MGU 442 | Sleep Hygiene


Practicing sleep hygiene, finding the right sleep habits, and investing in the right products can transform your sleep quality and ultimately, your well-being. In this episode, Jill Zwarensteyn dives into a deep discussion about sleep hygiene, a term used to describe daily habits that support good sleep health. She discusses how sleep impacts our cognitive and physical abilities and how it changes as we age. She uncovers the mystery of sleep as she delves into the science of circadian rhythm, REM stage, and dreams. She also touches on parasomnia sleep disorders like sleep talking and sleepwalking, which, based on research-backed science, could mean more than it seems. Jill reveals her top sleep habits, her journey with sleep journalism and coaching, and even how to decide what mattress is best for your sleep needs. She also shares about Sleep Advisor’s content, which includes helpful buyers’ guides, mattress and bedding product reviews, and detailed and researched articles on sleep health topics to help consumers choose the best products for their sleep health. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of sleep and learn how to get the most out of your rest.

Listen to the podcast here


Tips For A Good Night’s Rest: Practicing Sleep Hygiene With Jill Zwarensteyn

For anyone who has read the show since it’s been running, I’ve talked a lot about my issues with sleep. It’s been a big challenge and a mystery for me. For those that have not heard me talk about it, I’ll give a quick summary. Since I was a teenager, I have been talking in my sleep and having episodes of sleepwalking. For most of my life, I thought of that as something funny about me. It’s odd. It would be my little factoid when somebody would say, “What’s something unique about you?” I tried to remember to tell them about my sleepwalking and talking.

Over the years, I noticed a lot of people would look at me with these big eyes of shock and they’d be so interested. I started to realize that this was unique. This is an odd thing that most people don’t know or do. They don’t know that much about it. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my experience over time and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I thought, “Maybe this isn’t something weird about me. Maybe this is something that I should take more seriously.”

I started seeking medical support and doing a lot of research. Through talking about that more on the show, one person reached out to me and mentioned, “I believe it’s called REM Sleep Disorder.” I didn’t understand what it was but it sounded a lot like my symptoms. I went down this whole research rabbit hole and that’s where I came across my guest, Jill.

I found one of her articles on this website called Sleep Advisor and went down a little bit of a rabbit hole reading her wonderful articles that were so well-researched and also very approachable. They felt welcoming. They weren’t like some big study with a lot of confusing lingoes. They felt like something I could understand. They gave me some hope. There was something about the way that Jill writes that drew me in. I reached out to her and asked if she would come on the show and here she is. That’s a little background on why she’s here and who she is.

Jill, I am so excited to get to know more about you. A little bit for the reader. While she isn’t a medical professional, she is something called a Certified Sleep Science Coach. I told her I don’t know what that is so I get to find out in real-time along with the reader. What does that mean to be that coach? How does that work with the journalism that you do on publications like Sleep Advisor?

Thank you for having me on, Whitney. First of all, it’s great to be here. I appreciate the kind words on the writing and research. A certified sleep science coach is someone knowledgeable in a lot of science-backed tips to improve sleep and good habits that are aimed at fostering better sleep in general.

That must tie into sleep hygiene, which is something that you had told me about when I first reached out. It’s not a term that I use that much but in your words, you said, “Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe daily habits that support good sleep health.” Am I getting that right?

Yeah, it’s an overarching term for those habits. Good sleep hygiene is sleep habits that foster better rest, whereas bad sleep hygiene is the opposite, doing things that can hinder your sleep quality.

I feel like I have tried every sleep hygiene tip in the book. It reminds me a lot of general wellness, where there seem like so many things you can do. I’m curious. In your words Jill, what are some of the top sleep hygiene tips? Do they work for most people? Is everybody trying to figure out the perfect formula for themselves?

Probably the top ones would be going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Keep a consistent schedule because it trains your internal clock, “I’m going to start feeling sleepy at this time and then start feeling awake at this time.” It also ensures that you’re more likely to get enough sleep if you’re scheduling it accordingly. You’re not going to bed so late and then missing out on a few extra hours of sleep. Another one would also be ensuring that your sleep space is conducive to sleep. That would be having a bedroom that’s cool, dark, and quiet. Those are important environmental factors that can help people sleep better.

