Author: Dr. Tony Bianco, DO

Over the years I treated sleep as something that was necessary, but never a priority. Now, I see this as the most important part of my day. I’ve been crafting this practice with the addition of
different tools, and I feel the puzzle is coming together in a harmonious fashion. Why is sleep important? From a basic level, sleep allows for our repair and recovery mechanisms to support
our mental and physical health and overall quality of life. While this involves many aspects of our hormonal system, balancing melatonin and cortisol are key for the circadian rhythm.
Similarly, disruption in sleep can lead a breakdown in regulation of other hormones like testosterone, growth hormone and insulin. I’m sure all of us have experienced staying up later
than anticipated and feeling the effects the next morning with the brain and body moving at a slower pace.

My personal sleep deterioration began during my intern year of residency when a month of
nights, and 24-hour shifts every other week were par for the course. The result . . . mental
fogginess and poor recovery from exercise. My body was failing me when I needed it most.
Over the next years, I put different pieces together. An important step was setting a regular
bedtime. Yes, this varies a bit on the weekend, but overall, I shoot to have the lights out and
head on the pillow by 10 PM. Around the same time, I started incorporating the use of blue-
blocking glasses (Uvex are $10 on Amazon). These red/orange glasses are NECESSARY for
those who have any screens or lights on past sunset. Blue light inhibits the release of melatonin
from the pineal gland, thus interrupting the circadian rhythm. These were game changers for
me, as instead of 15+ minutes of lying in bed, I was falling asleep in minutes. I ran with these
tools for a while, but when I moved back to Cincinnati, living next to cell phone towers, things
changed again.

Around this time, I started reading more about sleep and items that should be evaluated. I did
an at-home sleep study that didn’t indicate sleep apnea but showed some episodes of lower
oxygen saturation. So, what else did I need to think about? Dry mouth had been a factor as an
adult when I woke up in the morning, so that’s when I discovered the idea of mouth taping. If
you experience this, try the simple process of taping your mouth closed at bedtime. It may take
a few weeks to get used to, but totally worth it (Simply Breathe or Somnifix).
As the time in my condo progressed, I started noticing that I would wake up several times in the
middle of the night, and while I fell back asleep easily, it was an unusual pattern for me. Per
usual, I started to go down weird paths and came across the effects of electromagnetic fields
(EMFs) from the many technologies we “depend on” these days. So, after some investigation, I
decided to invest in my sleep again. This time was to lessen the effect of EMFs by painting the
walls of my bedroom with graphite paint and using specialized curtains to block my windows.
Once again, my sleep quality improved.

The final change that brought life to a new level was making an uncomfortable decision. In
January 2020, I saw the opportunity to make a change in my work schedule, and so I went for it.
Now, this can be very challenging for most work situations, but at some point, you have to decide whether your health or the bottom-line is more important. My preferred pattern is to
wake up early, go exercise and then get to work. When work starts at 7 or 8 AM and you have
a commute, something has to give. Sleep was that something for nearly two decades, and I
believe this was a driving factor in cortisol dysregulation and unnecessary stress, so the decision
came. Now I rise when my body chooses, without using an alarm, which is anywhere between
6-7 AM, so my work schedule had to accommodate this.

Sleep, and life in general, is a journey, and I made the decision to enjoy it along the way. What I
can say is that I haven’t felt this good or had this much energy for a decade. It took some time
to develop this amazing sleep experience but well worth it. It is my hope that you can utilize
some of these tips to improve your own sleep journey.
 

Tips for Optimizing Sleep

  • Temperature
    • Everyone is unique, cooler is usually better. Think about items like a chiliPAD (cooling mattress pad) if your partner prefers a different temperature.
       
  • Light
    • Make it black. Get black-out curtains in your bedroom.
    • Use True Dark Dots to cover other lights from electronics, smoke detectors, etc.
    • Use blue-light blocking glasses if using electronics or lights are on beyond sunset (Uvex on amazon ~ $10).
       
  • Timing
    • Set a regular bedtime – get your circadian rhythm in order (7-9 hours for most adults).
       
  • Anatomy
    • If you wake up with a dry mouth or know you’re a mouth breather then trial mouth taping (Simply Breathe or Somnifix).
    • Sleep Apnea: if you have struggled with snoring or chronic fatigue get a home sleep study. We can refer you to a good practitioner who will assist you in testing yourself at home.
       
  • EMF’s - Electromagnetic fields
    • We are bioelectric beings. To ignore the potential for EMFs affecting health is to ignore sound and logical science
       
  • Life Demands & Stress
    • Choose health, choose to live. Frequently we allow societal norms to dictate our lives, break free from the expectations and create the life you desire.