We surveyed many sleep experts and asked them a few pointed questions regarding sleep. We highlighted some of these answers below, and discussed what seemed to be the consensus answers. You can find the names and websites of a few of the sleep experts in the reference section below.
What are the most common causes of sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is a serious thing, which is the condition of not getting enough sleep. Depending on the level, sleep deprivation can cause severe cognitive impairment, fatigue, weight loss or gain, achiness, irritability, headaches, and possibly hallucinations. We asked our sleep experts to list 3 of the most common reasons behind sleep deprivation. The bulk of the answers referenced mental aspects of why people have trouble falling asleep at night, with stress and busy lives being the main factor. External factors do have a role, but ultimately it was the mental aspect which causes the root of sleep deprivation. And even though a stressful day can sometimes be unavoidable, it is ideal for one to try and create time and space between stressful events and sleep. This is why a downtime of 1-2 hours is ideal before heading to bed.
- Debbie – Use of electronics too close before bed. Improper sleep environment. Poor sleep habits & bedtime routine.
- James – Pain, anxiety, and bad habits.
- Jenn – Our lives are too busy. Sleep isn’t made a priority. Too many electronics in the bedroom.
- Jordan – Social/work/family pressures — the difficult balance of a long work day, tending to family, and trying to juggle social demands can lead to people staying up late while still having to set their alarm early for work in the morning.
- Kendra – Caffeine, screen time, shift work, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep hygiene.
How many hours before bed should one stop drinking coffee?
Coffee is said to be the most popular drug in the world, with the reason for this being that caffeine is a major stimulant found in coffee. Unsurprisingly, sleep experts were fairly cautious here and recommended not drinking coffee anywhere near bedtime. This is because caffeine can stay in one’s body for up to 16 hours after consumption (depending on the amount ingested), and although one can fall asleep before that, the sleep will be disrupted and is not ideal. The smallest time frame offered by two sleep experts was 4 hours before bed, with the majority of them recommending to wait at least 8 hours, with some going as high as 12 hours. The exact average was 6:40 before bed.
- Jenn - Depends on how it affects you, but should stop drinking coffee after lunch (8 hrs).
- Jordan - Caffeine has a half-life of about 4 hours, meaning it takes 4 hours for half of the caffeine you ingest to metabolize. So even 12 hours after a cup of coffee, you’ve still got some caffeine pumping through your veins. It varies from person-to-person, but limiting coffee to before lunchtime (if you go to bed at night) is best.
- Kendra - No coffee or caffeine after lunch.
- Shannon - For adults, usually 6 hours, but for people who are really sensitive to caffeine, nothing after 12pm.
How many hours before bed should one stop eating?
Eating before bed is an obvious weight gain issue, as nutritionists across the board advise meals to be finished at least 3 hours prior to bedtime. However, sleep experts advice against pre-bedtime food for different reasons. Eating a lot of food will increase blood flow to one’s digestive tract, causing the stomach to secrete extra gastric acid which makes the intestinal muscles work harder. This will stimulate one’s metabolism at a point when it should be slowing down. Experts tended to agree on this one; 2 or 3 hours before bed was the recommended time between eating a meal and sleeping. Laura pointed out that children have no issue, and can eat just before bed. Experts also allowed pre-bedtime snacks, so long as the portions were not huge.
- Helene – Large dinners late at night interfere with sleep, but a light snack at bedtime might be necessary for some people.
- Laura - I’ve never seen a child sleep poorly based on when their last meal is. Many children need to go to bed very early, which means they eat dinner and go to bed immediately. I have never seen this negatively impact their sleep.
What are the worst foods to eat before going to sleep?
Eating before bedtime, depending on when you partake, can have an immense effect on one’s ability to fall asleep as well as quality. The most consistent answer from all experts was a combination of spicy, sugar, and caffeinated foods. There were a few experts who also recommended avoiding meat and chicken, which takes longer for the digestive system to break down. One expert recommended avoiding celery.