Now that you’re saying it, part of me is thinking, “I have experimented with them,” but I still feel like I don’t know if I’m getting them right, especially with that first tip. Ironically, I’m like, “That’s hard for me.” It wasn’t until I became more determined to go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time for most of my life. Unless I had to get up at a certain time, I would be so much happier to wake up naturally without an alarm. My body would get an assertive rhythm. Going to bed at the same time has felt like a huge challenge for me most of my life. In your research, is that a common issue? Is it hard for people to stay on a schedule when it comes to sleep?

It can be. For teenagers, for example, that’s a time when circadian rhythms change where they are may be more programmed to start wanting to go to bed later versus earlier, especially at that time in their life.

MGU 442 | Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene: The teenage years are a time when circadian rhythms change, where there may be more programmed to start wanting to go to bed later versus earlier.


How about you? With all this research that you’re doing, you know so much but how much of it are you able to implement easily and effectively? Are there any elements of sleep hygiene that you struggle with?

I have been pretty good for the past few years. I’ve been good about going to bed earlier and a lot of this is reading about that consistent sleep schedule and how those benefits can work. I’ve been able to be pretty good about it. There are certain nights when I maybe need a little bit of extra time to decompress. Maybe instead of 9:30, I’m going to bed at 10:00, 10:30, or something.

I’ve been trying to stay pretty good about that and waking up at the same time, an average of 6:00 to 7:00 in the morning, maybe closer to 7:00 on the weekends. That part has been easier also because of my general work schedule. I worked overnights in the news for a few years and that was hard on my body so I’m trying to make up for it.

It’s hard because that’s what makes sleep so tricky. It’s natural and required. None of us can escape it. We have to sleep if we want to live. Some people feel like they can get away with not a lot of sleep. I’m curious about your research and studies too, Jill if it is truly possible. For example, early on in my entrepreneurship endeavors, especially when I was focused on the more traditional social media-influencing content world, I was studying all these business tips. I was looking at case studies of people that were successful online.

A great majority of them seem to be sacrificing their sleep. I remember a few cases of people that I thought were at the top of their fields and I admired them. One thing that they seemed to have in common was that they weren’t sleeping a lot. The number that came up most often was that they were getting approximately four hours of sleep each night.

At that moment, I thought, “I would rather get my 8 or 9 hours of sleep that my body seems to need than sacrifice that and be more successful.” I’m curious, Jill. Is it sustainable to get four hours of sleep? Do you think it’s worth it to have short-term success or even long-term success, whatever that might be, but put your body at risk of maybe long-term health issues that come along with not getting enough sleep?

You can certainly get by but it’s not inherently healthy. You’ve probably heard an average of eight hours of sleep a night and that’s important. That’s what a lot of the medical community suggests or there’s a range of 7 to 9 hours. Some people might need closer to 9, some people might need closer to 7. The thing with the short amount of sleep is it limits your cognitive and physical capabilities and emotions. For example, it’s harder to concentrate when you’re sleep deprived.

Having a short amount of sleep limits your cognitive and physical capabilities and emotions. Share on X

Speaking from experience overnight in the news, you can get by but it’s not inherently healthy and your abilities are limited. It puts you at risk for more long-term health issues. There’s been lots of research done on the long-term effects of sleep deprivation. There are links to Alzheimer’s, weight gain, and cardiovascular issues with a lack of sleep. You don’t want to necessarily put yourself at risk if you can get the right amount of sleep.

I don’t have kids, but a lot of my friends do, and I hear them talk about how little sleep they get. It’s one of the elements of that choice in life. That’s one reason that I may never have kids. I don’t know if I want to be sleep deprived for 5, 10 years, or however long it ends up being. To me, that sounds unpleasant. There are things that I feel like I have to give up to get restful sleep. I feel like that’s such an odd side of our lives, personally and professionally. Does this come up for you? Are these the type of things that you think about when you’re doing all of this work?

