11 of the Biggest Sleep Myths Debunked
When it comes to sleep, many of us are on a continual quest for a restful night. From practising mindfulness before bed to investing in breathable cotton bedding, there’s a whole host of techniques that can assist. Yet with long-held myths about sleep, it can be hard to decipher what helps or hinders.
Although we understand that getting a good night’s rest plays an important role in reducing our risk of disease, improving immunity and enhancing productivity, what exactly is the truth about those pervasive sleep myths?
In this blog post, our DUSK team has come together to debunk the biggest sleep myths and finally reveal the facts. Does cheese really give you nightmares? Do you seriously swallow eight spiders every year? And is it possible to catch up on lost kip?
Myth: A nightcap will help you nod off
Fact: Alcohol impacts how well you sleep
A tipple before turning in is supposed to be an effective means of ensuring you get a good night’s rest. But is this really the case? Research reveals alcohol can seriously affect your quality of shut eye. While you may find it easier to enter the land of nod, having a nightcap before bed has been shown to block REM sleep and interfere with your circadian rhythm, which could make you feel groggy.
Myth: Cheese before bed results in nightmares
Fact: There’s no evidence to show that cheese causes nightmares
Eating cheese is bound to give you bad dreams – or so they say. There’s no scientific evidence to back these claims, meaning cheese fans can rejoice and snack on their favourite flavour with glee! That being said, if you’re lactose intolerant, enjoying a chunk of cheese could lead to an upset stomach and cause symptoms such as cramps and bloating, both of which could lead to trouble nodding off.
Myth: Napping will harm your circadian rhythm
Fact: Our bodies are programmed for an afternoon nap
Many of us love the idea of a little afternoon snooze nestled under a comfy throw. While being at work may prevent you from enjoying a nap, studies indicate that a short afternoon rest is perfectly healthy. Taking a quick twenty-minute siesta could boost your productivity and leave you feeling refreshed. However, anything longer could result in entering REM sleep, wreaking havoc with your circadian rhythm.
Myth: Every year you swallow eight spiders while you sleep
Fact: It’s highly unlikely
You’ve probably heard that terrifying legend about eating spiders during the night. The idea of swallowing one of those eight-legged creepy crawlies is gruesome enough, but allegedly we unknowingly eat eight arachnids every year! Fortunately, you can relax. Spiders tend to avoid threats and predators, so we’re more likely to scare them off while we move during sleep.
Myth: You can get by on less than seven hours of sleep
Fact: It impacts brain function
We all know someone who prides themselves on only needing five or six hours of sleep per night, but while they feel like they can function, they may be better spending longer in bed. According to experts, we need a minimum of seven hours. However, if you’re falling short of this figure then you’re not alone; almost one in two of us get less shut eye than we should.
Myth: You need less shut eye as you get older
Fact: Yes but only by one hour
Allegedly, younger people and teenagers require more shut eye than older folks. It turns out, this is one myth that partially holds true. For adults aged up to 65, seven to nine hours is the general recommendation, while for those over 65, it drops to between seven and eight. However, as we age, it can be more difficult to successfully stay asleep, meaning older people are more likely to wake up earlier.
Myth: Lack of sleep will only make you tired
Fact: Too little could increase your risk of ill health
It’s true; a good slumber can provide a myriad of benefits, especially when it comes to your health. Yet getting too little (or even too much) could have adverse effects. In fact, securing less than seven hours could increase your risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, while some research links a lack of sleep as a risk factor for dementia.
Myth: You should never wake a sleepwalker
Fact: It may be more dangerous to leave them to their own devices
Waking a sleepwalker is said to be harmful but is this really true? Leaving them alone could actually be far worse, especially if they’re in a potentially dangerous situation – like the top of the stairs. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s advised to gently guide them back to bed. If this isn’t possible, make a loud noise from a safe distance, so as not to startle them.
Myth: You can make up for lost sleep at the weekend
Fact: You’ll be left feeling sluggish
When the weekend rolls around, it’s often time for a nice, long lie in. While you may be looking forward to being snuggled up under your duvet with your head resting on your plump pillow, it seems you can’t catch up on lost zzz’s after all. Sleeping longer at the weekend is likely to throw off your body clock, making it more difficult to drift off during the week and leaving you in a sluggish state.
Myth: Staying in bed will help you fall back to sleep
Fact: This only helps for around 20 minutes
If you stay in bed, covered in your soft cotton bed linen, chances are you’ll fall back to sleep. But as it turns out, experts recommend this if you’re feeling relaxed but say it may be best to get up if you’re having trouble nodding back off. As a general rule, 20 minutes is the magic number. After this point, consider reading a book or doing something soothing – just avoid screens as blue light is likely to wake you further.
Myth: Exercising before bed is bad for your sleep
Fact: Some forms of exercise can help you snooze
Exercising offers huge health benefits, both mentally and physically. Yet it’s said that working out too close to your bedtime can result in a disturbed night. While it’s true that completing vigorous exercise prior to crawling under the covers can cause disruptions, many experts believe a gentle workout can help you enjoy a deeper, more restful slumber – just make sure you finish an hour before bed.