Is a Good Night's Sleep Merely a Dream? 5 Tips for Sweet Slumber

March 10, 2023

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Sleep is essential to your physical and mental health. It helps your body repair itself and your brain process memories of the day's events. And considering you spend up to a third of your life sleeping, that slumber time should count!

But do naps really make up for sleep lost the night before? Are screens really as bad for sleep as we hear? Adventist Health Portland sleep medicine physician Chloe Manchester, DO, busts some sleep myths to pave the way to ultimate snoozing.

Myth: Naps make up for lost sleep.

Fact: A siesta is reenergizing, but it can't replace a good night's sleep. A nap doesn't move you through the essential stages of sleep you get with a full night of sleep. “Daytime naps should be avoided if possible,” says Dr. Manchester. “If a nap is needed for safety, try to take your nap in the early afternoon and limit the nap to 30 minutes or less so it doesn't interfere with your nighttime sleep.”

Myth: You'll sleep better If you exercise at night before bed.

Fact: Exercise can help you sleep, but earlier in the day is usually best. Why? “Exercise right before bed can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Dr. Manchester. “It’s stimulating and raises your core body temperature, which isn’t good for your body’s natural transition to drowsiness.”

If you're not a morning person, don't ditch exercise altogether. Instead, aim to complete vigorous exercise at least one to two hours before turning in. If that's impossible, light stretching or yoga may be more beneficial.

Myth: A nightcap will help you sleep more soundly.

Fact: Alcohol makes you tired and can help you doze off more quickly — at first. But as it works its way through your body, alcohol produces chemicals that interfere with the quality of your sleep. Alcohol can also:

  • Worsen snoring.
  • Increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea (a potentially serious medical condition).
  • Cause a reduction in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when most dreaming occurs.

Myth: Turning on the TV or scrolling on your phone will help you doze off.

Fact: While a TV can initially lull you to sleep, its changing volume and lighting can jolt you awake and interfere with a solid slumber. A better bet: Tune out the TV and turn on a fan or sound machine instead for a dose of steady background noise.

“The blue light from phones, tablets and computers inhibits your natural melatonin production,” says Dr. Manchester. “Avoid these devices, use blue light blocking glasses or turn on the blue light filter if you’re suffering from insomnia.”

Myth: If I’m struggling to fall asleep, I should just stay in bed.

Fact: It’s perfectly alright — and advised — to get up and move to a different location. “After about 20 minutes, if you haven’t fallen asleep, stop trying,” says Dr. Manchester. “Get out of bed and find someplace comfortable and dark. Sit on the sofa or in a comfortable chair and do an activity that you find calming. Avoid looking at your phone and checking the time. Once your eyes start to feel heavy, head back to bed.”

“When you lie in bed awake trying to sleep, wanting and hoping to go back to sleep, you are training yourself to

Tried everything? Turn to our team for a better night’s sleep

If sleep problems are disrupting a good night’s rest for you or the people you live with, you’re not alone. Our sleep care providers evaluate and treat all sleep disorders and work with you manage and treat your condition. Learn more and schedule an appointment today.

Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Sleep Foundation