A woman scrolling on her phone in bed at night

Do TikTok’s most popular sleep hacks actually work? We asked an expert to take a closer look

Welcome to Sleepless Nights, Stylist’s weekly series designed to help you put your anxiety and worries to bed. This week, we’re investigating whether TikTok’s most popular sleep hacks are actually worth trying.

From time-saving makeup techniques to gardening hacks that help you to keep your plants alive, TikTok is a treasure trove of advice – especially when it comes to sleep.

Over the last couple of months, countless videos outlining methods to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer have achieved viral status, thanks in no small part to the sheer number of people who struggle with their sleep.

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But do these hacks have any scientific basis? And could they really be the secret to a better night’s rest? 

We asked Stephanie Romiszewski, consultant physiologist and director of the Sleepyhead Clinic in Exeter, to give us the inside scoop on some of TikTok’s biggest sleep trends. Here’s what she had to say.  

  • Reducing your bedroom temperature

    “It is true that as your body is winding down for sleep, you’ll enter a bit of a temperature trough,” Romiszewski explains. “So, the more you can help with that by reducing the temperature in the room, the better. You need to sleep in a temperature that is a few degrees lower than usual.

    “However, everybody will be slightly different, so I would say one or two degrees lower than you usually would live in – maybe not as cold as the woman sets her room in the video!”

    Romiszewski continues: “However, if you have a chronic sleep disorder and you’re trying to fix a problem with getting to sleep, the simple act of changing your temperature isn’t going to resolve a chronic sleep disorder – you’ll need proper behavioral training for that where we sort of rewire the pattern of insomnia in the brain, and no number of environmental changes are going to help with a chronic sleep disorder.

    “I think that’s really important to mention, because as much as it would be the dream to have one tiny little hack resolve a problem that’s been plaguing you for a long time, it’s not realistic and it’s not scientific.” 

  • Drinking lettuce water

    “There’s no significant evidence that downing something as disgusting as this is going to have any effect on your sleep whatsoever,” Romiszewski says.

    “It’s also going to set your metabolism off – it may not have many calories in it, but your body will want to start doing some digesting – and you don’t want to be metabolising when you’re sleeping, as one will be impaired: either the metabolising or the sleeping.” 

  • Trying the 4-7-8 breathing technique

    “This is an interesting one,” Romiszewski begins. “If you’ve got a nice strong sleep drive – the thing that makes you feel sleepy and able to sleep – and you choose to partake in a relaxation exercise such as a breathing technique, that can be a really wonderful way to relax, which is only going to help the sleep process and facilitate the sleepiness you need to fall asleep.

    “However, if you’ve got a chronic sleep disorder where you do not get sleepy, then again, you’re not going to fix it with a relaxation technique. There’s no science or evidence that shows that relaxation techniques make you sleep – what they can do is relax you, and if that drive to sleep is there then that can lead you to fall asleep.” 

So, is trying a TikTok sleep hack a good idea?

While Romiszewski admits that some of the above techniques could help to aid the sleep process, she’s clear that they won’t help someone who isn’t sleepy in the first place – a problem many who struggle with their sleep usually face. In fact, she warns, relying too heavily on sleep hacks and rituals to solve your sleep problems could actually make things worse.

“The reality is that there are several things that you could do that might have a minor impact on your sleep, but if you fill your time doing all these things, not only would your sleep still not be perfect (because there’s no such thing), but you would probably become very obsessive and ritualistic,” Romiszewski says.  

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“The problem with seeing these kinds of hacks as solutions to chronic sleep problems (sleep problems which last over three months) is that, when they work, you might start thinking, ‘That really worked for me once therefore I must do it every single night’. And I find people doing these obsessive, ritualistic routines even though they don’t really work, just because they have this anxiety that if they don’t do them, things could be even worse.

“Yes, it’s important to look after your sleep, but it’s also important to understand that your sleep will wax and wane and change – it’s not a linear process, just like life isn’t a linear process. And your sleep will alter because there are so many variables in our lives that we can’t control.”

Romiszewski concludes: “If you have a chronic sleep disorder, you need to get support from an accredited sleep specialist who can help you with the rewiring of your brain, which is essentially what’s going on when you’ve got insomnia.” 

To find out more about chronic sleep problems and how to seek help, you can visit the NHS website or check out the Sleepyhead Clinic.

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