Sleep Facts, Sleep Tips, & Sleep Myths
Let’s face it, life can be busy, stressful and highly distracting, all of which can make it harder than it should be to quiet your mind and get good sleep. We get it - maintaining a healthy work-life balance is difficult, which can lead to eating habits that affect sleep quality. On top of that, smartphones and other devices make it easy to stay distracted late at night by keeping us connected to an always-on, digital world. The internet never sleeps and, sometimes, neither do we. An uncomfortable mattress or over-stimulating bedroom can leave you tossing and turning as you try to fall asleep every night, too. Fortunately, we have pulled together some tips and tricks to help prepare your body for sleep, encouraging sleep to come more quickly and stick around a bit longer.
Top Tips to Fall Asleep Faster
Tip 1: Healthy Eating Habits
Responsibilities at work and at home often make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance, which in turn can impact meal times and sometimes even the quality of these meals. You’re eating a large dinner late or, if you skipped dinner, find yourself rummaging through the fridge for a midnight snack. You may even crack open a caffeinated soft drink or mix yourself an alcoholic beverage to unwind before bed. Unfortunately, eating late at night or consuming caffeine or alcohol actually interferes with your body’s ability to sleep. Eating late means the muscles that digest are working when they should be resting, caffeine is a stimulant that may keep you awake, and while alcohol may temporarily make you feel drowsy, it lowers your melatonin levels, which lowers your quality of sleep. Eating or drinking late at night could essentially lead to chronic trouble falling asleep, possibly even sleep insomnia.
Healthy eating habits can make a significant difference in your quality of sleep. Avoid consuming any substances that can harm your ability to sleep such as caffeine, alcohol and heavy foods that might cause acid reflux. Minimizing caffeine consumption in the afternoon and limiting alcohol consumption before bed can help quiet your mind for easier, faster sleep. Additionally, cigarettes work as a stimulant and will disrupt your attempts to sleep, as well as the many other negative risks associated with smoking. If you find yourself eating late on a regular basis, try healthier food options or smaller portions. Many experts actually recommend eating no later than 12 to 16 hours before you plan to wake up the next day or keeping your eating window to just 10 hours a day to help improve sleep quality. Eating a late-night snack has the same effect on your body as a late dinner.
Tip 2: Relaxing Bedtime Routine
One of the smartest things you can do to help yourself fall asleep faster is to create a relaxing bedtime routine. Some of our favorite relaxing bedtime recommendations include taking a hot bath, listening to soothing music or reading a book. There are also a variety of warm, caffeine-free, teas that can help you mentally prepare for bedtime. Some hot teas are made with natural sleep remedies to help relax both the body and mind – chamomile being a go-to. Meditation and breathing exercises are also helpful in relaxing your mind and your body. In fact, meditation is a common treatment for insomnia.
Tip 3: Establish a Sleep-Wake Schedule
In order to establish your sleep-wake routine, you must exercise the same sleep-wake time every day (even weekends). This allows your body to understand how much time it needs to sleep and how much time it needs to be awake. Avoid taking naps, as they can confuse your body by disrupting your sleep cycle and make sure to establish your bedtime at a time that allows the optimal sleep time required that doesn’t hinder the next day’s schedule.
Tip 4: Relaxing Sleep Environment
Our most important tip for falling asleep faster is to create a relaxing and healthy sleep environment. A tranquil sleep environment is vital to relaxing the mind and body to induce sleep. Your sleep space should be soothing and really only used for sleeping. Keep your bedroom clean and free of clutter by removing paperwork, used dishes and sometimes even electronic devices. Choosing to leave your phone or work papers out of the bedroom area allows you to unwind and forget about the day’s stresses. Minimizing the number of electronics in your room will also help you avoid blue light, which tricks your body into thinking it's daytime, keeping you awake. Lower the thermostat. A cooler bedroom often makes it easier to sleep and tends to improve sleep quality. Try dimming the lights in your home about an hour prior to bedtime to create a calming environment, too. Buy soft sheets with a high thread count and, perhaps, a soothing color to not distract your mind. Believe it or not, even your alarm clock could be a distraction! Try hiding the time. Being able to see time pass can cause stress and keep you awake. Security may also be a contributing factor to sleep troubles. Add an extra lock to the front door or an extra smoke alarm to make you feel more secure.
