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Struggling to sleep? Psychologist reveals the viral hacks that work and the ones that don’t

SLEEP can be a struggle and many people find it hard to drift off to the land of nod due to the stresses of everyday life.

If you’re constantly tossing and turning at night then it’s likely you’ve turned to the internet in hopes of a ‘guaranteed’ sleep hack.

Studies shows that people who suffer with sleep deprivation are more likely to experience mental distress

But how helpful are these so-called remedies?

Speaking to The Sun, psychologist Hope Bastine said it’s no surprise many people are looking to sites like TikTok for help.

The #sleeptips hashtag alone has amassed 274.5 million trending views on TikTok. 

Studies show that people who suffer with sleep deprivation are more likely to experience mental distress.

One paper, published in 2014 by experts at the Department of Leisure Sports, Nambu University, Gwangju, in Korea, stated that irregular sleep and sleep disorders can cause anxiety and stress.

In order to prevent this, there are techniques you can use.

However, with so much information online to wade through, Hope, resident sleep expert for sleep tech firm Simba, has revealed which of the most popular tricks you should try and which you should steer clear of…

1. Brown noise

The hack: This trick involves listening to brown noise which is said to help you rest a tired mind – but it’s traditionally used for ADHD patients.

The verdict: For starters, Hope said it’s important to distinguish white noise from brown.

She explained: “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.

“Whereas 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.

“However, if brown noise is a sound you have grown used to listening to when you are falling asleep, then it will work for you. If not, white noise is the way to go.”

The guru added that you should also ensure your surroundings are calm and tranquil and that you invest in good-quality bedding.

2. Eat almonds

The hack: TikTokers using this trick say they eat almonds every night to help them fall asleep.

The verdict: Scoffing almonds won’t help you fall asleep any faster.

However, Hope added that if you don’t struggle to fall asleep but do have problems staying asleep, then this tip is one for you. 

She explained: “Often an imbalance between two adrenal hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – can cause wakefulness.

“While cortisol regulates blood sugar, it’s also responsive to prolonged stress.

“During sleep, we are fasting, and as a result, our blood sugar levels drop.

“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.”

However, problems arise when we are under stress: “Cortisol levels are dysregulated, turning what should be a steady slow rise into a blunt, flat cortisol level.

“This is when adrenaline rushes in to save us. In the absence of cortisol, adrenaline arrives with a sudden shock, stimulating our nervous system into overdrive.

“So when you wake up between 2-4am, you can’t get back to sleep because your internal alarm system is flashing a red alert.”

In order to fix this, Hope said we should eat foods that are high in protein and fat later on in the evening, such as almonds alongside a turkey salad – and then eat again first thing in the morning.

“Over time, your body will adapt, especially if you are managing your daytime stress in conjunction with your diet,” she added.

3. Buy a sleep monitor

The hack: Getting a sleep monitor in the form of a wearable device is another hack many TikTokers are fond of.

Watches such as FitBit and Apple watch have a sleep function that allows you to track your different cycles of sleep.

The verdict: As jazzy of some of these watches may look, Hope said wearing one of these devices will not improve your snooze.

“Sleep monitors provide us with blunt information about our nocturnal patterns, and what we do with that information will determine how well we sleep.

“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,” she said.

4. Hand rubbing

The hack: This refers to a two-point acupressure technique to help you feel calmer, therefore helping you fall asleep.

The verdict: Hope said this could work in the short-term, but shouldn’t be relied on.

“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.

“The desired effect, however, is not long-lasting.

“If you like this technique, it may be useful to include it as part of your holistic pre-sleep routine, but don’t rely on it on its own,” she said.

5. Stop supplements

The hack: Melatonin is a known supplement for sleep, but some TikTokers have said coming off it has better results.

The verdict: Hope explained that melatonin is a hormone often prescribed when you are experiencing a sleep disruption, for example, changing time zones or for patients with a biological sleep disorder.

She said that doctors do recommend taking melatonin – but only for about two weeks to help you adjust to a new time zone.

Hope explained: “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.   

“Sleep scientist Matthew Walker tested the efficacy of over-the-counter melatonin supplements.

“He found that only five per cent are effective and of good quality.

“Studies have also found that melatonin products often contain inconsistent dose labelling, making it difficult to monitor your consumption.

“Hence, it is unlikely you’ll get quality melatonin from the products.

“In the long term, taking melatonin products if you suffer from any mood disorders will exacerbate the issues because melatonin will spike serotonin.

“Additionally, it could contribute to heart issues, blood vessels, and brain dysfunction, but the research on this is inconclusive.

“Further research needs to be done on the long-term use of melatonin products. “

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