The Surprising Bedtime Rituals That Put You to Sleep, According to Science
Antonio Terron / Trunk Archive
Are you tired all the time and just can't understand why? There really is nothing worse than waking up (even after the recommended 8 hours of sleep) still feeling exhausted, foggy, and blurry-eyed. According to Dr. Libby Weaver, one of Australasia’s leading nutritional biochemists. it's because our brains are like our browsers; they have too many tabs open "looping the same stories, issues, and challenges over and over in our minds, which is highly energy-depleting"—and it’s impacting our health.
But even though we know what to do about it, we're not acting on it. The Better Sleep council study found that "half of Americans (about 48%) say they don’t get enough sleep, but less than half of them take any one specific action to help them get better sleep." Either we're suckers for punishment or the current sleeping habits are too hard to adopt.
So what can we do to encourage a blissful slumber? While many of us are already making sure the room is dark, switching off our devices, and reading a good book to bring on the snooze, what are some of the outlier sleeping hacks we can try to ramp up the z's? We did a deep-dive to showcase some of the more surprising science-backed sleeping habits you can adopt instead, like snacking before bed. Yes, you heard right. We think you'll approve.
Snack Before Bed
Have you been known to snack on some chocolate before bed? Or maybe your guilty pleasure is cheese; either way, most of us with late-night eating habits have kept them fairly secretive until now. Despite many of us being told otherwise, science says snacking before bed can actually help you sleep. But before you grab the milkshake, there are a few things you need to know first.
In an interview with Daily Mail Australia, Shea Morrison, Brisbane-based sleep expert and founder of The Good Night Co., said certain foods can actually aid the body’s recovery process and help you fall asleep faster. So what are these miracle foods she speaks of? Snacks of cottage cheese, porridge, a ham-and-cheese roll, or a sliced banana make her after-dark cut, as well as her "sleep sandwich" made with bananas, lettuce, bread, and the British food spread Marmite.
Things to avoid before bed are heavy meals, protein-packed foods, meat, and alcohol, which Morrison adds "will sit in your stomach longer than you need them to." So try these snacks instead.
For many of us, getting a full night's rest requires a specific nighttime ritual that often includes a warm shower, beauty routine, and climbing into cotton pajamas or a silk nightgown. But if this new study is anything to go by, that final step could be the nail in your snoozy coffin. If you've always preferred sleeping in the buff, science says you're onto a good thing.
Apparently sleeping sans clothing not only improves the quality of your sleep, but it can also boost your metabolism and help with intimacy too. It's time to ditch the twinset and get some skin between the sheets instead.
Go to Bed Later
While it might seem counterintuitive, going to bed too early won't increase your chances of some decent shuteye. So if you've been trying to hit the hay earlier to get all those recommended z's in, don't. It's actually having the opposite effect. In fact, research found that "trying to catch up on lost z's by spending more time in bed actually has the opposite effect."
In a press release lead author Michael Perlis,Ph.D said: "[People with insomnia] go to bed early, get out of bed late, and they nap. While this seems a reasonable thing to do, and may well be in the short term, the problem in the longer term is it creates a mismatch between the individual's current sleep ability and their current sleep opportunity; this fuels insomnia." So for sleep's sake, go to bed at a reasonable hour (but not too early) and rise at the same time every day to encourage your body into a routine. There's a reason why babies thrive from this.
Stick Your Feet Out of the Blanket
In our sleep-deprived desperation, we'll try anything to turn on the coma-like state, and there are literally hundreds of sleep hacks to try. But one of the most unexpected tips we've ever heard of is sticking your feet out of your blanket. We already know that keeping your room cool (but not too cool) helps, but we're not familiar with the poking-your-feet-out method.
So how does it work? When your body temperature is high so is your alertness, which is definitely the opposite of what you need before bed. Since your feet are key to helping you cool down (thanks to specialised vascular structures that help expedite and regulate heat loss), ditch the socks and stick them out of the blanket.
Exercise at Night
We all know that people who eat well and exercise regularly report the best quality of sleep, but there's one defining difference: the timing. According to research from Appalachian State University, the time you hit the gym impacts how well you doze. The study found those who exercised at 7 p.m. not only slept through the night better than non-exercisers, but also better than those who exercised in the morning.
This is great for those of us who aren't morning people and find the idea of exercise at the crack of dawn nauseau-inducing.
Wear Socks to Bed
Just after we told you that sticking your feet out of the sheets can induce hibernation, another study comes out with the opposite. Nothing is worse than the feeling of cold feet, especially when you're trying to nod off. According to Sleep.org, "Heating cold feet causes vasodilation—dilation of the blood vessels—which may tell the brain that it's bedtime. After the blood vessels open in the hands and feet, heat is redistributed throughout the body to prepare for sleep."
So disregard the unsexy label that socks in bed has garnered, and slip on a pair next time you hit the sheets. Science knows best.
Force Yourself to Stay Awake
This hack is probably the strangest of the bunch. Forcing yourself to stay awake sounds like a really bad idea, more like torture than a remedy. But a small study out of the University of Glasgow found "sleep-onset insomniacs who were instructed to lay in bed and try to stay awake with their eyes open fell asleep quicker."
So that reverse psychology trick from our childhood still works in adulthood. "I always tell people, sleep is the one thing in life where the harder you try and the harder you work at it, the more likely it is you’ll fail,"Lisa Meltzer, education scholar for the National Sleep Foundation told Huffington Post. "Reverse psychology is not a long-term solution, but it can help."
While many of the hacks we've revealed so far seem plausible enough to try, this one seems too outrageous to be true. But science isn't one to tell tales. Rachel Marie E. Salas, MD, professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the New York Post that this much-loved child's play is also a successful sleep aid. How? Salas says it acts as a deep breathing exercise, calming your body in the process.
But the silly aspect of blowing bubbles also helps to distract your worrying mind from the many stresses and concerns that plague it. Not keen? We say don't knock it 'till you try it, because getting a decent sleep is definitely more important.
Need more smart sleep ideas? Read up on the latest tips and tricks to help you snooze in our top books below.