- Andrea – Meat, chocolate, heavy foods.
- Angelique – Spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, foods that are difficult to digest.
- Hannah - Anything with caffeine (chocolate, tea coffee, coke) or high sugar foods which can cause a surge in blood sugar. Also high protein foods such as meat or cheese.
- James – Spice and caffeinated.
- Jenn – Heavy, fatty foods like steak dinner. Makes the digestive system work harder right before bed and can cause heartburn.
Can a full moon affect one’s sleep?
Scientifically speaking, few of the experts wished to state unequivocally that a full moon can affect sleep, though many were quick to qualify that information, by offering anecdotal information. The sleep experts sang a familiar tune: a full moon should not affect sleep (according to scientific research), however, from both patients and continued anecdotal evidence, it seems to experts that a full moon certainly does disrupt sleep. Only two experts stated clear no’s, but even then they seemed to qualify their responses: “no definitive proof” and “not that I’m aware of”, thereby indicating some level of doubt as to fully ruling it out.
- Andrea – Yes. We do at times get extra complaints of child sleep disruptions on a full moon.
- Hannah – Yes most definitely- from working with families for years I always know when the full moon is as the babies suddenly wake up much more!
- Jordan - Likely not in the sense that it makes people “crazy,” but if the extra light is shining through your bedroom window, it has potential to disrupt your ability to fall asleep.
- Laura – Yes, I’ve seen this many times with my own children and with my clients!
- Niamh – My head says no, but I know lots of people who feel this way.
- Shannon - People often report poorer sleep on full moon nights and parents will say the same about their children. Research seems to be a bit inconclusive on the topic.
Does not wearing socks make it harder to fall asleep?
Wearing socks to sleep has been the source of debate between people who maintain that it is an absolutely necessity, to those who claim that the question doesn’t even hold weight. That’s why we asked the sleep experts, and they gave conflicting reports here. Some reported that patients often feel hot (perhaps due to the stress of not being able to fall asleep), in which case socks would not be recommended. Other experts reported patients preferring socks as it keeps them warm. A few experts abstained from this question, as they noted that it completely depends on the patient. There were also a few experts who did touch on the scientific reasons, in that socks keep the blood circulating, perhaps lowering the chances of waking up in the night. Ultimately, however, this really came down to personal preference.
- Bea - Not necessarily, but research does suggest that wearing socks can make it easier for people to fall asleep in that blood is better circulated this way; you can also get a similar effect by putting a hot water bottle by your feet.
- Helene – Not specifically, but finding a comfortable temperature is important for sleep and temperature can affect different people in different ways.
- Kathryn – People who sleep poorly report feeling hotter so in my opinion socks would make you more likely to get hot and have disturbed sleep.
- Shannon - That completely matters on the person however it is something recommended for adults who are having difficulty falling asleep.
Can bedding material affect one’s sleep? (Cotton, satin, & silk)
The type of bedding one uses for sleep can definitely have an effect. The most important element to sleeping well is having soft sheets- abrasive or itchy sheets will cause one to remain awake. Satin sheets are considered the baseline for any soft and comfortable sheets, as they give off a silk-like soft and smooth feel. Silk is a preferred option though, as it allows air to travel through, and won’t cause one to wake up hot and sweaty. Sleep experts across the board agreed that breathability was the biggest factor for having the right bedding to sleep. In that case, cotton and silk are the two recommended sheets.
- Andrea – Yes of course, particularly for children who snuggle in to the sheets as part of self-soothing.
- Bea - Yes – materials affect heat (e.g. Cotton can keep us cooler, which can help us sleep better).
- Kathryn –The more comfortable and cool your bed can be, the better your chances of sleeping well.
- Laura – Definitely. Materials that don’t breathe leave moisture on the skin from sweat (which we do in certain stages of sleep).
- Niamh - Of course. Comfort is key to good quality sleep. But it’s down to preferences. I’m a cotton girl!
