2 May 2022

TikTok's Sleep Hacks: Do they work?

On TikTok, it is really easy to fall down a rabbit hole of various videos, from the latest celebrity drama to cooking videos. One area of TikTok that is growing in popularity is its collection of sleep hack videos. We are here to help you understand the science behind some of these viral sleep-based hacks that you may have come across on your ‘for you’ page, as well as if there’s any truth in what they are telling you.

4-7-8 breathing

Viral videos from @Maxandfacts and other creators claim that the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help you fall asleep within minutes. 

His video claims that all you need to do is lay in your bed and close your mouth, then breathe through your nose for four seconds. Then, hold your breath for seven seconds and before finally releasing your breath for eight seconds, with a whooshing sound. By repeating this four times, it’s said that you can fall asleep in as little as one minute. 

The science behind 4-7-8 breathing

When focusing on breathing, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation. When you activate this, your body suppresses the opposite system, (the sympathetic nervous system) that is responsible for your stress response.

While there is a lack of research available on this exact technique, there is evidence that suggests that deep breathing exercises do have some benefits. A study on people who suffer from insomnia discovered that carrying out deep breathing exercises, 20 minutes before going to sleep, saw an improvement in the quality of sleep.

Deep breathing exercises are also said to help reduce stress, improve motor memory and improve pain processing.

Sunset lamps

Sunset lamps have been a viral product on TikTok for many months. Some people buy the sunset lamps for taking Instagram photos or to create mood lighting in their home, but these lamps could also have a beneficial effect on your sleep habits.

The science behind sunset lamps

There is research that suggests that light therapy lamps could help people feel more relaxed and could help boost serotonin levels. The simple act of turning on the light in the evening can help your mind make the conscious switch to wind down and relax before bed. 

The yellow and orange hues seen in a sunset lamp could stimulate melatonin production. It could also be beneficial to use a light with the yellow and orange hue rather than a blue or white light if you need to get up through the night. This is because it could prevent you from fully waking up, which in turn can help you get back to sleep more easily.

The sunset lamps and other light therapy lamps could help people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A study on the effectiveness of light therapy lamps claims that it can help people who do have SAD, but more research with larger sample sizes need to be carried out to truly understand the benefits of the use of light therapy.

The two-minute military sleep hack

After going viral with fitness influencer, Justin Agustin, this two-minute military sleep hack has had thousands of videos made about it. In the video, Agustin claims this technique is used in the military to allow soldiers to fall asleep anywhere quickly and easily, and after practising this every night for six weeks, 96% of people should fall asleep within two minutes.

However, observing the rising rates of insomnia around the globe, it is clear that this claim is false.

The viral hack suggests systematically relaxing each body part while thinking about warm and relaxing images in your mind to help you fall asleep. Start by relaxing the muscles in your foreheads, then eyes, cheeks, and jaw, all while focusing on your breathing, and continue down the rest of your body, making sure no muscles are tense.

As for the relaxing images in your mind, you’re meant to think of a warm feeling flowing from your head to your fingertips while carrying out deep breathing. Then you need to continue imagining that sensation down to your heart, then all the way down to your legs and toes.

The science behind the two-minute military sleep hack

This is a technique used in psychology that evidence shows to be useful when managing stress and anxiety. Although many commenters and other TikTok videos claim this works, currently there is no publicly available research to determine whether or not this hack works for getting a good night’s sleep. 

Drinking lettuce water

At the end of 2021, TikTok was filled with videos of drinking hot lettuce water to make you feel sleepy, and several users promoted a good night’s sleep because of this. To make the drink, all you need to do is pour boiling water over some chopped romaine lettuce and drink the lettuce water before going to bed.

The science behind drinking lettuce water

The only relevant scientific research was a 2017 study that was carried out on mice, on the sleep-inducing effects of various types of lettuce. The study showed that romaine lettuce is a source of sleep-potentiating material and antioxidant polyphenols. The seed and leaf extract from the romaine extract were said to induce sleeping behaviour in the mice. There have been no studies to see if this is equally effective on humans, and further research needs to be carried out before it is recommended by experts as a sleep aid.





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