If I was in my twenties, I would probably feel more like, “I have to stay out later on the weekends. I can catch up on sleep or something.” Now, it’s like I don’t want to be out late so it’s a little bit easier. I’m not a parent either so I can only imagine the difficulty there with trying to get enough sleep, especially if you’re a parent to an infant and trying to manage your sleep there.

You do have to sacrifice in some ways like, “I’m going to maybe not do the 1:00 AM bedtime on Saturday night.” If it’s something where it can improve your mental health, physical health, and everything, that’s worth it, especially if you’ve been struggling lately and you feel stressed out and stuff. Taking better care of your overall health, including your sleep, would be a good thing.

You’ve mentioned different age ranges. At one point, the teenagers in the circadian rhythm changes, and being in your 20s versus 30s. It is interesting how in different stages of our life, especially revolving around age transitions, we have different relationships with sleep. As children, it seems hard to regulate, and we often need a parental figure to support us in getting to bed at a certain time. With teenagers, it seems common to rebel against that and want to stay up late. It also seems like we have a different endurance for a low amount of sleep.

In your twenties too, there’s a tolerance for it a lot of times. I’ve thought about sleep a lot in different stages of my life and it always has felt like a struggle. I’m curious as I get older what that will be like. They say when you get maybe in your twilight years, you don’t need a lot of sleep anymore, yet it seems very common for people in older age to easily go to bed early.

Even in your 30s, you start to think, “I don’t want to stay up until 1:00 AM anymore.” Maybe in your 70s or 80s, it seems common to go to bed at 6:00 or 7:00 PM, and wake up at 4:00 AM. That’s fascinating to me too. Is that something that comes up in your research, like how sleep correlates with different age periods?

With regards to teenagers, their circadian rhythm does change a little bit so they’re more inclined to stay up a little bit later. I’ve read that some schools are taking this into consideration and maybe proposing later start times and things to better ensure that those kids get enough sleep. Older adults, a lot of times, might have a shorter sleep duration. They typically get less deep sleep too. As you age, you’re going to get less deep sleep than you used to have when you were a child and growing. That sleep is very restorative. That’s why younger people need that.

As you age, you're going to get less deep sleep that you used to have when you were a child and growing and that sleep is very restorative. That's why younger people need that. Share on X

Since you mentioned deep sleep, I’m curious if you have experimented with sleep trackers because that’s something that I started doing. I got this device called WHOOP. It’s similar to another brand that I considered getting, an Oura ring, which seemed to be a little bit more popular. Both of them you wear all of the time and they monitor your health metrics.

For me, I wanted to monitor sleep. It’s been interesting looking at the data every morning I wake up excited to see how I slept. It’s shocking how I feel like I’ve slept versus what the data says about my sleep. Sometimes, I’m able to get a lot of deep sleep and sometimes, I don’t get a lot of deep sleep, and I’m so confused about why.

Going back to the very beginning, we were talking about sleep hygiene. I have tried every tip out there. I could spend probably twenty minutes listing out everything I’ve done and tried and all the combinations. I’ve even done all my sleep studies of tracking all of this stuff and trying to see how it correlates with sleep. Yet, some days I don’t know why I didn’t sleep as well. That was part of the reason someone like you is so fascinating because you spend so much time looking at all of these sleep influences, including mattresses, pillows, and blankets. I’m curious, have you ever done experiments with sleep trackers? Does that come up in your research or product reviews yet?

I haven’t but I have a Fitbit at home. I’ve written about my Fitbit, but I would say that in my experience, I had that too where I was like, “I feel pretty good waking up.” I’ll look at my stats and I didn’t get much sleep, let alone deep sleep and I’m like, “Wait a minute.” This is me personally but the thing that I found is it almost gave me more anxiety seeing that.

I was like, “No, I’m stressing myself up because I didn’t get enough sleep.” That can almost happen too where you’re trying so hard that you’re driving yourself crazy wondering, “I’m doing all these things and I’m not seeing the result.” I don’t use my Fitbit regularly but when I’ve tried to, I had the same thing happen where I didn’t get as much rest logged in that data as I thought I had.

