Sleep is one of life’s greatest mysteries. There are questions asked that science still hasn’t found the answer to. In this blog we’re going to demystify some of the biggest sleep myths, separating fact from fiction.
Myth: Some people can function on just a few hours sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep is perhaps the most important parts of your health and wellbeing. It allows your body to fully recover from the previous day, and give you maximum energy for the day ahead. But that’s not all. Sleep helps to repair your muscles, boosts your immunity system, regulates your mood, improves your memory, and even enhances your awareness and decision-making.
The amount of sleep adults need varies from person to person. The average adult generally needs around 8 hours.
Myth: Drinking alcohol before bed helps you sleep better.
The ‘nightcap’ is one of the most common sleep myths. Alcohol actually reduces the amount of sleep you get because it makes you more restless and reduces the quality of your sleep.
In particular, it affects the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. This is the stage where your memories and learnings are logged.
So, although you may get to sleep easier, you’ll actually miss out on some of the most important benefits that deep sleep provides.
Myth: Sleep can improve your mental health
Sleep is vital for our mental health. It allows it to rest, log memories and fully revitalise for the next day. Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on our brain’s functionality. This can make you sluggish, and you’ll also find it incredibly difficult to concentrate after a bad night's sleep. So do your brain a favour, let it rest with a good 7 hours of sleep!
Myth: Light from your phone can affect your sleeping pattern
Playing with your phone before you attempt to sleep is actually really distracting for your brain. You need to establish a healthy routine that helps your brain relax and wind down after a long day. This includes anything from reading a book, taking a nice warm bath or doing some calming yoga before heading to bed.
Myth: All mattresses are basically the same
If you have a comfy bed you’re almost certain to have an enjoyable night’s sleep. Whether it’s melting away into a memory foam mattress or giving yourself plenty of space in a King Size bed, your comfort is imperative.
Myth: Drinking caffeine, lowering car windows and turning up the air conditioning will prevent you from falling asleep while driving.
This myth can be incredibly dangerous, and it’s important you don’t listen to it. Although caffeinated drinks can subside some of the side effects of tiredness, the effects don’t kick in for at least 30 minutes. If you begin to feel tired at the wheel, find somewhere to rest and take a nap.
Myth: Eating cheese before bed doesn’t actually give you nightmares
Cheese doesn’t cause nightmares, and there’s evidence to suggest cheese is a good bedtime snack. The calcium found in cheese has been proven to be very beneficial to sleep. It also contains amino acids which the body uses to create melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone.
Myth: Counting sheep helps you sleep
Technically true, although it doesn’t have to be sheep. The repetitive process of counting sheep induces drowsiness and helps you drop off. Counting sheep stops your mind from wandering and focussing on other thoughts that can cause you to worry.
Myth: You can catch up on missed sleep over the weekend
Missing out on sleep during the week creates what’s called ‘Sleep Debt’. It's a common belief that you can simply catch up on sleep over the weekend, but it’s not necessarily true. Although in the short term you will feel refreshed, the cumulative toll on your health takes much longer to reverse.
Gradually catching up on your sleep over time and committing to healthy sleep habits is the way forward. If you can, try and add an hour or two to each night just to ensure you reach full functioning capacity.
What on earth is sleep debt? Sleep debt is the effect of not getting enough sleep. A large sleep debt may lead to mental or physical fatigue.
Myth: Yawning is a sign of tiredness
Answer - Fiction
This is not necessarily true. Sometimes we yawn as soon as wake up, or due to boredom. It doesn’t always mean that you’re tired and in need of sleep. Things like fatigue, drowsiness and an inability to concentrate are all signs of tiredness.