From eating almonds to listening to 'brown noise', these TikTok sleep hacks will actually help you nod off
Between unnerving news cycles, darker days and the cost of living crisis weighing heavily on our minds, it’s no wonder why so many of us are struggling to get enough shut-eye right now.
According to a new sleep survey carried out by Twinings, over half of people from the UK aren't getting the optimal 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Meanwhile, a 2021 study found that those who suffer from sleep deprivation are more than twice as likely to experience poor mental health, per the National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
So, if you count yourself among the many sleep sufferers, you might have come across a deluge of information surfacing on social media recently, of which the hashtag #sleeptips now has over 274.5 million views on TikTok.
But are they really worth your time? And what’s the science saying? Enlisting the help of UK psychologist and resident sleep expert for sleep tech firm Simba, Hope Bastine, here are the #sleephacks to try – and the ones to swipe and ignore.
Hack: Listen to Brown Noise
A handful of TikTokers are proclaiming 'brown noise' to be a useful tool for those with ADHD and insomnia. But does it work better than white noise?
Quick recap: 'White noise is a static-like sound that uses all frequencies that the human ear can distinguish and helps to mask sounds that keep our brain in high alert mode, especially when sleeping in a new environment,' says Bastine. Meanwhile, 'brown noise has lower frequencies than white noise and produces a deeper rumbling sound - like a heavy downpour of rain - and is better for masking the ringing in your ears if you suffer from tinnitus.'
The verdict: It comes down to preference. If brown noise is a sound you have grown used to listening to when you are falling asleep, says Bastine, then it's likely it will work for you. If not, then you're better off sticking with white noise.
Hack: Eat Almonds Every Night
You've heard all about the health benefits of almonds, but now TikTokers are declaring them to be the missing midnight snack to aid a good night's sleep.
The verdict: Eating almonds alongside protein can help you fall back to sleep, says Bastine, but they won’t help you to fall asleep any faster.
Wakefulness is often caused by an imbalance between two adrenal hormones (cortisol, which regulates blood sugar and is responsive to prolonged stress, and adrenaline). 'During sleep, we are fasting and, as a result, our blood sugar levels drop,' explains Bastine. 'Cortisol should be lower when falling asleep, before starting to slowly increase throughout the night - peaking first thing in the morning which wakes us up.'
The problem, however, arises when we are stressed, which is when adrenaline comes in stimulating the nervous system into overdrive. 'So when you wake up at 4am and you can’t get back to sleep, it's because your internal alarm system is flashing a red alert.'
One solution to this is to eat foods that are high in protein (like almonds) and fat later on in the evening, and then eat first thing in the morning, says Bastine. 'Over time, your body will adapt, especially if you are managing your daytime stress in conjunction with your diet.' You can also invest in a few sleep remedies too, like a weighted blanket (which helps stimulate ‘deep pressure therapy’ and reduce cortisol levels).
Hack 3: Invest in a sleep monitor
A few TikTokers have suggested that a sleep monitor might be the solution to poor sleep. Unfortunately, though, the jury's still out on that one.
The verdict: 'Buying a sleep monitor to track your sleep alone does not improve your sleep ability or sleep quality,' states Bastine. 'Sleep monitors provide us with blunt information about our nocturnal patterns, and what we do with that information will determine how well we sleep.'
She continues: 'It’s an information tool, just like any other – it is not a magic pill. Be responsive to the information it provides, adjust your pre-sleep habits and you’ll hopefully see some positive results.'
Hack 4: Acupressure
Seen all those acupressure techniques infiltrating your feed? TikTokers like Dr Eileen recommend a two-point acupressure technique (by rubbing your hands for 30 seconds three times over) to help you fall asleep faster –and there's science to suggest it might really work too.
The verdict: 'The research on acupressure to modify heart rate variability tells us that there is an immediate impact after the third stimulation, so long as it is spaced 20 minutes apart,' says Bastine.
The problem is, it's not long-lasting. Perhaps a great addition to your nighttime routine, this technique is probably best used in conjunction with other sleep techniques rather than as a sole solution.
Hack 5: Stop Taking Melatonin
Though melatonin – a hormone often prescribed when you are experiencing a sleep disruption – is recommended by doctors to help you adjust to a new time zone or when travelling, there are some risks involved, too
The main risk surfacing on TikTok outlines the dangers of taking melatonin for long periods of time (e.g. longer than two weeks), which could have the reverse effect on your sleep cycle.
The verdict: 'It is true that taking melatonin for longer periods of time for otherwise healthy individuals is inadvisable because you’ll condition your body to stop releasing the hormone naturally,' agrees Bastine.
Further to that comes the issue of over-the-counter melatonin supplements. Studies have found that melatonin products often contain inconsistent dose labelling, making it difficult to monitor your consumption, she adds.
'In the long term, taking melatonin products if you suffer from any mood disorders will exacerbate them because melatonin will spike serotonin.' It could contribute to heart issues, blood vessels, and brain dysfunction too, but still more research is needed.
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