These viral sleep hacks could solve your shut-eye

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·6-min read
Beautiful young woman with sleeping mask holding alarm clock. She is tired and lazy in morning.
Beautiful young woman with sleeping mask holding alarm clock. She is tired and lazy in morning.

Over the last few months, a whole host videos outlining various methods to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer have achieved viral status, thanks in no small part to the fact that so many of us are struggling with our slumber.

According to recent statistics 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep on at least a weekly basis, while nearly half of the UK have trouble falling asleep at least once a month.

It's little wonder that sleep hacks are so regularly swapped on social media in a bid to help a snooze-deprived nation.

From drinking lettuce water to journaling, wearing socks to bed and using a weighted blanket, have all been touted as ways to up the ZZZs on TikTok, but do these hacks have any scientific basis? And could they really be the secret to a better night’s shut eye?

Alex Nguyen, wellness expert at area52.com has trawled through the various viral sleep hacks to give the inside scoop on whether they really work. Here's the verdict.

Read more: Sleep calculator reveals precise time you should go to bed to not feel tired in the morning

Paradoxical Intention

Paradoxical Intention is based on the concept that performance anxiety prevents proper sleep. The theory is, the method can reduce performance anxiety about falling asleep by instructing patients to do the opposite - for example, get into bed and stay awake.

The idea is when someone with insomnia engages in the most feared behaviour, ie staying awake, performance anxiety related to trying to fall asleep slowly diminishes.

"This method works, as when we tell our brains to not think about something, we automatically do," explains Nguyen. "Therefore, if you think that you are not going to fall asleep, do the opposite and lie in bed with your eyes open and tell yourself you are going to stay awake, eventually your body will do the opposite and you’ll drift off to sleep."

The 4-7-8 breathing method can help you drift off. (Getty Images)
The 4-7-8 breathing method can help you drift off. (Getty Images)

Read more: Woman shares therapist's trick for falling asleep when you’re tossing and turning

4-7-8 Breathing

Developed by Dr Andrew Weil, an integrative medicine specialist at the University of Arizona, the breathing routine promises to help even the most hardened of insomniacs to drift off.

"The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds and exhaling for eight seconds," explains Nguyen.

"This technique can help to relax your body and therefore improve sleep," he adds.

"The 4-7-8 is one of the most successful breathing techniques to fall asleep faster," he continues. "This type of breathing is useful due to slowing down the various functions in your body that can keep you tense and anxious.

"Controlling your breathing techniques will allow you to relax your body, this will slow your heart rate and make it easier to drift off to sleep."

But according to Dr Weil consistency is key when it comes to putting the technique into practice.

"It's the regularity of doing this over a period of weeks, months, years that produces the changes that you want," he tells Medical News Today.

Watch: 7 expert-recommended ways to sleep better when you're stressed

Lettuce Water

The hack on TikTok suggests steeping a handful of lettuce leaves for several minutes in boiling water, then drinking the liquid, in order to fall asleep faster.

"Drinking lettuce water can help you sleep due to lettuce containing high levels of lactucarium," explains Nguyen.

"Commonly called 'lettuce opium,' this powerful substance is a sedative that helps promote feelings of relaxation and sleepiness."

If you're not keen on the idea of drinking your lettuce, he suggests focussing on including salads in your dinnertime routine if you're having trouble sleeping.

Journalling pre-bed can help you get a better night's sleep. (Getty Images)
Journalling pre-bed can help you get a better night's sleep. (Getty Images)

Read more: Weekend lie-ins 'rarely sufficient to erase sleep debt'

Journalling

Sleep journalling is simply the act of recording your thoughts and feelings a few hours before you fall asleep each night.

Previous research has linked writing with a lessening of anxiety, and also writing and better sleep. Meanwhile a further study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that writing to-do lists, rather than writing about completed tasks, helped people fall asleep an average of nine minutes faster—in about 16 minutes versus 25.

"Journalling before bed can help reduce bedtime worry and stress, increase sleep time, and improve sleep quality," explains Nguyen.

"It's better to journal your thoughts at night right before sleeping rather than in the morning because it helps you to clear your mind and therefore sleep better," he adds.

"Journaling can help you calm down, and put challenges in perspective by giving an opportunity to note down any emotions and thoughts that might otherwise keep you awake. Once we release these emotions, our mind will feel at ease and it's easier to relax and sleep."

To try the technique used in the study, he recommends setting aside 15 minutes each night for writing about a recent positive experience or any goals you need to complete that week.

Put your socks on

Earlier this year a doctor shared a simple, yet somewhat surprising, hack to help people drift off to sleep more quickly: wearing socks to bed.

But can slipping on your socks really transport you to the land of nod more easily?

"Temperature regulation is an important part of falling asleep and if you notice you’re struggling to sleep it's a good idea to pop your socks on," explains Nguyen.

"Wearing socks in bed increases blood flow to feet and heat loss through the skin, which helps lower core body temperature. In turn, this helps a person get to sleep faster."

Does wearing socks to bed really help you drift off faster? (Getty Images)
Does wearing socks to bed really help you drift off faster? (Getty Images)

Listing

There is nothing worse than being unable to turn off your brain when you’re trying to sleep.

Listing, also dubbed cognitive shuffling, is thought to lull the brain into that groggy state that precedes the sleep cycle by asking it to focus on random words and images without making connections between them.

Nguyen says this works because listing random items in your head can distract any worries or anxiety you may have and therefore can help you drift off.

Weighted Blankets

Many people believe that adding a weighted blanket to their sleep routine helps to reduce stress, promote calm and improve sleep for people with insomnia.

"A weighted blanket can help improve sleep quality while creating a deeper sleep," explains Nguyen. "The blanket's weighted pressure stimulates serotonin, the relaxation hormone, which helps you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel rested in the morning.

"Weighted blankets use deep pressure stimulation, which is thought to stimulate the production of a mood-boosting hormone (serotonin), reduce the stress hormone (cortisol), and increase levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep."

Watch: Can a smart bed improve your sleep?

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