Healthy Sleeping Habits

13 Controversial Questions About Sleep, Answered and Finally Put To Rest

Mary Grace Garis

Mary Grace GarisSeptember 4, 2020

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Team Well+Good is eternally questing for ways to snag a perfect night of sleep, and we know you are, too. Last year we surveyed 1,500 readers about the matter and found that 83 percent say that sleep deprivation compromises their quality of life. To help get to the bottom of what stands between you and gold-star-quality REM, we’re committed to investigating questions about sleep, sleep tech, and trying the latest products on the market to optimize.

While we’ll continue to snuggle sleep robots and crash on smart mattresses in the name of researching questions about sleep, we wanted to address what we’ve learned to this point. Below, find 13 of the most common (and, in some cases, bizarre) questions about sleep, investigated and answered.

Below, get answers to 13 of the most controversial questions about sleep.

1. Can you work in your bed and still get a good night’s sleep?

If you’ve transitioned fully to the WFH life during the pandemic, this question might be weighing on your mind because you, quite simply, may not have many options of where you can work. Despite changing time, sleep experts still frown upon mixing business with pleasure in such a way.

“I’m not a huge fan of lingering in bed overall, since spending more time in bed can actually worsen insomnia for some people,” Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep psychologist and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia, previously told Well+Good. “The bed is for sleep and sex.”

“I’m not a huge fan of lingering in bed overall, since spending more time in bed can actually worsen insomnia for some people. The bed is for sleep and sex.” —Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep psychologist

But if working in your bedroom is unavoidable, a few things can help: decluttering your room, putting your devices on snooze, and setting strong boundaries between work hours and sleep hours.

Verdict: You can make it work, but it isn’t advised.

2. Do you need less sleep as you get older?

There’s a kernel of truth in this tidbit that your nana may or may not humble brag about all the time. In the journey from newborn baby to senior, you’ll typically require less sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a baby requires 14 to 17 daily hours of zzz’s, but by the time you’re 65+, you might need more like seven to nine hours. But that’s not because, like, you have all this energy.

“As we age, we tend to have less deep sleep, with more broken sleep and awakenings throughout the night,” Dr. Harris says. “Naps and dozing occur more throughout the day as well. When taken into account, an average older adult should get approximately the same amount of sleep as [they] did normally before aging, maybe half an hour to an hour less. And this is because the new, extra broken sleep in the middle of the night is made up for by those little naps.”

Verdict: Technically yes, but your sleep quality can get shoddier.

3. When should you stop drinking coffeeto sleep soundly at night?

According to Dan Reardon, MD, the CEO and co-founder of FitnessGenes who has studied how coffee affects people, that really all depends on your metabolism. “The speed at which you metabolize caffeine creates a natural cut off point through the day,” he previously told Well+Good. “Whereas a fast metabolizer might clear 100-200 milligrams—what’s in a typical cup of coffee—in just a few hours, it might take a slow metabolizer 12-hours-plus, which could impact sleep.”

For slow coffee metabolizers, Dr. Reardon suggests a cut-off time between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., because it can take your body a full eight hours to process said caffeine burst. But even if it goes right through your system, fast metabolizers should have their last cup no later than 5 p.m., when it’s time to start prepping for bed anyway.

Verdict: Pay attention to how you process coffee, but 5 p.m. is an absolute deadline for everyone.

4. Does counting sheep actually work?

Counting sheep is perhaps the original sleep hack many of us learned as children, and it’s essentially just the meditative practice of “susokukan,” or “observing the breath with numbers.” “Counting sheep can help to calm the mind because it gives you a specific and neutral focus, which allows the busy, active mind to settle down,” meditation teacher Stephen Sokoler and founder and CEO of Journey Meditation previously told Well+Good.

To that end, it doesn’t have to be sheep! It could be goats, it could be pigs, it could be water buffalo, it could be elephants, it could be flamingos. Your brain doesn’t give a damn.

Verdict: It could, and don’t be afraid to switch it up with other members of the animal kingdom.

5. Can you sleep well with the light on?

I’m actually afraid of the dark, and I do sleep with the light on…but not well. That’s because, as the American Medical Association points out, blue or white nighttime light suppresses melatonin release and interrupts circadian biological rhythms. Also, the dark just helps us know that it’s bedtime, so keeping your lamps on does not help.

