From avoiding cheese before bedtime to having a nightcap to help you nod off, there are plenty of myths about how to get a better night’s sleep – and a new poll reveals which ones are the most widely believed.
With so many of us struggling to get to sleep thanks to stressful jobs, burning the candle at both ends and midnight scrolls through Instagram, it’s no wonder we look for advice on what might help us to get some shut-eye.
But it seems we Brits believe far more old wives’ tales about sleep than we should.
In a YouGov survey conducted on behalf of Calm, the sleep and meditation app, more than 4,000 British, French and American adults were quizzed on their beliefs over the most common myths.
Asking users to mark 10 statements as ‘True’, ‘False’ or ‘Don’t Know’, the study revealed Brits are more likely to believe some of the more dangerous myths that might even put them in harm’s way.
Whatever your sleep issue, one thing’s for sure – we’re fairly clueless when it comes to our sleep health.
‘There are so many common myths about sleep that we wanted to find out which ones are, in fact, most widely believed,’ says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm.
Here are the most commonly believed myths and why you shouldn’t be losing sleep over them:
Cold air will keep you awake when driving
A worrying 66% of us Brits believe a bit of air con or winding the windows down will keep us alert when driving.
You’d think it would be obvious, but feeling sleepy when you’re at the wheel is a sign you need a break or a coffee – not a breath of fresh air. Pull over for 15-45 minutes of nap time before hitting the road again.
Your brain rests when you sleep
Actually, while our body is taking some much needed time out, our brain is pretty active while we’re sleeping – something 48% of Brits didn’t know in the poll.
Proving that our minds never really switch off, it stays busy – and is even more active in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stages of sleep. No wonder we have all those crazy dreams.
You shouldn’t wake a sleep walker
So common that 48% of us believe it, this myth is exactly that – and you may even be putting them in danger if you don’t make them come to, especially if they’re anywhere near the stairs.
Focus on guiding them back to bed and don’t worry if they wake – it’s all about staying safe.
You swallow spiders as you sleep
Terrifying, but thankfully not true, even if a third of us do believe the rumours. Phew.
You’ll only dream during deep sleep
It makes sense really – your brain is more active during REM, which is when you’ll have your most vivid dreams.
If you can’t sleep, stay in bed
Surprisingly if you are struggling to nod off, bed might be the worst place for you.
The National Sleep Association recommends heading to another space in the home to do something relaxing like reading a book for a few minutes, so that you only associate your bedroom with healthy, sleepy thoughts.
You can catch up on missed sleep
Sadly not. If weekend lay-ins are becoming a habit, you’re probably in the 20% who believe you can make up for all those late nights in the week – but recent studies have shown that consistency is key.
A nightcap will help you to sleep
Step away from the red wine – unfortunately the age-old idea of a little drink before bedtime could actually be harming our sleep patterns because as it wears off, we’re more likely to wake up in the night. Damn.
Snoring is always harmless
A quarter of Brits believe that, while annoying as hell, snoring is nothing to worry about – but they’re wrong.
While it’s usually harmless, the National Sleep Foundation warns ‘it can be a symptom of a life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness.
Get it checked out.
Cheese will give you nightmares
Yes, that old chestnut – 22% of Brits believe eating cheese before bed will give you bad dreams despite there being no proof.
In fact, it might even help you to sleep better thanks to the fact it contains tryptophan, which helps the body to produce more serotonin. Pass us the brie.
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