Isn’t that fascinating? I’m in this stage where I was so determined to figure things out but what you’re inspiring within me is to not be attached to it working out. I’m trying to look at it as an experiment and collecting some things but not always in this mindset of, “If this, then that.” I found with sleep that just because I try something and check off all the sleep hygiene boxes doesn’t mean that it’s going to equate to all the restful sleep that I’m craving because there are so many factors.

Anxiety is one of them. Something that I’m trying to become more educated on is how anxiety can manifest even when you’re not conscious anymore. In my experience, I’ve discovered that sometimes I’m trying to control my anxiety and stress so much during my waking hours that when I sleep, it goes wild because it needs a chance to express and release itself. That’s my current hypothesis and it’s part of the fascination with sleep. It’s not just about the physical experience of closing your eyes and relaxing for as long as possible.

Our brain is doing all sorts of things while we’re sleeping. It’s recovering but then there are the dreams that we might have and maybe processing ideas. Does that come up in your work at all or are you mostly focused on the more physical elements? I don’t even know what to call it because these phrases are new to me. I’m curious, does your research ever come up across things like dreamwork or the consciousness stages that happen while we’re sleeping?

There are a lot of interesting conversations to be had about the meaning behind dreams and perhaps things that maybe come up in your dreams that you are like, “Where did this come from?” Interesting topics like that are worth exploring more. Dreams are very fascinating. I still dream occasionally and it’s very interesting to look at the possibility of why we do it. There is something that happens when you are in REM sleep so you have more brain activity and that’s typically when you dream. Physically, that’s a reason why you might dream during that time but maybe a philosophical reason. Why am I thinking what I’m thinking in this dream?

MGU 442 | Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene: When you are in REM sleep, you have more brain activity. Physically, that’s a reason why you might dream during that time, but there’s also a philosophical reason such as a hidden meaning or subconscious feeling.


The other thing that I didn’t realize until I started tracking my sleep, and I’m curious if I’m getting this right, was that in REM, your brain activity is so heightened during that time. It’s a more active period of your sleep and that’s why you might have more intense dreams or not necessarily.

That’s one of the reasons why you might start dreaming during REM sleep. It’s because of that heightened brain activity.

That makes me wonder too when I’m looking at my sleep metrics. It’s not the same as doing a sleep study where you’re connected to all these wires, which I’ve done and I’m sure they’re giving you much more in-depth data than something you’re wearing around your wrist but my WHOOP band does claim to measure REM. I wonder if it’s through your heart rate metrics or something.

What confuses me is it will sometimes say I barely went through REM stages and yet I tend to have very vivid dreams and I can remember a lot of them. This is where sleep can feel so confusing. The data doesn’t always correlate to how we feel or what we experience. That’s why sleep feels so mysterious. It’s like, “The data says one thing but I am noticing or experiencing another.” What do I believe or lean into? How do I find the sleep that is most effective for me?

What we’ve found in our research is that more people tend to dream in REM sleep and a lot of that is you do have that heightened brain activity, which is Rapid Eye Movement. Your eyes are closed but they’re moving underneath. There are heightened heart and breathing rates. There could be a link there though where those trackers pick up on heightened heart rate and breathing rate or things like that.

It’s so fascinating because if you don’t track this data, it’s almost like this huge part of your life, you don’t even know what’s happening to you. Part of my curiosity is when I was a teenager starting to experience sleepwalking and sleep talking, I set up a camera for the first time all those years ago. I had a camera that had a night vision feature. I set it up on a tripod and filmed myself sleeping. I was curious like, “What was going on with my body that I wasn’t remembering?” It’s been an ongoing study for me.

I found even when I have gone to sleep specialists, it still requires a lot of data collection with them. I went to a sleep medicine doctor because, for the first time, I feel willing to try medication, and I’ve started to experiment with various medications to see how they impact my sleep. Even they are shrugging their shoulders and guessing. That’s why sleep feels so mysterious. Even for you, it feels like you do so much research. Your articles are vast where I was scrolling through and thinking, “This feels like you’ve covered so many topics and yet there’s still so much more to learn about sleep.”

