Let’s discuss a few Insomnia Myths and Facts:
A drink will help you sleep: Myth
Insomnia can leave you desperate for a good night’s rest. This myth probably persists because alcohol can help you fall asleep. Although as your liver metabolizes the alcohol during the night, there is more trouble staying asleep. In a recent study in 2020, 11,905 participants’ sleep quality was measured and included four sleep parameters (insomnia, daytime sleepiness, sleep duration, snoring/obstructive sleep apnea). The study found that those with higher alcohol consumption was associated with poorer sleep quality and higher odds of having snoring and short sleep duration.
Exercise helps you sleep: Fact
Regular exercise can be a great way to help stimulate better sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid working out too late. Strenuous exercise can make you more alert. It also increases your body temperature, which may stay elevated for as many as six hours. While someone you know can workout right before bed and still fall asleep, many of us would likely be too stimulated. Also exercising causes your body to produce growth hormones, which helps your cells repair and revitalize. Many of my patients report that they sleep better with regular exercise and that they feel more alert and rejuvenated the following day. I would recommend you aim to complete a workout two or three hours before you plan on going to sleep.
Screen Time Helps You Wind Down: Myth
Computers and television emit a blue light telling your master circadian clock to not make melatonin in the evening. Actually, you want your melatonin levels to increase around bedtime to help you fall asleep. That’s why it is best to start dimming down your lights at least an hour before bedtime. Melatonin can’t be released if exposed to (blue) light at night.
You Can Train Yourself to Sleep: Fact
You can train your body to associate certain restful behaviors with sleep. The key, of course, is consistency. Read for an hour or take a warm bath before bed. You can also try to meditate or have a gratitude journal which may help you drop off to sleep. Find what works for you, and then make those rituals a regular part of preparing for bed every night.
When difficult, poor quality, insufficient or excessive sleep becomes a frequent, routine, or prolonged pattern, it is more likely a sleep disorder is present. If poor sleep is consistent for several weeks or months, this is a good reason to seek out medical consultation and treatment with a sleep-knowledgeable physician or sleep specialist.
- Zheng D, Yuan X, Ma C, Liu Y, VanEvery H, Sun Y, Wu S, Gao X. Alcohol consumption and sleep quality: a community-based study. Public Health Nutr. 2020 Nov 13:1-8. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020004553. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33183388.
- Zerbini G, Kantermann T, Merrow M. Strategies to decrease social jetlag: Reducing evening blue light advances sleep and melatonin. Eur J Neurosci. 2020 Jun;51(12):2355-2366. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14293. Epub 2018 Dec 13. PMID: 30506899.