Longtime readers know a good night's sleep is one of the most important ways to maintain and improve health.
It's also become a popular topic in our feedback. We've gotten dozens of tips from readers on how to sleep better...
A reader who is a member of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy sent in this suggestion:
As you are aware, there are very few medications of any kind that don't affect sleep quality. Many of the OTC and prescriptive sleep aids allow someone to fall asleep, just as alcohol will. However, the later sleep cycles are disrupted, and sleep debt/hangover occurs. Plus, there are many medications that people take for other reasons that also interfere with the sleep cycles. Length of sleep is important, but multiple cycling through sleep stages...
Sleep hygiene is very important. Having a routine that one follows consistently can play a significant role in getting to sleep. As one develops their circadian rhythm, falling asleep becomes easier. Studies have shown that shift workers such as nurses and first responders have sleep disordered breathing (SDB) problems running as high as 40%. – Daniel B.
And one more tip from a 19-year career fireman:
One safety note worth mentioning is to not use the exhaust or "fart" fan in your bathroom to provide the background noise some may enjoy. I've been a fireman for 19 years. Unfortunately, I have been to many structure fires that were started by overheated exhaust fans in the bathroom or laundry room. These can become particularly damaging fires by catching the attic space on fire. – Greg S.
Thanks Daniel and Greg for the great tips.
What steps are you taking to improve your health? Let us know at [email protected].
Q: I recently watched an infomercial on the benefits of taking 5,000 IU [international units] of vitamin D every day. I'm wondering if that is harmful. Also, they said that a person should take a fish oil tablet every day, too. Has Doc written about the benefits (or downfalls) of taking daily doses of 5,000 IU of vitamin D? How about fish oil? Please send me the link to the article if he has written about either one (or both) of these. – J.K.
A: We've written about both of these topics before, warning subscribers against these harmful supplements.
Read about the dangers of vitamin D (and other fat-soluble vitamins) here.
Find out why you should never take fish oil supplements here.
Q: What's your thinking on using melatonin to help sleep? – G.N.
A: Of all the sleep aids available, melatonin is probably your safest option. As you and many of our readers probably have read elsewhere, melatonin is a hormone that your body produces naturally.
After speaking to a researcher at a sleep clinic, my assistant's husband took melatonin when he had a shift-work job that required him to sleep during the day. She advised, however, that it does make you very sleepy for a long period of time. Always make sure you have at least eight hours set aside for sleep. Waking up too soon can make you groggy and makes driving dangerous.
We also don't recommend taking it long term. Remember, the FDA doesn't regulate supplements... including melatonin. As such, there aren't many studies on long-term issues. And as with any sleep aid, don't rely on it. If your insomnia lasts more than two weeks, check in with your doctor about the underlying causes.
That said, some foods contain melatonin naturally. Three foods to help you fall sleep safely are walnuts, cherries (stick with tart cherries, not sweet ones), and tomatoes. Similarly, try to find out why you can't sleep. You may need to cut back on your stress... that's when a nice cup of chamomile tea and some meditation before bed can help, too.
Q: Just to follow up on the importance of starting investing early when you have very little. You will make mistakes when you start investing, but if you start early you will make mistakes with small dollar values and have time to recover.
My first of many investing mistakes was buying a mutual fund in December just before it paid out its annual dividend, which I followed up by giving 50% of my net worth to a full service broker. And then doing things like buying JDS Uniphase at $70 per share as the tech wreck was happening. The important thing is to survive the errors, learn from them, and keep trying.
I've seen people get huge pension settlements, have no idea what to do with the money, and find themselves at the mercy of "advisors" (as Porter has said the only person you can trust to take care of your finances is you). – K.
A: I don't often think about mistakes and failures. I'm able to wake up a little more chipper in the morning because I don't focus on the negative. But your e-mail did get me thinking about my biggest investing mistake.
In the late 1970s – before I was on Wall Street – I threw all of my money into a solar company.
In the 70s, solar power was the energy source of the future. It was so popular at the time that President Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed at the White House.
I was ready to make my fortune. I chose the particular solar company I invested in because I liked the ticker symbol – "SOLA." Less than six years later, the company went bankrupt and I lost every penny of the $700 I invested.
It was a good lesson to learn when I was young. I've had plenty of time to recover from the loss. And it taught me to be the squirrel investor I am today. I prefer to put my money in safer investments and spread it out so I don't lose too much in any individual investment.
My advice for anyone investing is don't follow the crowd. Do your homework. Don't put too much money in one company.
Protect yourself with asset allocation, diversification, and stop losses.
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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
January 20, 2017