By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine
I'm lucky that I don't (usually) have trouble falling -- or staying -- asleep. But there are definitely nights, sometimes even stretches of nights, where I don't get enough sleep -- and I'm not alone: an estimated 50-70 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control, don't get enough sleep. (Get three simple tips to help you beat insomnia here.)
It's then that I want to make every last minute of shut-eye count. And that means knowing what can actually help me sleep and what hinders sleep. Here are six sleep myths to ignore, as reported in EatingWell Magazine.
The Truth: Artificial light from televisions -- and especially from computer and smartphone screens -- may suppress production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness. Artificial light also shifts your circadian rhythms -- a biological cycle that responds primarily to daylight and darkness and influences sleep. More from EatingWell: What Should You Eat? Get Nine Foods to Help You Sleep Here. Twenty Tips and Facts to Get a Better Night's Sleep Seven Soothing Foods and Calming Scents to Help You Relax Add This One Ingredient to Your Tea to Make It Healthier
The Truth: Because alcohol is a sedative, drinking wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages may help you fall asleep, but as little as two drinks can cause you to sleep less restfully and wake up more frequently. And alcohol-related sleep disturbances are worse for women, say researchers at the University of Michigan. Drink moderately, if at all, and avoid drinking within a few hours of bedtime.
The Truth: Hitting the gym or going for a run less than three hours before bedtime won't prevent you from falling asleep, according to recent research. It may, however, hinder your sleep quality.
The Truth: Though chamomile, lemon balm, hops and passionflower are all touted for their sleep-promoting properties (and are often found in "sleep-formula" tea blends), their effectiveness hasn't been proven in clinical studies, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The Truth: If you sleep poorly -- or don't get enough sleep -- once or twice a week, you can make up for it. But after more than a few sleepless nights, it becomes harder to "recover" from lost sleep, says new research from Penn State.
The Truth: The theory is this: milk contains tryptophan (the amino acid best known for being in turkey), which when released into the brain produces serotonin -- a serenity-boosting neurotransmitter. But when milk was tested, it failed to affect sleep patterns. "Tryptophan-containing foods don't produce the hypnotic effects pure tryptophan does, because other amino acids in those foods compete to get into the brain," explains Art Spielman, M.D., an insomnia expert and professor of psychology at the City University of New York. More from EatingWell: What Should You Eat? Get Nine Foods to Help You Sleep Here. Twenty Tips and Facts to Get a Better Night's Sleep Seven Soothing Foods and Calming Scents to Help You Relax Add This One Ingredient to Your Tea to Make It Healthier
What helps you get a good night's rest?
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
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