Do These 6 Viral TikTok Sleep Hacks Actually Work? A Doctor Weighs In
TikTok is a wonderful platform for finding inspiration and discovering tips and tricks for everything from delicious and easy recipes to cleaning your home. But, when it comes to health advice social media can get a bit sketchy and it's worth leaving this area to medical experts.
There are countless sleep hack videos on TikTok which have intrigued us over the last couple of years that promise to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. We wanted an expert's opinion on which ones are actually worth giving a go if you're struggling to fall asleep at night. For this reason, we turned to Sydney-based medical doctor, Izzy Smith.
Izzy specialises in endocrinology and has a particular interest in diabetes, thyroid disorders, and hormone health in athletes. Below, she shares her expert commentary on six viral sleep hack TikToks and whether or not there's any validity to them.
A Doctor Weighs In on 6 Viral TikTok Sleep Hacks
1. Military method
The technique was developed in the military to allow soldiers to fall asleep at any time and place within just two minutes. The technique involves taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling, relaxing your chest, your stomach, down to your thighs, knees, legs and feet. It's also important to envision a calming scenario like being on a lake.
The verdict: Focusing on relaxation before bed is important, but there are no guarantees.
"Mental and physical relaxation is critical for initiating sleep, however, there is no guaranteed method or tool to relax that will result in sleep within two minutes. The level of mental arousal will impact how quickly someone can fall asleep and relaxation techniques are also learnt skills. Interestingly a study showed roughly 30% of the US army took sleeping tablets semi-regularly."
@justin_agustin Technique to falling asleep in 2 minutes! Insp. AsapSCIENCE on YT #sleep #fallasleep #insomnia #insomniac #learnontiktok #howto ♬ You - Petit Biscuit
2. Lettuce water
This bizarre hack involves adding lettuce to a mug of boiled water, taking it out after it has steeped for a few minutes, and then simply drinking it like tea to fall asleep faster and beat insomnia.
The verdict: It has similar benefits to herbal tea (without the great taste!)
"This TikTok trend was based on a study in mice looking at an extract in lettuce, especially romaine red lettuce called lactucarium that is thought to potentially have calming effects. The study actually looked at sleep duration rather than time to fall asleep. Mice were given a sedative and any mice who didn’t sleep within 15 minutes were excluded. They then found mice who had received the lettuce extract (at a much higher dose than you’d be able to have from drinking lettuce water) slept for slightly longer.
This does not correlate to lettuce water helping sleep in humans. Firstly, it’s a mice study and results don’t necessarily translate to humans. Furthermore, it was looking at duration of sleep rather than time to fall asleep and the dose of the extra would be much lower when making lettuce water at home. You’d likely have the same benefit having a herbal tea but it would taste and smell better."
@lizzymwong Reply to @nissaa.l what sorcery is this!!!! #lettucetea #lettucewater #whyamitired ♬ original sound - Lizzy Wong
3. Icing vagus nerve trick
This trend promises to be an effective way to ease anxiety, particularly when you're trying to get to sleep. It involves putting an ice pack wrapped in a towel on your chest while you lie down, which should calm you down.
The verdict: Cold temperature exposure is a useful tool, but it's better for mindfulness than sleep.
"The vagus nerve is the main nerve that activates the parasympathetic nervous system i.e., the “relax nervous system” and there is increased vagus nerve output during sleep. Poor sleep and insomnia are associated with excess sympathetic nervous system activity (fight or flight nervous system) and decrease para-sympathetic. Consequently, increasing vagal nerve output can promote sleep and there is research that demonstrates cool temperature exposure can increase vagal nerve activity.
Furthermore, the core body temperature generally needs to decrease by 1-2 degrees to initiate sleep and why sleeping in a cool room or a shower before bed can be helpful for sleep. Cold temperature exposure is a known useful tool during an anxiety attack but this is more to do with the tactile stimulation helping some refocus to the present i.e., mindfulness.
My main concern with this TikTok however, is that if someone is waking up in the night with severe anxiety, regardless of some potential benefit of cool temperature exposure, there is clearly big issues at play and the underlying anxiety disorder needs to be addressed."
@heyfrankiesimmons happy icing! #internetbigsister #polyvagaltheory #vagusnerve #anxietyrelief #healingjourney #nervoussystemhealth #selfcareroutine ♬ original sound - ✨ Frankie Simmons 🌹
4. Aminiam massage
In acupuncturist Josh Hanson's video, he recommends massaging a particular point behind your ear called the Animian in a circular motion 100-200 times. He claims doing so will help relax your nervous system, calm things down, and make sleep easier.
The verdict: This activity may assist relaxation but there is no magic place that will help sleep.
"The first red flag is that Animian is not a recognised anatomical location. Muscles called sub capital muscles insert at the back of the head and if stiff/sore e.g., from being on a computer all day, it is possible that it could impact sleep negatively.
Furthermore, the mindfulness activity of counting to 100 and massaging the neck may assist relaxation but there is nothing magical about massaging that particular place or for that period of time that will help sleep."
@doctorhanson Can’t sleep? Try this! #insomnia #sleep #over40 #sleephack ♬ original sound - Josh Hanson
5. Lower the thermostat
This hack simply suggests that lowering the temperature in our rooms is the key to falling asleep faster and staying asleep for longer. In Casey Rosenberg's video he says 18-20 degrees is the optimal temperature.
The verdict: Lower temperatures are better for sleep!
"Correct. You’re more likely to fall asleep if your core body temperature goes down 1-2 degrees. Having your bedroom cool can help you fall asleep and stay asleep."
@caseyrosenberg Follow for more physical and mental health tips! Sleep is SO important. #physicalhealth #mentalheath #selfimprovement #selfhelp #sleep ♬ Jazz - Aylior
6. Wear socks to bed
In Doctor Jess Andrade TikTok she explains how wearing socks to bed at night has hugely benefited her sleep habits.
The verdict: There is some evidence that wearing socks to bed will help.
"If our peripheries like our feet are cold, our body constricts those blood vessels to keep more blood around our internal organs and keep core body temperature normal. By wearing bed socks and having the feet warm, the peripheral blood vessels dilate which can has the opposite effect and can help decrease core body temperature. There is some evidence that wearing bed socks can help some people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer."
I wear socks to bed so don’t come at me im not weird♬ presleywalker - PresleyWalker
For more from Dr Izzy Smith follow her @doctorizzyksmith
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