Neuroscientist explains what to do if you can’t sleep

by Get Nerv GetNerv

Sleep is complex and modern life is full of unnatural distractions that upset our bodies’ natural processes. It’s no wonder sleep problems are on the rise and as many as a quarter of Americans experience sleep related issues.

Lets first state the obvious, sleep serves important biological functions that have been synced to the night day cycle. It simply makes sense for the body to rest at night as our limited vision and cooler temperatures made it the right time to perform bodily maintenance. Let’s examine all the ways modern life has upset our body’s natural processes and sleep mechanisms and how to fix each one.


Our brains are light sensitive and we have an internal clock system that cycles between day and night. Our evening routines and most bedrooms have an abundance of light that seeps in from windows or lights in our home. Screens, phones, TVs are also sources of light that can throw off our body’s natural cycle.

The amount of light is also important. Natural light transitions are gradual from bright to dim to dark. In contrast most people flip off their light switch and go from bright to dark and expect their bodies to suddenly enter sleep mode. The sudden transition of light around modern bedtimes do not give the body enough time to cycle from day to night.

There are several ways to resynchronize the body to its natural day night sleep cycle. In the evening, near bedtime, transition the light in your house from bright to dim. If you use a device prior to bed, try dimming that too. Once you are in bed, remove all sources of light, black out the windows and cover up any phones that may turn on.

Melatonin is a useful supplement to take before bed if the body’s day night cycle is out of sync. Melatonin is the compound your body naturally produces to help regulate its internal clock so a supplement at the right time before bed can help re-sync the cycle.


The chemicals in our brains are carefully regulated to ensure we are awake and asleep at the right times. With the invention of electric light, people started staying up past dark and going to bed much later into the night. People still worked similar or longer hours so people started coming up short on sleep. Tiredness became common and caffeine became the drug of choice to combat sleepiness. Caffeine became a powerful tool people starting using ubiquitously to stimulate their brains to enhance focus and fight off weariness. As the use of stimulants became a part of daily life, so did problems associated with the chronic use of stimulants.

Among the side effects of caffeine withdrawal are anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness. It should come as no surprise then that all of the problems associated with chronic stimulant use are on the rise. Constant and consistent use of caffeine in the form of coffee or soda is a sure way to upset our brain’s ability to fall asleep. Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee and soda, it can sneak it’s way into our diets in surprising quantities without us even realizing. There are high levels of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee, candies, cereals, ice creams, chocolates, and teas. When we consume high levels of caffeine without realizing it, it can be very difficult to fall asleep. Examining our food for sources of caffeine and cutting them from our diets later in the day can help us fall asleep when we need to.


Alongside the rise in stress, anxiety, and sleep related problems has been another popular drug that also play a role in governing sleep and wakefulness. Many people turn to alcohol as a source of relaxation, stress relief, or sleep aid but unfortunately, alcohol comes with its own set of pitfalls that may do more harm than good.

When it comes to sleep, everyone knows that alcohol makes you drowsy and enough of it can cause someone to seemingly fall asleep. However alcohol has such a profound effect in interrupting brain activity that the “sleep” it induces is so far removed from normal sleep that its users often feel awful rather than refreshed after sleeping using alcohol.

This is because while alcohol acts an effective “depressant” of brain activity, it also has many other unintended effects that interrupt normal functioning of the brain. These non-selective effects include a loss of coordination, diminished judgement, and you guessed it, lack of restful sleep. Sleep is normally a highly regulated, ordered, and well organized program carried out by the brain that helps the body recover, renew, and refresh. Alcohol induced sleep is different, the brain is hindered from performing it’s natural duties and this is why alcohol can knock someone out but is not a solution for a lack of restful sleep.

Cutting out significant amounts of alcohol in the evening can aid in sleep. One or two drinks would not significantly affect sleep but many people frequently drink larger amounts at parties or on weekends, experience terrible sleep followed by hangovers and then wonder why their sleep patterns go awry or why they feel tired.

Many people also become trapped in a cycle of medicating a lack of sleep and tiredness with stimulants (a few cups of coffee) which then make it harder to sleep. Being aware of how our modern lifestyles can affect our body’s natural sleep patterns can help us adopt healthy habits that restore normal sleep.

There are many things keeping us from restful sleep. Just as caffeine was a powerful tool that helped people combat tiredness so we also have powerful tools that can help us sleep. That’s why I invented Nerv, a small healthy drink that can help people sleep. Unlike alcohol which leads to drowsy but ultimately unsatisfactory sleep, Nerv targets the stress centers of the brain and helps relax prior to bed to make sure we get a good night’s rest. If you’re struggling with getting the right amount of sleep (too few or even too much), try a bottle of Nerv to see if it can help! Get yours today at

About the author: While still small, neuroscience startups like Nerv are shaking up the relaxation market. Scientist entrepreneur, co-founder, and inventor of Nerv, Dr. Michael Jiang, has created a small healthy supplement for the management of occasional stress and anxiety. His mission is to destigmatize the conversation around mental health by offering accessible, healthy, and intuitive solutions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of others

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Created on Sep 20th 2018 06:51. Viewed 86 times.


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