Five myths about sleep

January 18, 2011 

Don't hit the snooze button here. With all the information floating around about sleep, experts tell the truth about the myths and realities of getting a good night's rest. They weighed in on the following questions:

Question. Should you sleep in if you can, or let your alarm wake you?

Answer. Get as much sleep as you can whenever you can. But if sleeping in on the weekend, beware of having a hard time going to sleep Sunday night. It's best to keep the wake-up time as consistent as possible. Otherwise, the body's 24-hour biological clock will drift later during the weekend, which contributes to Sunday-night insomnia. Going to sleep earlier is a better way to make up lost sleep.

Q. Are items such as sleeping masks, ear plugs and sound machines effective gadgets, or just gimmicks?

A. It depends on the person. If outside lights and sounds disrupt your sleep, then using such products to reduce light and sound might help you get a better night's sleep. They are big business -- sleeping aids including pills, noise machines, aromatherapy and more are a $23.7-billion-a-year industry in the U.S.

Q. What foods help you stay awake or wake you up?

A. To stay up, try an energizing snack during the day that is a combo of fruits or vegetables and protein. Produce provides immediate energy and hydration, and protein extends the energy level with the prolonged release of calories. Think apples and almonds, or string cheese and a pear. Stay away from classic sugary energy zappers such as candy bars, cookies and soda, which are good only for a short-term energy boost.

Q. Should you exercise before going to bed?

A. Research suggests exercise in general is good for sleep health. But working out too close to bed time can cause some people to have trouble falling asleep because their bodies are revved up. If exercising at night, finish the workout at least two hours before going to sleep because it can take some time for your body to calm down to a relaxed state. Other individuals might not have an issue.

Q. Will having a drink before bedtime help you sleep?

A. Alcohol might help you fall asleep because it's a depressant, but it will disrupt your sleep for the rest of the night. As the alcohol is cleared from your blood stream and brain, your body becomes more alert. Also, alcohol is a diuretic so that means more bathroom trips at night.

Sources: James Wyatt, director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center; Marketdata Enterprises; Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association; Geralyn Coopersmith, National Director of Equinox Fitness Training Institute

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