Pre-Bedtime Activities & Sleep Disruption
We asked experts to rank the following activities in order of least conducive to most conducive toward falling asleep. One point was given for least disruptive, and 7 points were given for most disruptive.
Analysis: There were some interesting results: cigarettes were ranked as more disruptive than alcohol. Generally alcohol is considered a big no-no in terms of getting a proper night’s sleep, but it seems that experts judged the nicotine content of to be more damaging than the potential caffeine and sugars found in alcohol. Most shocking was that email and Facebook (social media) scored as more disruptive than exercise, alcohol, and TV. This is a sign that experts understand that the never-ending train of social media truly never sleeps, and will affect one’s ability to fall asleep. Some experts also made sure to differentiate between falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Bea - (Regarding exercise) yoga is okay, aerobic is probably higher on the list than logging into email.
- Jordan – It depends on the person (i.e. how their body handles exercise close to bedtime, how much they typically drink/smoke, etc). Also note that while something like reading e-mail will make you fall asleep later, something like alcohol will help you fall asleep faster, but will also disrupt your sleep halfway through the night, so all of these things have different mechanisms.
- Hannah – Newspaper/TV/Email depends on content and stress levels.
Sleep Expert References:
Below are the names of a portion of the sleep experts that participated in the study (in alphabetical order), as well as Twitter handles and website names:
|Bea von Watzdorf||lessonsforthejourney.com|
|Jordan Gaines Lewis||gainesonbrains.com|
I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER list on the internet, how is this going to help me get some sleep?
We ask that you just trust us, as we want to help you get your 40 winks. Read on to see the hidden reasons behind why you feel like a zombie in the morning (although probably with a preference for coffee over brains…we hope).
Eating and Drinking
- It’s 1 AM and you just ate an entire can of Pringles?? Well, your stomach is expecting a party – good luck going to sleep!
- Oh, now you want to skip a meal? You can’t fool your belly: no food, no sleep.
- Eating spicy foods is kind of like taking a defibrillator to your stomach. Sure, it could be fun, but before you go to sleep?? Baddd idea.
- Don’t be fooled by fruit – those natural sugars are really just sneaky evil cousins of candy, and although they look nice and healthy on the outside, once they get into your digestive system they start clanking away, constructing buildings, mowing lawns – anything to keep you up at night.
- Too much protein will keep you up. That chicken you just ate? Might as well be a live one.
- Caffeine, at night? Are you crazy! Coffee, tea, and chocolate will keep you wide eyed in bed.
- Dehydration is a thing. What, you want your insides to feel like Dubai in August? Drink water to avoid headaches and a grumpy morning.
- Wait, how much water did you just drink? A gallon?? Your body knows you will have to wake up and pee in an hour. Good luck falling asleep and I hope you wake up!
- Drinking alcohol before going to bed is like making a deal with the devil: sure, you might fall asleep more quickly, but you will pay for that later as you wake up many times throughout the night.
- Brush your teeth before bed, otherwise that pesky bacteria in your mouth might irk you. And you’ll wake up with a cavity too. No, for real.
- You let your pet sleep in your bed? LOL. Did you pack his lunch and clean up his poo as well?
- Not wearing socks is risky – if a cold draft enters your room, your sensitive toes will feel it first. Make sure you’ve got a big blanket. Or a fireplace – but at least a few feet away from your toes.
- Why read an online article on your bright LCD laptop/tablet screen when you can just read an actual, sleep-inducing newspaper?
- WAIT, I just need to check Facebook. Someone just Retweeted me! What was that Pinterest recipe again? Where can I buy that mason jar? I cannot believe she just posted that on Instagram, or was it Reddit?.…Social media NEVER SLEEPS!
- Watching TV in bed will literally keep you up late at night; who knew that Carson Daly had his own show?!
- Watching a scary movie when its already dark outside. That certainly can’t help your sleeping efforts!
- That blinking. It keeps blinking. Who is texting me now? I HAVE to check. Smart phones never sleep – don’t put them by your bedside. OR, turn off your phone and buy an actualy alarm clock!