That being said, there’s research that supports that red light will allow you to sleep soundly, albeit not as well as straight darkness. So if you need a night light, lean toward warmer shades always.

Verdict: Maybe, so long as you have the right (read: red) light.

6. How many days do you feel sleepy after Daylight Saving Time?

Um, because it feels like forever. Though this is specifically a twice-a-year-problem in most regions of the country, rest assured that it takes the body only five to seven days to adjust to the new time, lighting, and alarms post-Daylight Saving Time. Taking day walks or doing light aerobics for 20 to 30 minutes (but not close to bed) can help expedite the process.

Verdict: You’ll probably feel on track in a week, max.

7. Does the full moon mess with your sleep?

According to a sleep study analyzing a million nights of sleep, on nights of the full moon, people required 9 percent more time to fall asleep, and clocked 7 percent less deep sleep. And according to Quentin Soulet de Brugiere, co-founder and CTO of Dreem, the cultural association of the moon evoking bad behavior is what might impact our sleep.

“I have clients who tell me they feel the effect of full moons in relation to not being able to sleep, in particular,” astrologer Courtney O’Reilly previously told Well+Good. “Some also say they feel a little drained or depleted.”

Verdict: A little, so just get the lavender oil flowing on those wild, restless nights.

8. Does sleeping naked help you sleep?

Research tends to support that sleeping nude cools the body down, and lower temps are optimum for a good night’s rest. And from my personal experience, doing so will also make you feel more confident!

Verdict: It can, but definitely make sure to wash your sheets regularly.

9. Is it bad if your partner doesn’t want to spoon while sleeping?

It’s may be typical for couples to cuddle up during the honeymoon phase, but a lot of people drift apart over time…to the other side of the bed. And a lot of people (especially light sleepers!) just like their own space. None of this means any specific sleep position is a sign of a doomed relationship. “One of the basic things about those positions is that they’re just not that comfortable for a long period of time, so we would never think of them as sleeping positions,” body-language expert and co-author 365 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep Maryann Karinch previously told Well+Good. “We would think of them as ‘waking-up positions’ or ‘going-to-bed positions.’”

“One of the basic things about [cuddling] positions is that they’re just not that comfortable for a long period of time, so we would never think of them as sleeping positions.” —body-language expert Maryann Karinch

In fact, if you’re facing away from one another, back-to-back, that could signify a strong, secure independent relationship. “You’re very secure back-to-back,” Karinch says. “You’re saying, ‘Hey, I feel good with you.’”

Verdict: Chill, you’re going to be fine.

10. Can hypnosis help you sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation considers auditory hypnosis as a helpful tool for falling asleep, as does Well+Good writer Allie Flinn. Likewise, a small 2014 study from the University of Zurich, Switzerland found that “young, healthy, suggestible females” who listened to audio hypnosis before sleeping had 80 percent more slow-wave sleep. So to the point of “suggestible,” if you think hypnosis isn’t a thing, this probably isn’t for you, my friend.

Verdict: Worth a shot if you believe in it.

11. Are sleep and rest the same?

Rest, here, is loosely defined as not sleep—not even napping, just lying in bed and staring at the window having an existential crisis (or whatever). It’s basically not being engaged in anything mentally or physically, and while that can be good for hitting your reset button, it ain’t the same as sleep.

“There are restorative and regenerative properties of sleep that don’t happen during during any other state,” Elliott Exar, MD, a sleep specialist with John Hopkins Medicine, previously told Well+Good.

Verdict: No, but feel free to embrace some Niksen nonetheless.

12. Can orgasming help you fall asleep?

“When you have an orgasm, you release a cocktail of hormones that helps you feel relaxed and sleep better,” Rebecca Alvarez Story, sexologist and founder of Bloomi previously told Well+Good. “Think of this cocktail as the body’s natural sleep remedy.” This includes endorphins, vasopressin, oxytocin, norepinephrine, serotonin, and prolactin. The cuddle hormone in particular has an important role in this.

“During sexual arousal, levels of oxytocin can increase significantly, and this can have a calming effect on the mind and body and induce a restful sleep,” sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, told Well+Good. “Some research suggests that the process of quashing sexual desire that occurs post-orgasm can result in slumber inducing chemicals that promote some drowsiness.”

Verdict: Best. Sleep Hack. Ever.

13. What’s the best noise for sleep?

White noisePink noiseBrown noise?

Verdict: Brown noise, don’t @ us.

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