I find that fascinating when I go to the doctors. You could say this about many elements of coaching or the medical professions. The human experience is so fast and unique to each person that it’s an ongoing mystery. Sometimes that feels exciting and sometimes, that feels frustrating. For me, I like to have answers. I’ve had to learn to be like, “Maybe I will never have an answer to why I have these sleep issues.”

Going back to what we were saying about the tracking, I could spend all of this time trying to collect data and figure things out, or what if I let it be and not try to figure it out? Maybe that is going to ultimately be the conclusion. I could collect so much and still not have answers. Is it worth spending all of that time trying to figure it out?

To an extent, I imagine you might feel the same with all the research you’ve done. One thing I was curious about is you’ve written a lot about mattresses. I wonder, A) Have you tried all of the mattresses you’ve written about? B) Does it feel like there’s always going to be a new mattress coming out and technology? You’re never going to be able to know what the perfect mattress is. Do you feel like, after all your experience, you’ve narrowed it down and understand mattresses well?

We have a review team that tests the mattresses and everything but I have tested the Nectar mattress. I enjoyed that one. That was a personal favorite too. The cool thing about mattresses, in particular, especially if you’re shopping online versus in-store, is there’s so much out there. There’s a mattress for everybody.

The cool thing about mattresses is there's so much. There's a mattress for everybody. Share on X

They have mattresses out there for plus-size sleepers. They have mattresses out there that are maybe specifically geared toward side sleepers. They’ve got memory foam, hybrid, innerspring, latex and some more tech-focused beds. There’s a great opportunity for people to find the right bed for them. It’s just a matter of finding the right one.

That also feels like an issue in itself. I’m very dedicated to this one mattress brand called Essentia. They make these organic, I don’t know if they call them memory foam. That’s the other thing too. There’s so much different terminology but they’re latex mattresses, I believe. I’ve loved that brand for many years. Over time, there’ve been some competitors that have looked appealing and started researching different options and felt deeply overwhelmed. How do you choose a mattress if there are so many options and different things to consider? It still feels tough. I would almost say that because there’s a mattress for “everyone,” how do you decide what everyone you are?

Certain factors can help whittle down your decision. You’ll want to look at your sleep position and body weight. Body weight is important because that can impact the feel of a bed, particularly its firmness. A very lightweight person is going to feel a mattress differently than a plus-sized person. That’s also an important category to take into consideration.

You have other factors like cooling. If you’re a hot sleeper and struggling to sleep because it’s hot or maybe you live in a warm climate, maybe you’re going to want to prioritize a mattress with cooling features. A big category for couples is motion isolation, which refers to beds that keep motion concentrated on one side of the bed. If your partner tosses and turns at night, a good motion-isolating mattress is going to make it so you’re not feeling those movements on the other side.

There are a number of different factors that you have to look at with your sleep position, body weight, and then other preferences that are particular to your lifestyle needs. Also, maybe you like the feel of memory foam or you want a bouncy bed that could make it easier to reposition if you’re somebody with limited mobility, for example. Those are ways to help whittle things down.

That’s helpful knowing that if you sat down and thought about everything important to you with a mattress, narrow down the key things and then probably experiment with them. One thing I like about modern-day mattress companies is they allow you to try out the mattress for a certain period and you can return it if you don’t like it. That didn’t seem like an option when I was growing up.

I remember going to mattress stores with my parents. You’d sit down to try something and feel like you were stuck with it for ten years. That was the other thing too, the ignorance I had about all those different factors when it comes to sleep and how much they impact you over time. You certainly notice this when you travel and you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s different from yours.

Sometimes you’re going to get awful sleep because of the mattress or perhaps even better sleep and that could indicate that the mattress at home might not be the right fit for you. Cost is a huge factor too. When I bought my first mattress after I moved out of my dormitory at college and I was living on my own, I was so intimidated by mattress prices. It seems like there’s a mattress for everyone price-wise too. Have you found that to be true? There are a lot of companies that have become affordable.

