Your Grandma's Sleep Advice: Sound or Superstition?
You can almost guarantee that as soon as you mention your insomnia, someone will give you a piece of sage sleep advice that you first heard from your grandma.
But as often as you’ve heard them, these old wives’ tales or “Grandma knows best” catchphrases may leave you feeling skeptical.
Before you write them off for good, read on — because some of them may actuallyhelp you sleep.
The 4 Best Grandmother-Tested Sleep Tips
1. Drink Warm Milk Before Bed
Ever been told to drink a warm glass of milk before bed?
Well… it may actually work.
Assuming you’re not lactose intolerant, milk has been shown to produce drowsiness in most people. That’s because milk contains trace amounts of thechemical tryptophan, which helps the body produce melatonin.
Melatonin is a crucial hormone the body needs to regulate its sleep cycle — so drinking milk can directly help your body relax into sleep. It should be noted, though, that milk alone will not solve serious cases of insomnia. It’s only effective when used in combination with other techniques to bring on the Zs.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you may be wondering: will dairy-free milk have the same effect? The answer is “maybe.” Drinking warm almond or soy milk can be relaxing — and when your tummy is full and warm, it tends to make you sleepy… so there’s no harm in having a glass before bed.
2. Count Sheep
Counting sheep is an age-old method of falling asleep.
Back in the day, rural farmers would combat sleepless nights by envisioning endless cycles of sheep jumping over a gate or hedge.
We now understand that these farmers were using a technique called visualization — and it’s as effective now as it was then. It works because bringing calming, even monotonous, images to mind helps the mind slowly wind down and relax.
Counting sheep is a particularly useful tool if your insomnia is stress related because, when stressed, the mind has a hard time “shutting down.” You may experience racing thoughts, even anxiety, as you contemplate the day ahead. Instead, pick a peaceful image in your mind. Try to focus on every detail of that image, down to the way it smells and feels to the touch.
While you may prefer to count palm trees waving on a tropical beach, instead of woolly sheep, the result can be very much the same.
3. Put Some Socks On
This tip may initially feel like the strangest one on the list — but many grandmas have sworn by this trick for better sleep.
There are a couple of theories as to why it works (and it does work):
The first is the most obvious: that socks help to keep your feet warm, which prevents you from waking during the night if your feet get too cold. Your body temperature drops as you sleep — so without socks, it’s easy to wake up with icy toes even if your feet feel fine when you go to bed.
The second theory is that socks can boost circulation in your feet. This increased circulation means your body doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood, which results in better rest.
4. Take a Warm Bath
…or a warm shower.
This piece of advice can be very helpful for sleep, because warm water directly relaxes tired muscles. Also, if a warm bath at night is part of your bedtime routine, the bath itself can become a trigger that tells your brain to start winding down for sleep.
Another reason warm baths induce sleep comes from how quickly they change your body temperature. During a bath (or shower), your body temperature rises — and when you get out, it drops rapidly. The change mimics what happens to your body temperature when you fall asleep.
All in all, warm baths help prime your body for sleep, so it’s easier to fall asleep when you get into bed.
Send a Thank-You Card to Your Granny
It turns out grandmas really do know best — at least when it comes to sleep.
Though your grandma’s tips may not be the most “scientific” of methods to help you drift off to la-la land, they’re nothing if not tried and true.
So the next time you tell someone that you have difficulty sleeping and they suggest you drink some warm milk before bed, don’t shrug them off — heartily agree with them and pour yourself a glass. And for nightly benefits, consider incorporating them into your bedtime routine to see if they can help you catch a few more hours of sleep.
(1) Stutzer, Abbie.“Does warm milk help you sleep?" Tuck, 6 Jul. 2018, www.tuck.com/does-warm-milk-help-sleep/
(2) Kosik, Alli H. “13 Old Wives Tales About Sleep Cures That Are True." Bustle, 1 Feb. 2018, www.bustle.com/p/13-old-wives-tales-about-sleep-cures-that-are-true-8019690
What are some old wives' tales about sleep that you know? 👵
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