Anything that we don’t know absolutely everything about, from a scientific perspective, lends itself to the great societal rumor mill, and invites us to come up with all kinds of myths surrounding it.
Space, the deep sea, David Hasselhoff and even sleep – they all prompt us to believe in some outlandish things to try and cure our confusion.
We’re here to kick some of those sleep myths to the curb. Although Hasselhoff lies beyond human comprehension.
The older we get, the less sleep we need
This is one of the most believable myths surrounding sleep, and it has fairly good circumstantial evidence to back it up.
Many older people tend to have shorter sleep schedules during the night, for a whole number of reasons – many health related – but very often these missing hours are made up through small naps during the day, meaning most elderly people still get their seven – nine recommended hours.
The more, the better
Nice try. Whereas this is one of the most popular sleep myths, unfortunately, it isn’t true – we all know that a lack of sleep can have some pretty noticeable disadvantages, but it isn’t simply a case of getting as much as you can.
The recommended amount is there for a reason. Too much sleep can have a bunch of its own problems, such as poor mental health, breathing difficulties and aches.
Evening workouts help you sleep
Although a good amount of exercise can have fantastic results with achieving a solid sleep schedule – it’s important that you leave enough time between the actual exercise and when you go to bed, to allow your energy levels to naturally deplete.
Snoring isn’t a serious issue
It can be funny and irritating in equal measure, but we all too often consider snoring to be something trivial, when in fact it can actually be a sign of some serious health issues.
Complications that are often symptomized by snoring are obesity, obstructive sleep apnea or underlying health issues caused by lifestyle (such as smoking).
A few hours less won’t hurt
We can all be forgiven for thinking a late night here or there won’t hurt – but there’s actually lots of evidence to suggest that even losing so much as one hours’ sleep, or having regular schedules of six hours or less can hugely inhibit your ability to function properly the next day, and lead to genuine health concerns if it becomes habit.
Sugar keeps you up all night
We’ve heard this one since we were kids and most of us have accepted it as fact but does sugar keep you awake? Turns out the exact opposite has more credence. Sugar in the blood stream can help to inhibit orexin (the hormone that creates a feeling of wakefulness) meaning sugar might actually cause drowsiness!
Naps are for the lazy
This couldn’t be further from the truth (although there may be some lazy people who enjoy a daytime nap). As we noted above, about the elderly, napping throughout the day can be a vital process of catching up on missing sleep, and actually improving your performance, rather than struggling through a day of work, dead on your feet.
Good luck convincing your boss, though.
The warmer, the better
Without a doubt, the hardest one to take on board – who doesn’t love a warm cosy duvet to cuddle under? However, it turns out that we actually drift off much quicker if our temperature of the bedroom or bed itself is somewhere in the middle. Not too hot, not too cold.
Another reason to keep it cool? Colder temperature help you burn fat while you sleep.
We need eight hours – bang on
This is one of the most common sleep myths, and it’s easy to fall into the trap. Approximately eight hours per night is the recommended amount, from experts. Note that this is an average, a sort of blurred area to aim for, rather than a solid number.
Eight hours won’t be the exact amount that everybody needs, so work out for yourself how much sleep is needed for a restful night and a fresh morning… Chances are it’ll be somewhere around the eight mark anyway. How much sleep do you need, anyway?
The longer you stay in bed, the more likely you are to fall asleep
The thought process here is that lying in bed sort of ‘tricks’ the mind into slowing down and entering a sleep mode.
There is some weight to this idea, but generally speaking if you’ve been lying there for fifteen-twenty minutes and nothing is happening; get out of bed and do something relaxing before trying again.
Dreams are nonsense
We may know little about sleep, but we know even less about dreams. However, the predominant line of thought is that dreams are actually a way for your brain to organize memories, experiences, thoughts and fears – sort of like a visual file cabinet. They might not make much sense, but they do have a ‘reason’ of sorts.
Cheese and dairy gives you nightmares
There are far too many old wives’ tales about sleep to debunk them all, but this is the most common.
In fact, dairy and cheese do not give you nightmares, but can actually help you drift off due to the calcium levels, helping the production of tryptophan which can generate drowsiness. Yea, as it turns out – not only dairy not a cause of nightmares, but it’s one of the best foods to help you sleep.