Get the Sleep You Really Need—an Expert Answers Your Most Pressing Questions

by | Mar 29, 2024 | Health

Quality rest should never be overlooked. Getting the requisite number of hours of shuteye is crucial to cognitive function, physical performance, mental health and safeguarding yourself against a wide range of diseases. But snagging those all-important dozing hours is often easier said than done. That’s why we tagged in top sleep expert Dr. Rob Henst, a Senior Research Scientist at Advanced Health Intelligence, to give you the DL on a few of the most common FAQs.

Melatonin, does it work or not?

Studies have shown that oral melatonin can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep in healthy sleepers (people who do not need it) and in individuals with disruptions of their 24-hour body clock (i.e. circadian rhythm disorders). However, oral melatonin seems to have no effect on those with insufficient shuteye or insomnia.

READ MORE: 7 Ways to Minimise Snoring During Sleep

Unlike true hypnotics like Zolpidem, melatonin does not act on the parts of our brain that directly induces sleep. Rather, melatonin resets our 24-hour body clock. This is why it can be helpful for people with circadian rhythm disorders, but offers little benefit to individuals who do not get enough sleep for other reasons. If you buy melatonin to help you fall asleep faster or stay asleep for longer, you are probably better off spending your money on a few sessions with a sleep specialist to get to the root of your shuteye issues.

How can I discover my natural circadian rhythm?

If you want to discover your natural circadian rhythm, the one not affected by work or family obligations, go camping. When you take away these commitments, the screens and artificial light, your body clock will reset itself to the dark-light cycle created by the earth’s rotation around the sun. After about two weeks of camping, and as long as you aren’t short on shuteye, you will notice that you get sleepy approximately three hours after sunset and wake up just before sunrise. This is the effect of your true natural circadian rhythm.

I always spend an hour on my phone before bed. Is this screen time eating into my quality sleep time?

If you’ve lowered the brightness of your screen, any text is white-on-black, and you’ve activated Night Shift (iOS) or Night Mode (Android), probably not. The amount of blue light that is emitted when all these features are in place is minimal. However, doing work or watching entertainment that is too exciting or emotional may delay sleep onset and therefore may decrease your time asleep.

I feel fine after just a few hours of sleep, but my mates tell me it’s a health hazard. Is this sparse shuteye sending me to an early grave?

Good scientific evidence is available to support that statement. Guys who doze much less or more than 7 to 8 hours have the highest chance of dying early. Also, we know that people are pretty bad at rating how tired they are, especially when they are sleep deprived.

READ MORE: NEW STUDY: Your Sleep Schedule is Hurting Your Weight-Loss

We can get used to feeling tired and learn to cope with that feeling pretty quickly. Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you won’t be feeling much better if you got sufficient sleep. Also, work or family stress can mask the effects of insufficient sleep. Saying “I feel fine” when you are extremely busy simply does not count. The same goes for when you are high on caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants.

I’m shopping for a new mattress. Worth shelling out extra cash for a high-quality option?

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In his book The Promise of Sleep, Dr. William Dement mentions that his research group compared aspects of sleep quality in University students sleeping on three different surfaces: a well-known luxury mattress; a normal—much cheaper—mattress; and the floor without a mattress.

To their surprise, they found no difference in sleep quality between the three sleeping conditions. Dement later realised that at the time the students were participating in the study, they had just finished with their exams and were most likely sleep deprived from all the studying.

Under those circumstances, any surface is good enough to doze on! As long as you choose a mattress you can lay comfortably on and does not leave your back or neck sore the following morning, it’s a good mattress from a sleep perspective. A more expensive mattress is not likely to result in better rest.

I’ve been working late-night shifts at the office and I’ve started gaining weight. Are these extra kilos the result of my lack of sleep?

Possibly. Sleep plays a major role in appetite regulation and metabolism. First, individuals who are sleep-restricted have lower levels of leptin (the satiety hormone), and higher levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), which together with an impaired decision making may results in an increase of high-calorie food intake.

Second, not getting enough sleep may also result in increased levels of stress-hormone cortisol, which increases blood sugar, prompting an insulin response. This may cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in the long run.

READ MORE: Time Off? Here’s How to Get More (And Better) Sleep

Third, insufficient and irregular sleep may disrupt your gut flora, which may also cause changes in metabolism. Finally, feeling less energetic due to insufficient sleep makes guys more sedentary, which decreases their energy expenditure. All of this may eventually lead to weight gain, which in turn can also affect your sleep. Insufficient sleep may make it that much harder to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight.

Are there any apps that can help improve the quality of my sleep?

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Turn your smartphone into a sleep solution with Dr. Rob Henst’s favourite apps:


“Use it to monitor how regular your bedtimes and get-up times are, and whether your sleep opportunity
is long enough.” (Android)

Sleep Cycle

“With ‘Sleep Notes’ and ‘Wake Up Mood’ you can keep track of factors that may influence your shuteye.
However, use the microphone sleep monitoring feature with caution, rather use the ‘Wake Up Mood’
function to record how well you slept.” It can also keep track of your sleep using your smartphone’s
microphone.” (iOS & Android)


“This lets you record and play back sounds you make at night such as breathing, snoring and coughing. It
also helps you keep track of factors that make your snoring worse. If you hear yourself stop breathing or
gasping for air during the night, you may want to see your GP as these are signs of sleep apnea.” (iOS &

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