There’s variation there. Some people might want to splurge for the high-end bed, whereas for others, budget is a big factor and they want to skew lower. There’s something out there for everybody and there are a lot of mid-range options too. That’s a great benefit that there’s a variety out there. With that being said, I would also say the cool thing about online shopping is that you don’t have retailers, which are the middlemen. That can cut those overhead costs. It’s another way to be a great advantage for consumers.

The cool thing about online shopping is that you don't have retailers, which are the middlemen. That can cut those overhead costs. Share on X

We are at a good time for buying mattresses. The abundance of choices, I suppose, is the only downside. I’ve noticed it in the past few years. Suddenly, it seems like there’s so much offering. Is that because the market has opened up and people have realized how much money there is to be made from sleep? Is it perhaps a little bit more about accessibility and acknowledging that people need more support with sleep and they’re trying to come up with new solutions?

My best guess would be the prominence of online shopping. When you shop online, you have access to so much more. There was also probably a connection with the pandemic too with people maybe prioritizing sleep more or maybe being at home and having more time to, from the consumer side, look into their sleep habits. With the abundance of products online, that could have been too. More people are shopping online so businesses built their sales model accordingly. That’s possibly what caused that.

That makes sense to me. Without knowing the data, maybe that was one of the few times that people have had an opportunity to slow down their lives and get rest. Even though I’ve been working for myself for so long, I remember the shift it had of, “I don’t have to go out anymore.” I used to do so much outside the home. Even though I work from home, there were events, parties, conferences and on and on. There was always something to do outside.

Being able to stay at home because everybody was staying at home and then feeling like there was “nothing to do” except watch TV, read books, play video games, sleep and all these basic things, maybe it did help people reprioritize and then even give companies the opportunity to develop new things and emphasize them in the marketing that people are paying more attention.

I would be curious to do the research on that and see if there are any studies on how sleep has been impacted. It also seems like stress and anxiety have gone way up. I’ve seen a lot of data on the mental health side of things, unfortunately, seem to get worse since the pandemic or maybe it was being more paid attention to. The same thing could be said. Has it always been a big struggle? Are we paying more attention? Did something shift during the pandemic where it awoke our awareness? Due to stress and anxieties impact on sleep, I wonder if sleep gets worse.

All of these questions I have about sleep are fascinating. Given those questions, Jill, I’m curious. How does somebody begin to research sleep intentionally? Sleep Advisor is an amazing resource but you’re going to other sources yourself to find the data to back up the points that you’re making on Sleep Advisor. How do you go about finding all of the answers to these big questions? Does it take a lot of time? Do you have databases you have to go through? How do you do it?

Depending on the topic, sometimes you need to do a bigger dive. At Sleep Advisor, we want to focus on using sources that are scientifically backed so studies and quality sources that focus on the science of it and the data there. With that being said, it’s important to consider that there are multiple studies on topics too. We’ve certainly found that.

Some studies might have one result and other studies might have another. Sleep Advisor is a great resource. Looking on your own too, check out studies. We try to make it more digestible for everybody. Reading a study from researchers might be harder in some cases but those are great opportunities to find out where the research is being done and what they’re finding. It’s fascinating.

MGU 442 | Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene: Sleep Advisor is a great resource for studies about sleep. They make it more digestible for everybody. It’s fascinating.


It must be fascinating for you to have written so many articles. How did you get into this world? I meant to ask you this at the beginning but given your background working in entertainment and somehow sleep being at odds with the entertainment industry, as I’ve perceived at least, why is it that you started to focus so much on this? How long has it been since you’ve been doing all the sleep research and coaching?

I have been with Sleep Advisor for a few years but before that, I was a writer, mainly freelance. I worked in the news and then before that, in the entertainment industry. I came to Sleep Advisor with a writing and journalism background. Interestingly enough, it was a very fascinating topic for me in particular because I lost out on so much sleep for the two years that I was in broadcasting. I was working morning news so I was working overnight. I leaned into my curiosity for it and I’ve been with Sleep Advisor ever since.