Your bedroom should promote high quality sleep, which means that having a supportive mattress and a cozy pillow is all the more important.
Tip 5: Sleep on a Comfortable Mattress and Pillows
Everyone has a different preference regarding how plush or firm a mattress or pillow should be; however, all mattresses and pillows must provide adequate support for the entire body. The key to quality sleep is a high quality mattress. Look for the following indicators to determine if it is time to buy a new mattress: discomfort when lying down or aches when waking up, visible signs such as stains, sagging or lumps, you can hear the box springs when lying down, the bed is over 10 years old or if you have allergies and have slept on the mattress for several years without a protective cover. A BedInABox® memory foam mattress provides the perfect balance of comfort and support. Consider your sleep position to help determine the thickness and firmness you require. You also want to make sure that you are sleeping on the best mattress size for your sleep needs. If you sleep with a partner, a larger mattress size, like the king size, is a great option.
Tip 6: Limit Time Spent in the Bedroom
The idea behind this is that you won’t associate negative or stressful things, like working, with your bedroom. Leave the bedroom for sleeping and your bedtime ritual, so you will have the ability to free your mind when you want to go to sleep.
Tip: 7 Exercise Regularly
The idea behind this is that you won’t associate negative or stressful things, like working, with your bedroom. Leave the bedroom for sleeping and your bedtime ritual, so you will have the ability to free your mind when you want to go to sleep. However, engaging in exercise within three hours of intended bedtime will actually produce too much adrenaline and cause an individual to be too alert to fall asleep. Body temperatures increase a great deal during exercise and take around six hours to drop back to our normal body’s temperature. This drop in temperature following a workout can be very relaxing and help to induce sleep.
Tip: 8 Value Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a growing problem in the world today because people prioritize most responsibilities or obligations above sleep. If one understands the importance of rest and values the time they spend relaxing and healing their bodies and minds through the sleep process, finding the time to do so will be easier.
Tip 9: Don't Sleep with your Pet
Many pet owners today find it comforting to sleep with their pet or pets when it can actually be very disrupting to sleep. While BedInABox® memory foam mattresses substantially mitigate motion transfer, your pet’s movements and noises can still be very disruptive. Unless you absolutely need your pet sleeping close by, it is best to let them have their own bed.
Tip 10: Consult a Sleep Specialist (if necessary)
If your sleep problems cannot be solved by the suggestions above, consider seeing a sleep specialist. You may suffer from a sleep disorder if you are having chronic trouble sleeping or consistent problems. A sleep specialist or doctor can diagnose any underlying issues and develop a treatment plan that may improve sleep quality.
We hope that our ten favorite sleep tips help you fall asleep faster! Remember, having a comfortable, high-quality mattress is the first step to getting a good night’s sleep every night. Once you find the BedInABox® mattress best suited for your sleep needs, these other sleep tips and nighttime routines are merely simple suggestions to improve your sleep quality even more.
The Ten Most Common Sleep Myths
There are many misconceptions surrounding sleep. Is it, in fact, a nightly necessity? And what constitutes normal sleep? In an effort to help you make sense of sleep, we have examined the ten most prevalent myths surrounding sleep to determine what actually holds true.
1. Sleep isn’t really that important! I can get by with just a few hours a night.
In our fast-paced, overworked society that is overwhelmed by a desire for instant gratification, we all too often make up for lost time by cutting into our shut-eye. The truth is, lack of sleep actually diminishes productivity. Your body and brain operate far more efficiently when you get at least the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, being that sleep is how both recover from our daily activities. Although the brain does not entirely shut down at night, adequate rest allows it to process the information you took in that day.
2. I can wind down at the end of the day by watching TV or browsing the web.
Almost everyone has fallen prey to this belief at one time or another. It turns out that watching TV or surfing the Internet before bed will disturb your sleep environment. Furthermore, if you let the television or computer run when you drop off, the ambient light and sound they create will interrupt your sleep cycle because your brain remains unconsciously aware of its surroundings, preventing you from acquiring the deep sleep your body needs.
3. Snoring is a normal thing some sleepers do.
For years, it was a generally-accepted belief that snoring was just a normal part of sleep for certain people. Many people still believe that notion because the discovery that snoring is actually hard on the body was only made in the last half-century. Snoring only occurs when there is a narrowing, or constriction, of the air passages. Such constriction will cause the soft, “floppy” tissue in the back of your throat to vibrate, and create the [sometimes very noisy] snoring sound. Snoring has been proven to be difficult on the heart [causing high blood pressure], and serious cases may lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea, which can actually be fatal.
