Using alcohol, prescription sleeping pills, or melatonin to fall asleep is not a long-term sleep solution and can even impair your ability to sleep without them. Restrict the use of these as “sleep-aids” for the short term.

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Roxanne Prichard, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of Minneapolis, says, “if you chemically induce sleep, it’s not the same kind of sleep.” Even taking 5mg of melatonin, a standard dose, you risk “blowing out your melatonin receptors,” making it harder to sleep without it.

Any artificial way of altering your sleep disrupts the balance of your neurotransmitters. This means less REM sleep, fewer dreams, and many other benefits lost during this period of sleep. Plus, you need to account for all the problems associated with being groggy, from less focus, diminished cognitive functions, and not reacting to potentially dangerous situations.

More great information on sleep is covered in Chapter 3 of Stolen Focus by Johann Hari. @johann.hari (I highly recommend this book).

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If you drink alcohol, even a single glass of wine, your sleep is disrupted. I know when I drink, no matter how much sleep I get or how asleep I think I am, it’s going to be a poor night of sleep. My body is busy pushing this foreign substance out of my body rather than getting the rest and recovery it needs. Pay attention to how you feel on the days after you drink compared to the days you don’t (if you need proof). You may not want to drink after an epic workout and miss making all of those gains from the workout.

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