Is taking melatonin a good idea? And other top sleep questions, answered


by Eneida Harrison, MD

Sep 14, 2022

Sleep—we all need it! And truthfully, most of us need more of it. As a sleep medicine doctor, I spend my days talking to people about how to improve both the quantity and quality of their sleep, and helping them get to the root cause of any sleep disturbances.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about sleep. Let’s get to the bottom of a few today.

How many hours of sleep do I really need?

Most people ought to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. There are obviously people on both ends of that spectrum but in general, that’s a good range to aim for.

If you find yourself regularly struggling to fall or stay asleep, talk to your doctor.

Is melatonin a good idea?

Melatonin can be helpful in promoting sleep, but it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement to ensure it’s the right type and the right formulation for you.

What causes snoring?

Although sometimes embarrassing, snoring is very common and usually not a cause for concern. Essentially, snoring happens due to airflow obstruction. This can occur due to things like:

  • Chronic allergies
  • Deviated septum
  • Smaller anatomy of the oral cavity

Snoring can also happen for no good reason! For some people, as they go to sleep at night, the soft palate relaxes and as it falls down, that’s what creates that snoring sound.

Does blue light from screens really affect sleep?

You probably won’t like the answer to this one. The truth is, screens do have an impact on sleep quality. It’s not helpful to use electronics before bed because the light in and of itself can suppress melatonin—and melatonin is necessary for falling asleep.

Also, sometimes, the material you’re reading or watching can create arousals in your brain, making it difficult to fall asleep.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Some tell-tale signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring
  • Gasping for air at night
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Waking up tired
  • Feeling foggy during the day
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches

Having trouble sleeping? Talk to your doctor or find a sleep specialist today.

About the Author

Eneida Harrison, MD, is a pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine specialist on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center. Her goal is to provide patients with comprehensive, advanced care to diagnose and treat a variety of pulmonary and sleep conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease, lung cancer, obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy. She has experience performing diagnostic and therapeutic bronchoscopies, including endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS). Dr. Harrison is married with two children. She enjoys playing piano and traveling.

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