The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, but just being in bed isn't enough to meet those requirements. Many people find that even if they allow themselves enough time to get the recommended number of hours, they don't get restful sleep. If you find yourself asking questions like "why do I wake up at 3 a.m. every night?" or "why do I wake up so much at night?" you likely have poor sleep quality. Read on to learn more about its potential causes and how to sleep better throughout the night.
What Causes Poor Sleep Quality?
Problems with sleep quality can have a variety of causes. Before you can begin to explore how to improve your quality of sleep, you need to identify what's interfering with your ability to sleep soundly throughout the night. Some common causes include:
- Poor sleep habits, like an inconsistent bedtime
- Stress and anxiety
- Certain health conditions like asthma, acid reflux, or fibromyalgia
- Chronic pain
- Frequent need to urinate due to bladder, kidney, or prostate problems
- Sleep apnea
- Consuming alcohol or caffeine in the evening
- Hormonal imbalance or problems with pineal gland function
If you haven't talked to your doctor about your sleep problems, it's a good idea to consult them before researching how to stay asleep all night. Your medical provider can order tests to determine if you have a chronic condition interfering with your sleep. If you have already been diagnosed with a disorder, there may be ways to change your treatment protocol to improve sleep.
What Is the Pineal Gland?
For many individuals, problems with the pineal gland play a role in poor sleep quality. The pineal gland is a small gland shaped like a pea located in your brain. While doctors do not fully understand it, research has shown that it produces melatonin necessary for sleep.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone, a substance that serves as a messenger in the body. Its primary job is to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. When it gets dark, the pineal gland releases melatonin. However, scientists don't know precisely how melatonin signals to your body that it's time to sleep. Once it grows light again, the pineal gland stops manufacturing melatonin to keep you awake.
How Do the Pineal Gland and Melatonin Affect Sleep Quality?
When the pineal gland doesn't function properly, you may not have an adequate supply of melatonin available to regulate your sleep cycle properly. Studies into the pineal gland-melatonin connection have verified that people who suffer from poor sleep quality often have low hormone levels. As a result, they may never reach deep sleep or have a shorter sleep cycle, meaning they get up more frequently during the night.
Sometimes, it is easy to identify why the pineal gland may not be functioning correctly. Blind people, those who work at night and sleep during the day, and individuals who live in parts of the world that have exceptionally long days in the summer and short days in the winter are all more prone to pineal gland dysfunction. In all of these cases, exposure to too much or too little light results in pineal gland dysfunction. Scientists are still working to determine what else may contribute to problems with the pineal gland.
Stay Asleep and Improve Sleep Quality with Melatonin
Many people who are looking for answers for how to improve deep sleep turn to melatonin supplements. These products may contain animal-derived melatonin or a synthetic form of the hormone. Taking supplements may increase the amount of melatonin present in your brain to help you sleep better.
What the Science Says
Numerous studies have been conducted to find out the answer to the question, "does melatonin help you stay asleep?" Reviews of clinical studies have found that melatonin may help to reduce sleep problems related to jet lag. In addition, research shows that people who suffer from delayed sleep-wake phase disorder often experience better sleep when taking melatonin. These individuals typically have trouble sleeping before 2 to 6 a.m. and tend to sleep later in the day as a result. While melatonin may not improve sleep in everyone, numerous clinical studies suggest that it can provide significant benefits.
More Natural Slow-Release Melatonin
One challenge with taking melatonin supplements is that they have to be taken at the proper time based on the time you would like to fall asleep. This means that the melatonin may enter your body too soon or that its effects may wear off too quickly. Slow-release or sustained release melatonin supplements may solve this problem by gradually releasing small amounts of melatonin over time to deliver benefits for longer periods.
Clinical trials using sustained release or designed release melatonin supplements have proven to show superior results compared to those trials using immediate release forms of melatonin. Several studies have found benefits for sleep quality, morning alertness, and a reduction in the time it takes to fall asleep. This leads to a feeling of waking up more refreshed after using sustained release forms of this supplement.
Tips on How to Get Better Sleep with Designed Release Melatonin
If you want to learn how to improve sleep with time-release melatonin, follow these tips:
- Talk to your doctor to ensure you don’t have a more serious sleep issue requiring medical attention
- If you have trouble getting to sleep or wake up tired and unrefreshed, try a designed release melatonin containing supplement
- Only use the supplement as directed by the manufacturer or your health care provider
- Take the supplement at a consistent time every day
- Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking melatonin
Lemoine P, et al. J Sleep Res. 2007
Wade AG, et al. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007