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Ask our Wellness Educators

Dear NEEDS Wellness Educators,
Q: I'm a 58-year-old man and once every night I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Then, I find it impossible to get back to sleep! Sometimes, it can take hours before I can sleep again. Because I need to be awake by a certain time in the morning, I sometimes get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. I dislike taking over-the-counter sleep medications because they make me feel groggy and it's difficult to wake up in the morning. What can I take to help me get back to sleep, but still allows me to feel alert in the morning? Help!

~Sincerely, P.C.

A: Sleep is incredibly important to our health and it's certainly very frustrating when we can't get enough of it. When we get less than 7-8 hours of sleep, research shows that our immune system becomes compromised and we are much more vulnerable to illness. Sleep is also a critical time for renewal; it's when cells regenerate, the body heals, recovers from stress, and renews its energy. Considering its long list of benefits, sleep could be considered a critical factor in enhancing longevity.

To find the right supplement to help you sleep better, there are a few things to consider. One issue is that as we age, melatonin levels naturally decline. Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and is responsible for regulating our circadian rhythm—dictating when we fall asleep and wake up. Without adequate melatonin levels, that sleep cycle is cut short. You can try taking 3-10 mg of melatonin every night, an hour before bed. You can also try taking it when you wake in the middle of the night, but be sure you have time to sleep several more hours or you may feel very groggy in the morning.

If you find that your mind is racing when you wake in the middle of the night, it may be due to excessive stress or anxiety. To help reduce anxiety, try the herbs holy basil or kava to increase calming neurotransmitters. The amino acid L-theanine also enhances calming neurotransmitters to help improve sleep quality. Plus, they can all be taken anytime of the night because they don't have a sedative effect and won't make you feel groggy in the morning. You can also take simple steps to create a good sleeping environment. Refrain from watching TV in bed, avoid caffeine after noon, and stay off your phone near bedtime! Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule to help your body maintain a consistent routine and avoid napping if it keeps you up late at night. It may take some trial and error, but when you find what works best for your individual needs it can help you get the quality sleep you've been looking for. Best of luck!

Yours in Good Health,
Dr. Jen Palmer Naturopathic Doctor (ND) & NEEDS Education Director

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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