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Common Sleep Myths Debunked

Bing Crosby famously sang that "count[ing his] blessings instead of sheep" helped him fall asleep. But do counting your blessings and other favorite sleep remedies and sleep aids really work?

We decided to investigate some of these commonly held beliefs about sleep to see which are true and which are nothing more than a dream.

MYTH: Alcohol will help you sleep

Many people think a night cap will help them fall into a deep sleep, and they are partly right. While a drink may help you fall asleep, it will also cause you to have a more restless and disturbed sleep. You might wake up often during the night or earlier than you want the next morning.

MYTH: Working out right before bed can help you sleep

Regular exercise can help you fall asleep, but make sure you work out a couple of hours before you go to bed. Exercise makes your mind more alert and raises your body temperature, both of which make it hard for you to fall asleep right away.

MYTH: Watching TV can help get ready you for sleep

For many of us, watching TV or going on our laptop/tablet, is a common way to wind down at the end of the day. Rather than calming your mind and making it ready for sleep, TVs and laptops/tablets may in fact fire up your mind. Instead of leaving your TV on late at night, try reading a book or listening to music.

MYTH: If you wake up in the middle of the night, don't get out of bed

If you wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time falling back asleep, you may think it's best to stay in bed. But, you may become restless and upset, leading you to feel even more awake. Don't be afraid to get out of bed if you cannot fall asleep 15 to 20 minutes after you wake up. Go to some other room and do something calming like reading or listening to music.

MYTH: Counting sheep helps you fall asleep

Counting sheep is one of the most thought-of remedies to help you fall asleep. But, when experts at Oxford University put this theory to the test they found that it doesn't work. People in the study who were asked to count sheep took 20 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who were asked to think of calming images such as a beach.

MYTH: Drinking a glass of milk before bed will put you to sleep

Your parents may have given you a glass of warm milk when you were a child to help you go to sleep, a custom that you may carry on even now. But, according to the Mayo Clinic there are no specific types of foods that can help you sleep. A snack before bed may help, though. Unless you are lactose intolerant, a glass of warm or cold milk before you go to sleep can't hurt.

If you often have trouble falling asleep, you may have a sleep disorder. Talk with your doctor first. He or she may be able to figure out why you are having sleep problems and can suggest lifestyle changes that can help you.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, National Sleep Foundation, WebMD

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