Sleep solutions: Do they work?

(Wokandapix/Public Domain)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – In today’s busy world, are you really getting enough sleep? Or a restful night’s sleep? Chances are most of you answered no.

In fact, a 2016 CDC report said one in three Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least seven hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being.

Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

Like so many other moms, Tasha Rush says getting more sleep these days is something she craves. She said her biggest problem is quieting her head at night.

“it’s a head thing,” admits the Knoxville mom. “My mind is always going.”

WATE 6 On Your Side took Rush’s questions to Dr. Kevin Martinloch at University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Sleep Disorders Center.

Consistent bedtime

(Security/Public Domain)

Dr. Martiniloch says what people of all ages really need a consistent bedtime routine.

“People just don’t stick to good habits,” said Dr. Martiniloch. “Life gets in the way bust schedule. Work, kids and a lot of requirement into our time. It’s easy for people to try to squeeze in as much as they can,” said Dr. Kevin Martiniloch.

If you find yourself consistently wishing you had hit the hay earlier, but staying on track with a bedtime routine is virtually impossible, many experts recommend setting an alarm to go to bed. Also, avoid hitting the snooze button too many times because it could impact your sleep schedule, making you feel groggier.

Over-The-Counter Sleep-Aids

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Oftentimes, people with sleep troubles turn to non-prescription sleep aids in order to get a good night’s rest. Dr. Martiniloch cautions against over-the-counter sleep aids.

“I hugely discourage it,” said Dr. Martiniloch. “It may help some patients, but there are a lot of side effects.”

The Food and Drug Administration requires instructions on over-the-counter sleep medications to tell consumers to see their doctor if insomnia persists, but a Consumer Report survey found 41 percent of people who used drugs to sleep had taken them for a year or longer or on a daily basis. That’s a problem because diphenhydramine, an ingredient in some sleep drugs, can cause constipation, confusion, dizziness, and next-day drowsiness, according to the drug’s FDA labeling.

Studies have also linked frequent use of sleep aids to an increase risk of dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.


According to the Sleep Foundation, melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal gland. This is a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is “turned on” and actively produces melatonin, which is released in the blood.

Usually, this occurs around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting.

Some people say that taking melatonin hormone supplements helps them sleep, but experts say it’s not for everyone.

“There is no real good data that melatonin is consistently beneficial,” says Dr. Martiniloch.

Experts say the hormone was designed for people who need to reset their clocks, such as shift workers or those dealing with jet lag.

Take a bath

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There is a natural way to get melatonin. Take a bath.

This relaxes your muscles and releases muscular tension. While you’re in the tub, your core body temperature will rise, and then it will quickly drop when you get out. Doctors say the decrease in temperature signals the brain to release melatonin.

Drink tart cherry juice

Montomorency Tart Cherry Juice (King Orchards)

New research found that Montmorency tart cherry juice may help improve the quality and duration of sleep, reduce the severity of insomnia and increase overall sleep efficiency. Researchers from Louisiana State University found that drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helped increase sleep time by nearly 90 minutes among older adults with insomnia.

Dr. Martiniloch says drinking cherry juice isn’t for everyone. While drinking cherry juice doesn’t have the side effects of prescription drugs, he says there isn’t a lot of data yet on their health benefits.

“It may be beneficial according to 2 small studies,” said Dr. Martiniloch. “People ask me ‘should I do this,’ and I say try it if it helps.”

Montmorency tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin. Researchers said they also believe the ruby red pigments in the cherry juice also play a role. In the study, Montmorency tart cherry juice helped to increase the availability of tryptophan, an essential amino acid and a precursor to serotonin that helps with sleep.

Reduce salt in your diet


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Particularly if you have sleep apnea, Dr. Martiniloch says reducing salt intake may help you sleep.

“We know that excessive salt makes you get up to go to the bathroom a lot so if you decrease salt,” said Dr. Martiniloch. “You probably decrease how much you have to get up to go to the bathroom so there is some data there.”

Research studies have shown possible evidence between high dietary salt consumption and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is often called the “stress hormone,” since it is released whenever we are exposed to stress, which can be from many various physical, mental and nutritional sources.

As the sun rises, so too do cortisol levels. Normally, the peak of cortisol is between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., after which its concentrations drop slightly till noon and stay at a lower level from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Low cortisol levels allow another hormone called melatonin to be released, helping us to fall asleep. In a perfect world, we should start to wind down when the sun sets, and by about 10 p.m. we should be in bed, allowing our bodies and brains to repair themselves before the next day ahead.

Sunrise alarm clocks

BioBrite Pearl SunRise Alarm Clock with Sleep Sounds (Amazon)

Sunrise alarm clocks are supposed to imitate a natural sunrise and help set your body clock. Dr. Martiniloch says he’d rather see people get free, real sunshine, even if that means setting an alarm on your phone and getting up to open the blinds.

Reduce screen time before bed

(KrisopherK/Public Domain)

Technology is all around us, from the living room to the kitchen and bedroom. Many people curl up into bed with their smartphone or tablet instead of a book or magazine.

Computer screens, television at night and fluorescent lights flicker on and off between 60 to 120 cycles per second. Research suggests that these stimuli cause your brain to think it is morning, prompting the release of cortisol. Responding to emails, texts or videos increases tension in your body which can also increase cortisol.

Get out of bed

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As odd as it sounds, getting out of bed could help you sleep.

If you haven’t dozed off after 15-20 minutes in bed, Dr. Martiniloch recommends going to do something like reading a booke or writing up your to-do list. He says no screen time. Then in about 30 minutes, lie back down. This will help train your brain that your bed is for sleep.

Talk to your doctor

If problems persist with sleep, talk to your family doctor. Lack of sleep can lead to other medical problems.

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