Healthy Body: Myths about good sleep

The sleep before midnight is more about recuperating.

As you probably know, our sleep has different stages between bedtime and the time we wake up, and your night is divided into three cycles. Light sleep is the one we see most when falling asleep and waking up. Its duration is about 20 minutes. Then comes deep slow sleep, and this is more of a recuperative sleep stage. This is a stage that is more difficult to wake up from. Last but not least, REM sleep is the phase where brain activity is the most active. It is also during this stage that dreams appear.

It is early in the night that we experience the deepest sleep, about the first four hours. This sleep is very important. On the other hand, the second part of the night until waking up shows a light and paradoxical sleep.

Whether you go to bed before or after midnight, our first hours of sleep are the most important.

Does Valerian help you sleep?

Valerian, also known as "catnip", is best known for its soothing effects. It can reduce anxiety, nervousness or stress that can disturb our sleep. You can buy it in the form of tea, however be careful: it could interact with other medications, so talk to your doctor before using it.

Alcohol helps us sleep well?

Totally wrong! Although a couple glasses of wine seems to promote sleep, it will be quickly interrupted, fragmented and of lower quality. As our body metabolizes alcohol, our sleep becomes more agitated and can cause frequent awakenings. In addition, the length of our night will be shortened. 

Is physical activity our ally?

Intense physical activity done two or three hours before bedtime will disrupt sleep, however exercise done in the late afternoon or early evening could allow us to fall asleep more quickly. In addition, regular exercise improves the overall quality of sleep by increasing the amount of deep sleep.

Warm milk promotes sleep... true or false?

True and false. Milk contains an amino acid that plays a role in the ease of us falling asleep, however there doesn't seem to be enough amino acids to cause a real effect of drowsiness.

The perception of better sleep when we drink warm milk or any hot drink comes from the fact that the consumption of these products is integrated into our bedtime routine. In addition, consuming a hot drink lowers our body temperature, which is necessary for sleep. It is also proven that adopting a strict routine before sleeping greatly increases the ease of falling asleep.

Cellular and sleep, is this a good mix?

Our cellphones are now part of our everyday life... even in bed! Yet, its negative effects on our sleep are real.

Melatonin can help

This hormone, which is released at the end of the day, is naturally produced by our body. Although it is not directly connected to sleep, its secretion sends many signals that it is time to sleep. 

Keep counting sheep! I wish you a good night!

Josée Bergeron is a respiratory therapist specializing in sleep disorders since 2001 and part owner of the Complete Cpap Care sleep clinic. Follow them on Facebook too!

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