If you begin a web search with, "How important is . . .," the first term that pops up is "sleep." The fifth result is "breakfast," which is a solid indication that mornings are a struggle for a lot of us. But regular restless nights have profound effects beyond a.m. grogginess; quality sleep is vital to physical repair of the body and cognitive function, plus a whole host of physiological processes. Keeping your sleep-wake cycles on track comes down to a number of factors working in harmony. To help us understand them, we consulted with Dr. Raj Dasgupta — a pulmonary, critical care, and sleep specialist — and Delia Bearup, a key developer of ZzzQuil™ PURE Zzzs™ Melatonin Gummies. Here's to sweeter dreams!
Identifying the Causes of Sleeplessness
POPSUGAR: How do you diagnose a bad night's sleep versus a medical condition?
Dr. Raj Dasgupta: Taking a good physical examination is most important — really emphasizing medical history. Why? You always want to look for underlying causes for sleeplessness. That means you have to get a good history, you want to know when it happened. Is it issues with falling asleep? Is it issues with staying asleep? You've got to look at the medication list, because many medications can disrupt sleep, and of course, you have to think about underlying medical conditions.
I feel that my patients have a Pavlovian reflex to be at arms' distance from their cellphones.
PS: In what ways does sleeplessness feel like a side effect of modern life?
DRD: One of the main things that is impacting us is technology. Meaning that when we talk about anxiety and going to bed, you want to transition into going to sleep both physically and mentally. And at night time, if you are watching TV, not only is that in itself a bad idea, but what you watch has an impact. One of the things that I encourage every patient to do is put their technology away when they go to bed. And it's a no-win situation because I feel that my patients have this Pavlovian reflex to be at arms' distance from their cellphones.
Maintaining Better Sleep Habits
PS: What constitutes good "sleep hygiene" these days?
DRD: Don't watch TV while you're in bed. But these days, you don't even need to have a television in your bedroom. People are on their phones, their laptops, their pads. And recent studies have shown that binge-watching is one of the main causes of sleep problems. It doesn't surprise me because you have seconds between shows, so you are set up to keep going. Plus these shows get you so riled up that it's almost impossible to fall asleep afterwards.
There are lots of sleeping apps on the market these days. And while they help some people, you are still holding your cellphone in bed — and that's not what I want you to do. I teach my patients something called "stimulus control." The bed is for one thing only, and that is sleeping. If you are not sleeping within 15-20 minutes, leave the bed and do non-stimulating things in dim light. But do not take out your cellphone.
PS: What are some other things to consider for getting a good night's sleep?
DRD: Sleep is like a puzzle. In order to get good sleep, you need to have all the appropriate pieces of the puzzle. These pieces could be the temperature of the room, the lighting of the room, the sound of the room, your mattress, your pillowcase. When someone has trouble sleeping, the trick is to find which of those puzzle pieces is missing. But as a general rule, your room should be cool, dark, and quiet. But sleep is individualized — there is no single solution because there is no single cause.
PS: What is melatonin and how does it work?
DRD: Simply put, melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. When we are exposed to light — sunlight and especially blue light — that light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina at the back of the eye to an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, and a specific area called the SCN — the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This sends signals to the pineal gland, which releases melatonin.
Simply put, melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
PS: What role does melatonin play in our sleep cycles?
DRD: There are two main pathways that regulate sleep. One is called the homeostatic drive — which means the more that you stay awake during the day, the more you want to sleep at night. The other pathway is called your circadian rhythm. In humans, the circadian rhythm means that we tend to feel sleepy two times per day — around noon, which is why some people take a siesta, and around 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. What really trains your circadian rhythm is exposure to light and the process above. So light is the most important stimulus that will suppress the release of melatonin. Medicines like beta blockers can also inhibit melatonin production, as can stress.
Why the Right OTC Melatonin Product Can Help
POPSUGAR: How did you develop ZzzQuil™ PURE Zzzs™ Melatonin Gummies as a solution for sleeplessness?
Delia Bearup: We spent a lot of time determining the right dose of melatonin (1 milligram). Melatonin is one of those things where less is more — which definitely flies in the face of how we treat many of the things we interact with on a daily basis. From the clinical data we've looked at, we determined that one of our gummies is enough to replace what the body would normally produce.
Melatonin is one of those things where less is more — which definitely flies in the face of how we treat many of the things we interact with on a daily basis.
PS: Why are higher dosage melatonin products not ideal?
DB: If you start getting up to 5 and 10 milligrams, it's harder for the MT1 and the MT2 receptors in the brain (which melatonin attaches to) to accept all of that — it almost drowns them out.
PS: Do you have any tips for using ZzzQuil™ PURE Zzzs™ Melatonin Gummies effectively?
DB: You will see an effect the first time you use it, but consistent use of the product will only improve its benefits. It works with your body to reset your rhythm vs. a one-and-done. For optimal benefit, melatonin should be used consistently at the same time each day, and you should maintain a stable bedtime.