- Are you afraid of the dark? Well, it’s a real thing. A pitch black room can be too much of a good thing.
- Stressful day? That means one thing: It’s going to be a stressful night.
- Problem solving in bed: you had to wait until you got into bed to figure out your problems? Why couldn’t you do this earlier when you were waiting on line for your Mocha Grande Pumpkin Spice Peppermint Cappuccino?
- Restless leg syndrome – on the bright side, your pet will say “what’s that shaking noise? I’m going back to the rug.”
- Watching the clock is an all-night activity: it literally never stops.
- Going over your schedule for the next day. PLEASE do this BEFORE you get into bed. Thank you.
- Too much clutter in the room can be both distracting and mentally stressful. Clean it up!
- Exercising late at night is a good idea because….oh wait, it’s an awful idea.
- Sleeping late in the morning is the price you pay when you try to fall asleep on time that same night. Serves you right!
- Taking a nap during the day? How are you going to get to sleep at night??
- Not getting sunlight during the day will irk your body. Don’t be bashful, get some sun.
- Jetlag is just one of those things.
- Working or doing chores and then trying to fall asleep immediately after is akin to taking a Golden Retriever to a dog park, letting him run amok for 2 hours, then bringing home and pointing at him while shouting “sleep!”, and then expecting him to fall asleep immediately.
- Hormones/menstruation cycle: sorry ladies, we can’t get in the way of nature.
- Smoking a cigarette might be cool according to Joe Camel, but that nicotine can disrupt your sleep.
- Too much light coming into the room? Buy some new curtains!
- Is your pillow weak? Too hard? This isn’t an airplane – go buy a new and soft one.
- Sleeping on a stiff mattress is bad for your back, your brain, and your stress levels.
- Sheets matter, depending on the temperature of the outside, your room, and your body.
- Full moon. Yup. It’s true – full moons can keep people up at night and your dog might even howl.
- Temperature – below 54 or above 75 degrees Fahrenheit is no good.
- Sleeping alone, when used to having a spouse, can be tricky. Skype date?
- Speaking of spouses, is he/she snoring again? Yank their arm.
- Those pesky neighbors moving couches again at 2 am? WHY do they always wait ‘til 2 am to move those couches??! WHYYY???
- Are the neighbors quiet now? Is your room extremely quiet? Can you hear a pin drop? Sometimes a room can be too quiet – a constant humming sound could be soothing. Turn on a fan.
- That bright LCD clock that can light up Times Square? Hmmm…
- Dust mites are mostly harmless except for allergies they can cause. Good news though, if you can sleep through a sneeze, you’ll be alright!
Well, that’s it! We’re sure that if you follow these tips you’ll be heading for a good night’s sleep in no time!
Get Moving for a Good Night
Many Americans do not get enough sleep. Eight hours per night is the recommended amount but for some people this seems like an impossibility. The blame for lack of sleep is often put on our busy schedules, jobs, kids, work, etc. These things can’t really be eliminated from our lives but there are ways to make sure that we get a better night’s rest. Taking a daily walk around the neighborhood is one of these things that can help you sleep better and more restful.
There are a few different things that people can do to help them get a good night’s rest. Eating the right types of foods can contribute to the quality of our sleep. Not eating spicy or acidic foods before bedtime can help. Mediation and drinking herbal teas (free of caffeine, of course) is also beneficial to some people. Another good way to help you rest better at night is to get plenty of exercise during the day.
Just because you work a nine hour job and have a family to look after doesn’t mean you are getting the proper amount of exercise. Being busy is no replacement for a good workout that will get your heart rate going and your blood flowing. Walking a mile or two or even a few blocks every day is a good way to get this daily exercise. Taking a walk after dinner every night will not only help your body burn off calories but it will contribute to keeping you body functioning at its optimal level. It will also help you sleep better, provided you don’t do it too close to your bedtime.
