Did you know that most of what we know about sleep wasn’t discovered until late in the twentieth century? And to this day, we’re still learning more. Here are five fascinating facts about sleep that might surprise you.
Fact # 1: Different naps have different powers.
We all know that naps can be a great addition to our day. And sometimes, it’s actually crucial to well-being. Indeed, for some people, taking naps can help prevent diseases such as dementia or sleep apnea!
But did you know that there’s also a nuanced art to taking naps? To get the most out of your nap, if you’re a morning lark, your ideal time for a nap is past 1pm; and if you’re a night owl, around 3pm is best.
And you can adjust the duration of your nap depending on what you want to achieve. For example, take a 10-20-minute nap if you need to boost alertness; 60 minutes, to increase cognitive memory processes; and 90 minutes, to improve creativity and procedural memory.
Fact # 2: Bedtime snacks can be good for you!
You might have heard that eating past 6pm is a bad idea. But relax, you can eat even 45 minutes before to bedtime. In fact, a light snack can actually help you sleep.
But keep it healthy. Get in some carbs, protein (preferably with tryptophan), and calcium. A small amount is a great combo to prevent late-hour hunger pangs while helping you ease into sleep. Some great options include a banana with a spoon of peanut butter, or a slice of whole grain toast with some low-fat cheese or lean turkey.
And milk’s a well-known option for a bedtime snack. But to make it even more effective, throw in some carbs, too.
Fact # 3: If you snooze, you lose — even during weekends.
No, sleeping in during weekends is a bad idea. In fact, waking up later than usual will disrupt your body’s internal clock, which might lead to a downward spiral that disrupts your sleeping habits even more.
If it’s generally difficult for you to get enough sleep during the week, there are lots of strategies you can try. For example, switch off all your electronic devices before bed. The lights they emit will hinder your body’s production of melatonin, your sleep hormone. Also, keep your bedroom cool (65 oF), quiet, and dark. A comfortable, distraction-free environment is key.
And here’s another interesting fact: 53% of people reported that having pets or kids in their beds had a negative effect on their sleep. No surprises there!
Of course, not everyone can always control who or what they have to share their bedroom with. But if you’ve got another room in your home and your two- or four-legged critters don’t mind a sleeping quarters of their own, that eviction notice would be a welcome boon to all parties involved.
Fact # 4: Sleep faster with wine, but more poorly, too.
Consider skipping that glass of wine. While it’s true that wine might help lull you to sleep, it will actually disrupt the quality of your sleep. And because of the alcohol — a diuretic — in wine, you’ll be waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
And if you happen to drink a bit more than you should — or, to be blunt, if you’re an alcoholic — “abstaining” from beverages with alcohol during sleep can cause withdrawal symptoms after about 2-3 hours. This will wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm.
Incidentally, nicotine has a similar effect: During the night, your body goes through withdrawal pangs. It’s best to quit smoking and excessive drinking now.
Fact # 5: Better to save the hot baths for earlier in the day.
Think that a hot bath will help you sleep better? Sorry, it won’t.
A hot shower, sauna, or bubble bath late in the evening will raise your body temperature and hinder sleep. As mentioned, the ideal sleep environment is a cooler environment, so your body will need to take time to cool down again.
If skipping a shower is out of the question, make the water a little cooler than usual. This way, you’ll gently signal to your body that it’s nearly time to sleep.
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.