Ask Gerda: Can You Please Help Me Get Some Sleep?
Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT, and a passion for cherry-picking from our wellness shop. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research—established and emerging. And our wellness routines thank her for this. (Yours will, too. Send us your own questions for Gerda: [email protected].)
Dear goop, It’s frustrating when I finally collapse into bed at night only to lie awake, thinking about what a drag tomorrow will be if I don’t fall asleep soon. When will people learn that it’s not nice to comment on how tired you look? But seriously, I would appreciate some help. —Lyla S.
Hi Lyla, I think I can help. It’s definitely worth doing whatever we can to get that beauty rest. And this is a serious concern that affects even more than our brain and face.
I believe that getting enough sleep is the single most important thing we can do for our health, both mental and physical. And that’s saying a lot, because I’m nutrition-obsessed and can usually propose a dietary solution for any health issue. In research I’ve conducted on various health conditions, disturbed sleep was one of the things that just kept coming up as being a risk factor for diseases.
Sleep is when the body heals itself.
The basics of getting a good night’s sleep are going to bed with a body and mind in the right state, which isn’t that easy if you have a normal, all-too-busy life. The perfect lifestyle to promote restful sleep would include exercise to wear you out physically a little and meditation, which can help you relax in the here and now instead of holding on to anxiety associated with the past or the future. This perfect lifestyle would also include avoiding bright lights, computer screens, and upsetting news and TV before bedtime.
A lifestyle conducive to good sleep would also minimize stimulants, like caffeine. Maybe there was a time in your life when you could handle a few mugs of coffee, but could it be too much for you these days? If you’re a tea drinker, it’s worth noting that green tea contains caffeine, although about a third as much coffee. And a tea labeled “mint” or “black currant” could be regular (caffeine-containing) black tea, so check your labels.
It’s pretty common to be worked up and tense after a long workday and to go for wine or a cocktail to help wind down. Alcohol is relaxing in the short-term, but it will—sorry!—mess up your sleep later in the night. Next time you wake up in the middle of the night, consider whether alcohol could be responsible. Just like caffeine, alcohol may be something we don’t deal with as well as we used to.
That said: Who lives such a perfect, sleep-conducive lifestyle? I definitely don’t always. It’s called being human, and it doesn’t do us any good to beat ourselves up over it. So thank goodness for melatonin. Melatonin is made in the brain to help regulate a normal sleep-wake cycle. It’s unusual in that we can take a tiny dose as a supplement and typically count on powerful effects. Melatonin isn’t habit-forming, and its benefits for help with occasional sleeplessness have been well-documented.
One fantastic way to take melatonin is in goop’s own mint-chocolate soft chew, Knock Me Out. One chew with two milligrams of melatonin is a good way to start out—move up to two chews as you wish. Even though melatonin is very gentle, it can act quickly, so don’t plan any demanding tasks between when you take it and when you lie down. Read something positive or gently massage a lovely delicate oil like UMA’s Pure Rest or Pure Calm behind your ears and in between your toes.
Knock Me Out also supports the body’s own production of melatonin with its two other ingredients, tryptophan and vitamin B6. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the brain uses—with help from vitamin B6—to make serotonin, some of which is then converted into melatonin. If you have persistent sleep problems, definitely consult your medical practitioner. But for occasional help, melatonin is wonderful.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.