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Be a swinger: Seven of the strangest sleep tips from science

Swinging in a hammock is the best way to take a nap, new research shows. Here are some other unusual suggestions that might help catapult you into the land of Nod.

Great news for pirates: hammocks are the best way to sleep
Great news for pirates: hammocks are the best way to sleep
Image: kooklanekookla via Flickr

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS that the best way to get to sleep quickly is to jump into a hammock.

The rocking motion has a measurable effect on our brainwaves that helps us get to sleep faster and improves the quality of naps, according to scientists at the University of Geneva. They studied a group of nappers and found that those in gently swinging hammocks got better shut-eye than the ones in stationary beds, the Independent reports.

But hammocks are far from the first thing to be touted as an insomnia remedy. Here we look at some other suggestions to reduce the snooze you lose.

1. Monkey around
Bananas contain tryptophan, which helps the body produce snooze-inducing chemicals serotonin and melatonin; so enjoying one or two of the monkeys’ favourites before bed could help you drop off. Other sleepy snacks include grapefruit, almonds, peanuts and honey. Conversely, feasting on tomatoes and onions may keep you awake.

2. Keep a cool head
Cooling the brain can reduce the time it takes for insomniacs to fall asleep, according to enterprising scientists who did just that. They rigged up test subjects with soft plastic caps and pumped cold water through them. Those with the coldest heads slept the best – apparently because the low temperatures slow down an essential part of the brain.

3. Blank your friends
Chatting away on your mobile to friends or relatives before bed can cause insomnia, according to a 2008 study. The research suggested that phone radiation causes changes in brain activity which mean it takes longer to get to sleep – as well as causing headaches and “confusion” in some subjects.

4. Kill the lights
Bad news for bedtime readers: even before you get between the sheets, having bright lights around you can result in poor shut-eye. A study in the US showed spending time in well-lit areas stops the brain producing melatonin, which helps the body off to sleep. It’s not known whether eating a box of bananas would counter the effect…

5. Take a bath, but time it right
Our body temperatures routinely drop by around one degree during the night – and encouraging this fall could push us into the land of Nod, a study published in 1997 suggests. The researchers proposed that taking a hot bath 90 minutes or so before bedtime would cause body temperature to rise, and then fall again – making sleep a doddle.

6. Go off the grid
While reading TheJournal.ie is of course the perfect way to relax and unwind, research has shown that people who spend time just before bed online or watching TV are more likely to report that they haven’t had enough sleep in the morning.

7. Don’t be a bully
Call it karma or whatever you like – but just this month, a study showed that school bullies are twice as likely to suffer from sleeping problems as their well-behaved classmates. (However, it’s not clear whether it’s the bullying that causes insomnia, or the other way around.)

And finally…
Some good news. Just five hours of sleep a night is perfectly fine and could even help you live longer, according to a study published last year. The researchers followed 450 middle-aged and elderly people for 14 years – and found that those who slept between five and six-and-a-half hours a night were the most likely to still be alive at the end of the study period.

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About the author:

Michael Freeman

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