Everything You Didn’t Know About Sleep, According to a Doctor of Sleep Medicine

When it comes to getting a solid eight hours of shut-eye, nobody has better tips than Dr. Daniel Barone. He’s studied sleep extensively—from neurology to insomnia to narcolepsy—and is currently the Associate Medical Director of the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and an Attending Neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. 

In short, if you’ve got sleep questions, Dr. Barone has answers. Here, he shares his expertise with anyone looking to optimize those eight hours. 

The sleep mistake we’re all making

When it comes to shuteye, Dr. Barone says that most of us aren’t being hygienic enough. No, he’s not talking about a pre-bed shower, but about the importance of “sleep hygiene.”

“One of the biggest issues I see is that people have poor sleep hygiene—that is, they are not utilizing the correct habits to help ensure quality sleep,” he says. “For example, falling asleep on the couch after dinner for a few minutes may seem innocuous but by doing so, it may make it much more difficult to fall asleep at night. Same with the use of so-called ‘blue light’ devices—anything with a back-lit screen like TVs, computers, cell phones, and video games—these when used close to bedtime can inhibit production of melatonin in the brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep.”

Again, for those in the back row: avoid blue light devices

As someone who specializes in insomnia, Dr. Barone notes that one of the most interesting developments in understanding insomnia over the past few years has been “the idea that the blue light devices can make it more difficult to fall asleep.” In other words, avoiding screens before bedtime isn’t just some trendy tip that’s circulating on Instagram—it’s science. Buy yourself an old-school alarm clock and cut out all screens before bedtime if you’re ready to get serious about sleep.

 Want to detox? Sleep deeper 

Speaking of cutting-edge science developments, Dr. Barone says that we’re only just beginning to understand the vital importance of sleeping deeply. “It has been discovered that during very deep sleep, the brain is able to clear out some of the toxic by-products that build up over the course of a day (this is the case in rats and mice...and most likely humans as well),” he says. “It is thought that when deep sleep is not achieved over a long period of time, these toxins can build up and possibly contribute to some of the scary diseases like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. This is an intense area of research right now because these questions are not fully answered.”

Misunderstanding sleep disorders

 As sleep medicine continues to develop, certain old-school beliefs have fallen by the wayside: one of them involving sleep apnea, a condition that many of us misunderstand. “The biggest misconception is that only obese people can have obstructive sleep apnea,” says Dr. Barone. “We see patients who are rail-thin with severe cases. Sleep apnea is usually caused by a ‘tight’ airway, and while that does occur in obese people, thin people can have that as well. It is important to get tested!” If you’re sleeping poorly, but you think sleep apnea doesn’t apply to you, it might be worth asking your doctor about testing. 

Sleep hygiene 101 

Sleep science might be ever-evolving, but thankfully, good sleep hygiene is fairly simple. “Consistency is key—the brain needs to know this is my place and my time for sleep, and deviating from that can lead to poor quality of sleep,” says Dr. Barone. “The room itself should be dark, quiet, and on the cool side. And the bed should be firm enough to support the neck and back.” 

In fact, sleep hygiene can start earlier in the day, too. “Exercise in the morning (if possible),” he says. “No napping (or if you must, keep to 30 minutes and as early in the day as possible), no caffeine past 1-2pm, possibly meditation in the evening, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use.”

Dr. Barone emphasizes the importance of achieving deep sleep and sleeping in a room “on the cool side”—and we at MOLECULE couldn’t agree more. Every one of our products is meticulously engineered to help you sleep cooler, deeper, and longer. From our
cooling sheets to our microclimate-regulating mattress toppers, we’ve created a series of sleep-centric products designed to help you achieve that coveted state of deep sleep, so that you’ll feel revitalized in the morning.