurodevelopment problems, especially in children, and may alter reproductive health. Constituents of memory foam such as propylene oxide increase the risk for tumor development in mice. Other foam materials like toluene can cause seizures, cognitive impairment, and hearing loss, as well as developmental delays in children. To make it even worse, many of the toxins in mattresses readily move into our bodies either through our lungs or across the skin, and may accumulate over time, meaning that the longer you sleep on that mattress or on the toxic sheets, the sicker you become.
Even if you don’t get outright sick, having the wrong sheets—sheets that retain heat, off-gas toxic smells, or haven’t been washed in a while—can disrupt sleep patterns and lead you to not feel your best the next day.
What is one thing that you’ve banned from your bedroom?
Dr. Raj Dasgupta: I have banned arguing before bed: Try your hardest to avoid a heated conversation with your significant other before bed. As the old saying goes, never go to bed angry, or bad feelings will harden into resentment. There is research to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep. Anger is a huge turn off. If you do this repeatedly, it creates an unhealthy pattern, and destroys potential opportunities for sexual intimacy. Confrontations lead to a stress response which is exactly opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. It’s important to create a peaceful environment for you and your partner to have a good night’s sleep. Instead of fighting, maybe snuggle up together and watch Love Actually, one of my personal favorites.
Dr. Lindsey Elmore: There are so many things to get rid of that can help you get a better night’s rest. If there is only one thing to eliminate now, it’s the television. Watching television in bed can not only keep you up later at night, but it can also change your dreams, eliminate time to meditate and journal, and increase your exposure to electromagnetic radiation while you sleep.
Matt Maruca: Wireless radiation emitters like routers. If I'm traveling and can't remove it from the bedroom, I always unplug it.
What are your nightstand essentials?
Mollie McGlocklin: Right now, I’m testing a non-contact sleep tracker that sits on your nightstand and uses radar technology to measure your sleep, ambient temperature, light, sound, air quality, humidity, and pressure. Besides that, a sleep mask, blue-blockers, essential oils, sage, tuning fork, journal, pen, candle, and dream log are my current picks.
Patricia Lohan: I recommend having as little as possible. This is literally right beside your bed and your head, so it's going to be impacting your sleep and your dreams. We want to keep the bare minimum beside your bed. For me, that means my journal and my pen, my Kindle, and my alarm clock are beside my bed, and I encourage people to try and keep items that are not related to their rest, romance and relaxation away and out of the bedroom completely.
Matt Maruca: Ra Optics [blue light blocking] glasses, Spring water, and most importantly, NOT a phone unless it's unplugged and on airplane mode. I like to read before bed, so a nice fiction or history book — my current favorite is Atlas Shrugged.
What is your first tip that you would tell someone to try who is having a difficult time falling asleep?
Dr. Lindsey Elmore: Few things are as frustrating as not being able to fall asleep. While most people think of bedtime as when you turn the light out, there are things you can do hours and even days before bedtime to help you fall asleep faster. Create a meaningful daily routine that supports your sleep: go to bed and get up at the same time each day, stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon, and avoid stressful inputs such as loud music, excessive exercise or heavy conversations right before bedtime.
Mollie McGlocklin: First, track your sleep, so we have data on your sleep & health as a whole. Second, shift your focus to the management of your day versus your night. If you aren’t starting every day outside (not from behind a window), create that habit tomorrow. That one act will reset your master clock in your brain and prime you to get sleeper earlier and build sufficient melatonin at night to help sleep come more easily.
Get to know the experts!
Dr. Raj Dasgupta
Dr. Raj is a valued and trusted source in medicine, giving relevant advice on various media outlets and television shows such as The Doctors, KTLA and Larry King Now. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he practices medicine at Keck Medicine of USC's division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. He also travels to teach aspiring doctors around the world how to pass the USMLE Steps 1, 2 and 3 and the Internal Medicine board exam. His life mission is to educate patients, students and aspiring doctors for better patient care.
Dr. Lindsey Elmore
Dr. Lindsey Elmore is a pharmacist, world-renowned wellness expert, speaker, author, podcast host, and business strategy coach. Through her own personal challenges, Dr. Elmore discovered Chinese medicine, herbal medicines, supplements, vitamins & minerals, and yoga & meditation and this started her on a natural wellness journey.W: lindseyelmore.com
Podcast: The Lindsey Elmore Show
Patricia Lohan is a Feng Shui expert and an entrepreneur running a 6-figure consultancy business. She specializes in helping women worldwide step into the next level of success by creating a supportive environment that enables them to manifest their life goals. Feng Shui is a 5,000-year old practice devoted to syncing up our personal energy with the energy of our environment.
Matt Maruca is a student, educator, and entrepreneur in the field of Photobiology, the study of how light affects human health. He is the founder of Ra Optics, which develops the world’s highest quality blue light protection glasses. He began his health journey while in school after having suffered from poor health and chronic fatigue for years. He chose to skip the standard path of higher education to start his own business and pursue his passion of self-education and building optimal health to experience life to its fullest extent. He travels the world, studying and teaching about the relevance of light in human health.
Mollie McGlocklin is the creator of Sleep is a Skill, a company that optimizes people’s sleep through a unique blend of technology, accountability, and behavioral change. The company was born from “scratching her own itch” after a lifetime of poor sleep habits culminated into a mega-challenging bout of insomnia for months without end. With a background in behavioral change, she went down the rabbit hole to solve her sleep disturbances without sleeping aids. She became fascinated with chronobiology, and by extension, its practical applications to restore a state of homeostasis not only to her sleep but also to her life as a whole. Knowing the difference between a life with sleep and without, she’s now dedicated her life to sharing the forgotten skill set of sleep.W: sleepisaskill.com
Podcast: Sleep is a Skill