4. Naps don’t help if you’re sleepy.
Short naps are actually a very good way to catch up on lost sleep: studies have shown that people perform cognitive tasks better after napping for one hour or more. Be sure to time them properly, though, as taking a nap for longer than three hours or past three o’clock in the afternoon can make it difficult to fall asleep later that night.
5. Lack of sleep during the week can be made up over the weekend.
This common sleep myth is possibly one of the worst habits to form, as sleeping longer hours on the weekend while cutting down on them through the week can throw your body’s biological clock out of whack. Trying to catch up on rest over the weekend will not actually reduce fatigue either.
6. Getting just an hour less of sleep at night will not have any effect on daytime functioning.
This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day, but even slightly less sleep than you’re used to can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can even compromise your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body’s ability to fight infections. If you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, a sleep debt will eventually build up that will indeed make you excessively tired during the day.
7. Your body can quickly adjust to different sleep schedules.
Quite the opposite. Your biological clock makes you naturally most alert during the daytime and drowsy as night falls. Thus, even if you work the night shift, you will likely feel sleepy at night. Most people do have the ability to “reset” their biological clock, but only with appropriately-timed cues, and even then, by just one to two hours per day at best. It can take more than a week for you to adjust to a dramatically altered sleep/wake cycle.
8. Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation
No evidence whatsoever exists to prove that any major organ [including the brain] or regulatory system in the body shuts down when you sleep. Interestingly enough, certain physiological processes actually become more active while you sleep. For example, your body’s secretion of particular hormones is accelerated when you rest, and the activity of the pathways in your brain needed for learning and memory is heightened.
9. Children who don’t get enough sleep at night will show signs of sleepiness during the day.
Unlike adults, children who don’t get enough sleep at night actually become more active, on average, than normal during the following day. They may also show difficulty in both paying attention and behaving properly, so these children may be consequently misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].
10. The main cause of insomnia is worry.
Although worry or stress may lead to a brief bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall asleep [or stay asleep] at night can be caused by a number of other factors. Taking certain medications or suffering from a sleep disorder can easily keep you awake at night. Other common causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, or a number of other medical conditions with symptoms which become more troublesome at night.
If you found these debunked sleep myths helpful, check out a list of other fun sleep facts below:
- Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.
- The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapse.
- One of the loudest snores recorded in Guinness World Records was 93 decibels (120db is a jet engine), by Kare Walkert of Kumla, Sweden, in 1993.
- If you fall asleep in less than five minutes at night it means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.
- A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year.
- Not all people dream in color. In fact, 12% of people dream exclusively in black and white. Additionally, people who become blind after birth can still see images in their dreams while those who never experienced sight have vivid dreams involving their other senses.
- Most mammals sleep for short periods of the day while human lives are broken into periods of sleep and wakefulness. However, our bodies are programmed for two periods of sleep: in the early morning (2-4 a.m.) and in the afternoon (1-3 p.m.).
- National Napping Day is March 14 and was first observed as an unofficial holiday in 1999.
- The appearance of facial skin can be improved by simply sleeping on the back. Side and stomach sleeping causes individuals to press wrinkles into their faces from constant contact with a pillow. Also, sleeping on one's back can help avoid morning puffiness from heat in the pillow.
- The word "apnea" from sleep apnea comes from the Greek word meaning "without breath."
- Sleeping for too long increases cortisol in the skin leading to an increase in blemishes and acne. Sleeping too little suppresses the immune system leading to irritation such as rashes. Finding the right balance is essential to good skin health.
- It is thought that eating a lot of food too close to bedtime can cause you to have bad dreams. This is because eating increases your metabolism and signals the brain to be more active.
- Ninety percent of those suffering from fibromyalgia also have severe exhaustion or a sleep disorder. In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you must express pain in 11 of 18 "tender point" sites on the body.
- Millions of travelers are affected by jet lag each year, but simple persistence can help decrease its effects. Margaret Thatcher, for example, has convinced herself that jet lag will not affect her. Individuals who are extroverted, exercise regularly and have a regular schedule are less likely to suffer from jet lag.