How about the coaching side of it? You talked a little bit about that at the beginning. Did that come out of your experience with Sleep Advisor or was that a separate endeavor for you to become a certified sleep science coach? What was that journey like?

I became a certified sleep science coach in July 2022. I found it was another way to improve my knowledge as a writer and researcher of sleep and be able to provide our readers with a better understanding of ways to help improve sleep. That was the big goal behind that.

You might have inspired me to look into becoming a sleep coach too. Maybe I can finally get the answer to all these endless questions that I have. It seems like one of the big takeaways I have from talking with you is that there’s so much information, even with what you were saying, the conflicting studies. I guess it all depends on whom you talk to and what research has currently been done. Maybe in a way, it could certainly be overwhelming and frustrating but perhaps a takeaway is that if there aren’t ever any finite answers and perfect solutions, maybe we can all relax a little bit more. Let’s try our best to sleep and not worry too much about getting it right.

At the end of the day, doing your best is always the goal. We’re not always going to get it right, even when we know what to do. Setting yourself up for success is the ultimate goal with sleep. That manifests itself in a number of ways, whether it’s keeping the same bedtime and wake-up time or getting yourself a new mattress. There are all kinds of ways. It depends on what works for you. Some things might not work for everybody. Maybe you find that melatonin doesn’t do the trick for you, but somebody else might find that they have a lot of success with that.

We're not always going to get it right, even when we know what to do. Doing our best is always the goal. Share on X

I’ve been experimenting a lot with melatonin and it’s one big experiment. I don’t know. Sometimes it seems to work. Other times, it doesn’t. One thing that’s helped me a lot is talking to doctors. I had an appointment with a psychiatrist and went over it. I tried to learn more about melatonin and heard about its pros and cons. That gave me peace of mind. Ultimately, she said, “Just experiment with it.”

She alleviated my fears about it being dangerous because I had heard all these myths about melatonin. People have all these opinions about it. If you can talk to a medical professional and maybe do some research along the way, for example, using Sleep Advisor to start your journey and read the articles that someone like you is writing, Jill, you can bring those to your doctor, share what you’re learning and see what the doctor thinks and if that’s a good solution for you. Once you’ve crossed that, you begin to experiment. That’s been my path.

This conversation is also great for pointing out how complex sleep is. Even though it is something very simple that we all naturally do, sleep issues are extremely common. Essentially, the majority of people are struggling with sleep in one way or another. Maybe knowing that we’re not alone in sleep challenges, whatever they might be and recognizing that it’s a complex thing that we don’t have to do perfectly and we don’t have to have shame around our sleep.

Even if you can only get four hours of sleep, maybe you don’t have a choice. That’s what your body’s doing for one reason or another. The takeaway here too is you can study it. You can be certified in sleep. You can even be a sleep doctor and not have all the answers. Take away some of the internalized shame and say, “I’m doing the best that I can. I’m following the tips that I’m learning on a site like Sleep Advisor for my hygiene.” That’s good enough.

That’s great advice. Do the best you can. Sometimes, it’s life circumstances. If you have a small child, maybe it’s going to be harder to get those eight hours a night. Being kind to yourself and doing the best you can with the knowledge you have is a good way to look at it.

Be kind to yourself and do the best you can with the knowledge you have. Share on X

Jill, you have also reminded me exactly why I was so drawn to your work because you come across as so kind and open. It comes through in your words, the written words, as well as the spoken words. What I felt from you while reading your articles has proven to be true in speaking with you. That is very comforting because, at the very least, when you’re trying to figure out sleep, it’s nice when it’s done in a comforting way and you feel like, “This person is kind and caring,” like you are, Jill. Thank you for the work that you’re doing for people who are seeking answers like I am. I appreciate that and your kind spirit around this. It’s been lovely talking with you and getting to know you.

Thank you very much for having me.

You’re welcome. Thanks again for reading. I’ll be back with another episode.


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About Jill Zwarensteyn

MGU 442 | Sleep HygieneBased in Los Angeles, Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and journalist. She enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.




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