photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
Here’s a stat that sounds like hyperbole but is not: Improving your sleep quality is as beneficial to health and happiness as winning the lottery. A UK-based doctor found when analyzing the sleep patterns of more than 30,500 people in UK households across four years that “improving your sleep quality leads to levels of mental and physical health comparable to those of somebody who's won a jackpot of around £200,000." A dramatic difference in overall happiness, no? With that in mind, we tapped sleep experts Dr. Taryn Forrelli, VP of Product Innovation at OLLY, and Kalle Simpson, co-founder of the Night Pillow, for their help in busting these popular myths about catching your nightly Zs.
Melatonin should only be taken at night.
You probably know that westward travel is associated with early evening sleepiness and predawn wakeups. When traveling west, melatonin can be taken in the morning for time-zone adjustment. Traveling east is associated with struggling to fall asleep at the destination bedtime and difficulty getting up in the morning. In this case, it is best to take melatonin in the evening at your local time. Take it 30 minutes before sleeping, and you should be good to go. Try Olly Restful Sleep Blackberry Zen Vitamin Gummies for better sleep.
Lavender is the only scent that calms and preps you for sleep.
Nope! Any scent that makes you feel relaxed is a good one. Simpson uses a humidifier and adds eucalyptus oil drops, “which promotes relaxation and helps with sinus issues that can be disruptive to sleep,” she says. Another technologically advanced in-home fragrance option is the Aera, which infuses your home with fragrance that’s perfectly even throughout your space. Try the Poetry fragrance for the bedroom, which features eucalyptus and vetiver.
You should snuggle up in warmth.
Simpson always turns the air on (even in the winter!) and sets it around 67 degrees. “Body temperature has to drop three degrees, and there’s research around the weight of a heavy blanket over you helping you achieve better sleep,” she says. Closing the door to keep in the cold air and blocking out any ambient light helps, too.
People describe themselves as back sleepers, side sleepers, stomach sleepers, etc.
Simpson points out that yes, everyone favors a sleep position, but the average person changes positions three to 36 times every night.
Alcohol helps you sleep.
“At one point, it was even prescribed by doctors to help you sleep,” Simpson says. Although alcohol does promote drowsiness initially, eventually it interferes with your body’s ability to enter the REM cycle, i.e., the deepest state of sleep. “It is also a diuretic causing you to wake up to use the bathroom, which can lead to dehydration and poor sleep quality,” Simpson points out.
You should outfit your bed in white bedding.
Most people think their bedding should be white. “Eighty to 85 percent of even fashion bedding sales are in some version of white,” notes Simpson. “Utility bedding is called ‘the white goods’ category, but white is actually the worst color to sleep on!” She advises against it, as it reflects light and light affects your circadian rhythms telling your body you should be awake and not sleeping.
You have to sleep alone.
Most people think they can only achieve the best sleep quality when they have a bed all to themselves. However, there’s research in support of dyadic sleep (sharing a bed) and how this actually improves sleep quality. “Physical immediacy triggers feelings of safety, and this added layer of security allows for a heightened state of relaxation which is crucial to achieve the deepest, most restorative sleep state,” notes Simpson.
The more sleep you get, the better you’ll feel.
We all sleep in 90-minute sleep cycles. “Waking up in the middle of one can leave you feeling unrested and groggy,” Simpson says. She advises scheduling your sleep around five or six sleep cycles of 90-minute increments. Google has a handy sleep calculator to help in this planning. If you’re a napper, plan for one and a half hours as opposed to two.
We all need 8 hours of sleep.
Related to the last myth, the amount of sleep you need changes over the course of your life. “Babies, adolescentsn, pregnant mothers, and women in general need more sleep on average,” says Simpson. Athletes and those uder increased physical or mental stress can benefit from extra sleep, as well. Everyone else? Well, that’s an individual thing.
Skipping sleep doesn’t affect your skin.
Forrelli says that sleep deprivation triggers the body’s stress response, which increases skin inflammation. Recommending seven to nine hours per night, she says that “proper sleep is essential for keeping the stress response in check while promoting skin rejuvenation.”
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Published on April 23, 2017