There’s enough conflicting advice on sleep out there to keep even the sounded snoozers among us awake at night. So who’s right? The folks at Prevention.com consulted the experts. Here’s what they learned.
Myth: Alcohol will help you sleep.
Reality: Drinking a glass of wine before bed may help you fall asleep (though some people find alcohol does the exact opposite), but that sleep will likely be anything but restorative. Alcohol—a common ingredient in sleep aids—keeps your body from producing melatonin, a necessary ingredient for a good night’s sleep. Imbibing before bedtime also interrupts your REM cycles and inhibits dreaming, both of which are likely to leave you feeling worn out rather than rested when the alarm rings.
Myth: The best thing to do when you have insomnia is stay in bed.
Reality: It depends on the situation—and the insomniac. Sleep experts vary in opinion on this one, but most agree that if you’re relaxed and comfortable, you should stay in bed and allow your body and mind to rest. If lying awake leads to anxiety or frustration, however, getting up and doing something else is the way to go.
Myth: A warm room will put you to sleep.
Reality: In fact, the opposite is true. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for sleep is between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, a wide range that allows your body temperature to cool down and your sleep cycle to begin. Good air circulation, light to medium blankets, and warm hands and feet are also crucial ingredients for healthy sleep.
Myth: An afternoon cup of joe can’t hurt.
Reality: Depending upon your caffeine sensitivity, age and even the time of the month, caffeine any time of day can potentially keep you up at night. It takes the body seven hours to break down half the amount of caffeine you consume, and your caffeine sensitivity changes over time. If you suddenly find yourself unable to fall asleep at night, try cutting out coffee after noon, or even cutting down your morning fix from two cups to one. Still can’t sleep? Try decaf.
Myth: A carb-heavy bedtime snack will lead to a good night’s sleep.
Reality: Carbohydrates increase tryptophan, which raises the body’s sleep-inducing serotonin levels. But scientists who study sleep caution against eating anything heavy within a few hours of bedtime. Eating late in the evening not only raises body temperature, but can also lead to digestive problems, both of which interfere with sleep.