9 Facts About Sleep That May Shock You + Expert Tips To Help
In honor of World Sleep Day, we wanted to help you improve your beauty zzzs with some crazy sleep facts and expert tips. Despite the fact that the average person sleeps for approx. 26 years during their lifetime, most of us don’t think too much about how we can optimize our sleep. As a result, most of us don’t prioritize sleep or learn about how we can optimize it, which can ultimately lead to bad sleep habits that can affect our overall health.
The harsh reality is, bad sleep can result in a myriad of health concerns. Sleep expert Julie Mallon warns that poor sleep can lead to “A severely compromised immune system, poor skin, obesity, and even more serious examples like heart disease or cancer. It’s a well-known fact within the sleep community, that if you have five hours or less of sleep consecutively for one week, the likelihood of you developing cancer doubles.”
To ensure you’re making the most of your beauty sleep, here are 11 need-to-know facts and what the sleep experts insist you should be doing.
Fact 1: If it takes less than five minutes to fall asleep, you’re overtired
According to the experts, falling asleep should take 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re falling asleep faster than this, chances are you’re over-tired.
What to do: According to Julie Mallon, “The easiest way to prevent overtiredness is to have consistent sleep and wake times.” She confirms that “The average person needs somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night as we sleep in 1.5-hour-long sleep cycles,” so make sure you schedule that in.
However, she does add, “Sleep is dynamic, so be aware that you may need less or more than this average. Try and determine what works best for you and then make it a priority.”
Fact 2: We sleep in cycles, and if it’s disrupted you’ll wake up feeling tired
While the total amount of time you sleep is important, sleep quality is another vital factor to be aware of. Fragmented sleep, AKA when you wake multiple times during the night, will prevent you from moving through your natural sleep cycle, decreasing the amount of time spent in the most restorative stages of sleep.
What to do: If you suffer from continual night wakings, Julie recommends magnesium supplements. According to Julie, “Magnesium is incredible for sleep.” She explains why: “We know it has such a positive effect as it relaxes the central nervous system. In fact, magnesium increases a neurotransmitter called GABA in your brain, which encourages relaxation as well as sleep.” Julie recommends taking magnesium supplements (available at most drugstores), one hour before you sleep. Before adding any supplement to your diet, consult your doctor first.
Fact 3: You cannot “catch up” on sleep
One of the most dangerous sleep myths is: that you can “catch up” on sleep. For instance, many people will sleep less during the workweek, relying on catching up during the weekend. However, this will disrupt your sleep cycle further and is why many people find it difficult to wake up on Monday mornings as they’re suffering from social jet lag.
What to do: The solution is simple: try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. If you go to bed late, you should still wake up at the same time and have an approx. 26-minute nap the next day.
Fact 4: Daily naps can help you sleep better… as long as they’re 26 minutes long
There are two types of people in the world: those who love to nap and those who never do it. Well, research has found that those who nap habitually get better sleep at night. However, you shouldn’t nap for extended periods of time as this can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
What to do: Julie confirms, “According to NASA, the ideal nap duration is around 26 minutes and should not exceed longer than 30 minutes. If it does, you’ll progress too far along your sleep cycle and wake up feeling groggy rather than refreshed. You also run the risk of lowering your sleep pressure, which helps consolidate your nighttime sleep. Similarly, you should not nap past 4 pm, as again, this will disrupt your nighttime sleep.”
Fact 5: Blue light seriously disrupts your melatonin levels
Blue light, AKA the light that’s emitted from electronic devices, is one of the most disruptive sleep factors. Julie explains why it’s so damaging “Melatonin (the sleep hormone) is only produced in the dark, whereas blue light will trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime, thereby preventing you from falling asleep or entering a deep sleep.”
What to do: Turn off your devices an hour before bed and try not to sleep with any blue light devices in your bedroom. If you need an alarm clock, Julie suggests a traditional alarm clock available on Amazon, $11.
Additionally, if there’s a lot of natural light in your room, Julie recommends blackout blinds or an eye mask. She says, “Research shows an eye mask can help increase your REM sleep, which then elevates levels of melatonin.” Her go-to is the Elasca Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask & Blindfold, $11, or the Total Eclipse Sleep Mask, $13, as it offers almost complete darkness.
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Fact 6: White noise can help you sleep but it shouldn’t come from the TV
Many people insist that they can only fall asleep with the TV on, and while this is understandable, it’s also hugely disruptive. Julie explains once again, “The blue light from the TV will trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and signal you to wake up. Also, the noise from the TV does not provide the most restful sleep because of the variability and unpredictability of the sound.”
What to do: Instead, Julie insists you should use a white noise machine, “White noise machines are the best sleep association because they’re sustainable, and it doesn’t matter if you do become dependent as they’re easily removed. Evidentially, the best white noise is the sound of the ocean as it’s linked to our natural rhythm for sleep (circadian rhythm).” Check out Julie’s fave sleep accessories here.
Fact 7: Sleep deprivation will make you more forgetful
If you’re not sleeping for 7 to 9 hours a night, it will impair your cognitive brainpower. Firstly, you’ll be less alert, but it will also prevent you from remembering what you learned that day. Various sleep cycles play a role in consolidating your memories, so if you have less “deep sleep,” memory restoration is poor.
What to do: According to Julie, the best way to prevent this is to “Get to sleep earlier, preferably between 10 pm and 11 pm, when your natural source of melatonin is released into the bloodstream. If you go to sleep after that time, you’re less likely to reach the optimum amount of deep sleep, which is where memory restoration occurs.”
Fact 8: Food can help or disrupt your sleep
If you’re suffering from bad sleep, address your diet. First and foremost, it’s important to know what to avoid and then you can start introducing sleep-happy foods.
What to do: One of the most detrimental ingredients in your diet is caffeine, Julie explains why: “Caffeine has a long half-life and can remain in your system for six hours. This is why I recommend having your last caffeinated drink at 2 pm. You also need to be mindful that other foods that you may not expect, contain caffeine. For example, ice cream and frozen yogurt, although deemed a late-night treat, both actually contain caffeine and therefore should be avoided.”
Other foods to avoid include nightshade vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, and beetroot as well as cured meats or fish. To find out what to eat instead, check out five foods that’ll help your sleep.
Fact 9: If your room is too hot, it’ll seriously impact your sleep
If your bedroom is too hot it’ll disrupt your melatonin levels and cause you to wake up, thereby disturbing your sleep cycle and preventing you from entering your deepest, most restorative sleep.
What to do: Julie insists, “The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 20 to 22 degrees celsius.”
For more sleep tips, check out 10 ways to boost sleep.