Nov 16, 2017 12:00 AM

Author: Wellness and Integrative Health

Eveyone occasionally has problems sleeping, and everyone seems to have advice on how to get to sleep when insomnia hits. But what works, and what doesn't?


Sleeping Tips and Myths

Myth: Drinking Warm Milk Will Help You Sleep

Drinking warm milk may cause you to feel drowsy, but it is mostly psychological, not physical. Only small traces of tryptophan (a sleep inducing chemical) are released after drinking warm milk.

Try: Clearing Your Mind Before you Sleep

Instead of warm milk, try meditating and relaxing your muscles for several minutes before trying to sleep.

Myth: You Can Cheat the Amount of Sleep You Get

There is no substitute for getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been shown to have a strong correlation to health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, and decreased productivity.

Try: Improving Your Sleep Environment

Instead of trying to skimp out on sleep, try decreasing distractions to help you fall asleep faster. Make sure there is minimal noise, put your phone onto Airplane Mode, and avoid bright lights right before bed.

Myth: The Older You Get, the Less Sleep You Need

Adults of all ages need 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night. While sleep patterns may change as we grow older, the amount of sleep we need does not.

Try: Controlling Your Exposure to Light

If your sleeping patterns are fluctuating, try controlling light exposure. Melatonin, naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure, helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert.

Myth: You Can Catch Up on Sleep on the Weekends

While one long night of sleep can help restore your performance back to normal levels, this effect only lasts as little as 6 hours after waking up.

Try: Maintaining a Consistent Sleep Cycle

Instead of trying to “catch up” on sleep, you should try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the length of your naps. If you are trying get into a regular sleep cycle, limit naps to 15 - 30 minutes.

Myth: Eating Turkey Makes You Drowsy

While turkey does contain tryptophan (the sleep inducing chemical), it doesn’t have any more than chicken, ground beef or other meats. Drowsiness after a Thanksgiving feast is likely due to the massive ingestion of protein, carbohydrates and alcohol in the afternoon, rather than the tryptophan in turkey.

Try: Exercising During the Day

The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.

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