- Shift work sleep disorder is caused by an irregular work and sleep schedule often brought on by working night shifts and having very little time off. Shift work results in more than $70 billion per year in productivity and safety that results from reduced alertness. It is thought that the crew of the Challenger space shuttle were sleep deprived from working irregular shifts, which may have caused the flight's failure.
- Yawning has been observed as early as fetuses in the womb, but humans don't start responding to contagious yawning until about 5 years old.
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is commonly misdiagnosed or completely overlooked. In adolescents, RLS is often diagnosed as growing pains; and in adults, RLS is commonly diagnosed as depression due to sleep deprivation.
- In 2011, 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were filled in America.
- Sleep debt is the accumulation of continuous sleep deprivation and is also known as chronic sleep loss. One in three Americans is carrying at least one hour of sleep debt.
- Contrary to popular belief, people do not actually learn new information during any stage of sleep, but rather, file important information and help it turn to memory. Authors and poets have reported waking up with fully written stories in their minds. Robert Louis Stevenson claimed to have thought of the plot for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in his sleep. Samuel Taylor Coleridge fell asleep reading Purchas' Pilgrimage and awoke to find 200 lines of poetry in his head. The poem is the famous Kubla Khan. Giuseppe Tartini dreamed the devil played a beautiful piece of music. He attempted to write the violin piece once awake and named it "Trillo del Diavolo" or "Devil's Trill Sonata." These artistic creations were likely distortions of memories recovered during sleep that the artists perceived as dreams.
- According to a 2011 survey taken by the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of Americans use some sort of electronic device (cell phone, computer, television, tablet, etc.) within an hour of going to bed. Light produced by these devices slows the production of melatonin, increases alertness and pushes back the circadian rhythm. See the Poll Results.
- Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon resulting in the inability to move or speak upon waking or falling asleep. It is referred to in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as a demon or "old hag" sitting on the chest of the victim preventing them from moving.
- The best time to work out is around five or six hours before planning to go to sleep. Exercising increases the body temperature and takes five to six hours to cool back down to its normal temperature. Cooler body temperatures make you feel sleepy.
- The fetal position is the most popular sleeping position. It can help alleviate snoring, stop sleep apnea symptoms, reduce acid reflux and prevent premature formation of wrinkles. It may also cause neck and joint pain in the morning.
- Only about 15 percent of cases of depression result in the person affected oversleeping. Most individuals with depression experience insomnia or some other sleep disturbing disorder.
- Charles Dickens took great pride in his sleep environment. He ensured that his bed was facing due north and he was exactly in the middle of his bed by measuring his distance from both sides. He went to these extreme measures because he felt that his efforts helped fight insomnia.
- Approximately 19 million Americans are affected by gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD or acid reflux). It is reported as the third leading cause of sleep disturbance in individuals between ages 45 to 64.
- Regular exercise offers many benefits including: increasing energy. reducing stress. improves immune system functioning. allows you to eat more, because of improved metabolism. strengthens the heart. helps fall asleep, and stay asleep longer.
- Driving while drowsy or sleep deprived results in the second leading cause of automobile accidents. The leading cause is alcohol-related accidents.
- Bruxism or teeth grinding is the most common sleep disorder affecting up to 90 percent of people with only about 5 percent with chronic Bruxism.
- Children and elderly individuals are first priority for flu vaccines as they are identified as at high-risk for infection. These groups also tend to be more sleep deprived, which lowers immune system functioning.
- Waking up feeling groggy is due to not getting enough sleep and attempting to wake out of stages of deep sleep. Most people hit their deepest sleep between 4 and 6 a.m., making it very difficult to wake up.
- During sleep, people tend to strengthen their emotional connection to memories. This may also help spur creativity, according to researchers at Harvard University and Boston College.
- Sleep talking, or somniloquy, occurs in around 50 percent of children and 5 percent of adults.
- Twenty-four percent of adults over 65 are diagnosed with four or more medical conditions, and, of those, 80 percent report having trouble sleeping.
- The word mattress is derived from the Arabic word matrah meaning "to throw down."
- Aromatherapy is proven to be one of the most ancient of natural sleep remedies as shown by ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. They burned aromatic wood and used oils extracted from plants in honor of their gods.
The Sleep Foundation—Healthy Sleep Tips
Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.
American Medical Network. top 10 Sleep Myths.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Power Nap” Prevents Burnout; Morning Sleep Perfects a Skill