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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
Coffee is a well known stimulant which has pros and cons. Assuming one is okay with ingesting the caffeine that coffee possesses, the big question is: how late in the day can one drink it? At what point will it affect sleep. Sure, there are people who can go to sleep soon after drinking coffee, but is it healthy? We conducted a survey (results below) and also researched general attributes of caffeine.
Scientifically speaking, caffeine is defined as a bitter alkaloid C8H10N4O2 found mostly in coffee, tea, cacao, and kola nuts. It is used both medicinally, and as a stimulant and diuretic. The Coffea Arabica seed is the most common source of caffeine. Caffeine is extracted from the plant by steeping it in water. This process is known as infusion.
The Coffee Science Information Center says that caffeine serves as a drug that activates the central nervous system, which then causes temporary stimulating effects. The Center states that it is the most widely consumed pharmacologically active substance in the entire world.
How much caffeine is found in coffee? A typical brewed 8 oz cup will contain between 95 – 200 mg of caffeine. Instant coffee contains a tad less, as an 8 oz cup will only have between 27 – 173 mg of caffeine. A specialty drink such as a latte will contain between 63 – 175 mg of caffeine. The CSI Center conducted a study in 2013 whih found that 63% of Americans drink coffee every day.
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine conducted a study which tested the effects of caffeine on sleep when ingested 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. The results were conclusive: when compared with a placebo, caffeine ingested at both 0, 3 and 6 hours before bedtime caused significant effects on sleep disturbance. That is why the absolute the minimum that one should ingest caffeine before bed is 6 hours.
It should be noted that caffeine ingestion at 6 hours before bedtime was less disruptive than at 3 or 0 hours. At 6 hours, roughly 1 hour of sleep was lost. This study noted that 68.5% of people consume caffeine in the evening (between 6 pm and 12 am) which would prove to be very detrimental to these people’s nightly sleep sessions.
Other studies support the hypothesis of caffeine’s harmful effects. The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology conducted a study in 1974 which explored overall sleep disturbances from those who ingested 300 milligrams of caffeine at night. Not only did the subjects experience trouble falling asleep, but were unable to read deep sleep stages and woke often.
|Black tea||8 oz.||14-70 mg|
|Black tea, decaffeinated||8 oz.||0-12 mg|
|Green tea||8 oz.||24-45 mg|
|Coca Cola||12 oz. (237 mL)||23-35 mg|
|Pepsi||12 oz.||32-39 mg|
|Sprite||12 oz.||0 mg|
|Red Bull||8.4 oz.||75-80 mg|
|5 Hour Energy||2 oz.||200 mg|
|Excedrin Extra Strength||1 tablet||65 mg|
We asked a number of sleep experts when they think one should stop drinking coffee during the day/night. The full survey and experts’ information and websites can be seen in our published sleep experts survey.
Winter is here and it’s getting colder at night. What blanket will keep you warm while you sleep? An electric blanket usually plugs into an outlet and runs off electricity to provide heat. It provides different levels that can offer personalized warmth. Using an electric blanket may allow you to turn down the heat at night to save energy and money. If you are looking for something that doesn’t use plug in while you sleep, the next best choice is a wool fabric. Wool material is remarkable in that it can still provide insulation even when wet. Wool is very durable and flexible and keeps heat close to the body by trapping still or dead air within the fibers.
Flannel is also a great type of blanket to stay warm. It’s soft against the skin and the thin material allows for layering. Flannel is a knitted fabric that is typically 100 percent cotton and often combined with a quilted backing for additional warmth. It’s usually inexpensive and easy to combine with home décor. Polar fleece is a man-made fiber of polyester and also makes for a warm blanket. They are very lightweight and can fold up when not in use. Polar fleece provides optimum warmth and softness and is easy to keep clean. If you are looking for a polyester blanket but want it extra thin, you may be looking for a Thinsulate blanket, made from polyester microfiber. A silk fleece blanket is also very warm and extremely comfortable.