How does exercise relax you so that you sleep better? The answer is: exercise gives melatonin a boost. Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone that help regulate your sleeping cycles. Exercise makes melatonin do its job better so that you can sleep better. Better sleep has many benefits and it helps fight depression and disease.
What NOT to Eat Before Bed
It is generally not recommended to eat before bedtime. If you suffer from heartburn or indigestion, for example, there is a good chance your stomach isn’t going to allow you drift off to a peaceful slumber mere minutes after your head hits the pillow. Sometimes, due to our busy schedules eating before bedtime is unavoidable. However, there are some things you can do that will make falling asleep easier and that will help you get a full night’s rest so that you’re not dragging and groggy the next morning.
It should go without saying that it is not a good idea to consume caffeine before bedtime. Coffee, tea and cola should be avoided and so should chocolate. If your time schedule doesn’t allow for much flexibility in the times when you eat your meals, there are some foods that you can eat that won’t keep you up tossing and turning. Fruit is a good food to eat if you must eat within an hour of your bedtime, but just make sure it’s nothing to acidic, especially if you suffer from heartburn. A banana or an apple or even grapes are a safe bet. Bland food is safer than spicy food. Bread and butter or a high carb snack like crackers can trigger the release of serotonin in the body which can help with sleep. Foods that are difficult to digest like corn and nuts should be avoided.
Healthy Foods to Eat Before Bed
In a broader sense eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is going to ensure that you have energy throughout the day. By being energized and active all day and burning off calories, your body should be more than ready to recharge over night. People who maintain healthy diets and get plenty of exercise generally sleep better.
Also, make sure you eat slowly and chew properly. This will help your body digest meals better so digestion won’t interfere with your sleep!
On average we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping so having a quality pillow is important for spending that time in comfort. Choosing the right pillow depends on your preferences but with so many choices, you may feel overwhelmed. Let’s take a look at the differences between feather and cotton pillows and try to make the process of choosing a new pillow simpler!
Feather pillows are generally considered the more luxurious option between the two choices. The pillows are often made with goose feathers that are flat and have quills running through their centers. Feathers are soft but not as fluffy as pure down, however they do provide firmer support than down pillows.
Some benefits of feather pillows are that they are soft, warm, and can easily be shaped for better comfort and support. These types of pillows are very durable if well cared for and can last for years. Another great feature is that most feather pillows are washable.
Some cons to consider would be that pillows of this type can feel sweaty and hot to some who sleep hot. Feathers flatten easily and need to be coaxed and pulled into the shape you want every time to change positions. Another consideration is allergies. How sensitive are you? Many have found themselves to be allergic to feather or down pillows so do not commit to buying one unless you’re sure that it won’t be a problem for you.
Cotton pillows provide wonderfully soft, gentle yet firm lift for all the natural support you need as you sleep. This type of pillow is natural, and rarely contains allergens that would affect the sensitive sleeper.
Some benefits of cotton pillows are that since the fiber is naturally absorbent, you will not have to deal with a sweaty, hot pillow on an average night. Cotton pillows are much firmer than feather ones. The surface is smooth, plus there’s no chance of being startled awake by a rogue feather!
Some cons with cotton filled pillows are that as time passes the cotton can compress and begin to feel very hard and may even be described as lumpy by some. This pillow type does not contour easily to body curvature. If the pillow is not cleaned regularly it can create an attractive environment for dust mites and molds, as cotton can retain water.
Sleeping Style vs. Pillow Type
The way you sleep will determine the firmness of your pillow. Those of us who sleep on our back or side often prefer a medium support pillow that cradles the natural curvature of the spine. Stomach sleepers enjoy a soft, plump pillow that cushions the head and neck at a comfortable angle.
Everyone has a different image of their perfect pillow. For me being a side sleeper and having many allergies, a cotton pillow is the perfect match, but it may not be for everyone. Make sure to find your perfect fit for all your bedding because remember, we spend 8 hours of our day sleeping – if we’re lucky!