10 sleep myths debunked

Woman sleeping on a bed | Sleep myths debunked | Tesco Living

Does eating cheese before going to bed really give you nightmares? We dispel some common sleep myths and uncover the facts.

Everyone needs eight hours of sleep a night

“The amount of sleep you need is as individual as your shoe size,” says Professor Colin Espie, sleep expert from the University of Oxford and co-founder of Sleepio. “Some people may need five hours and some may need 10; there’s no one-size-fits-all amount when it comes to sleep.”

You can catch up on the weekend

“Skimping on sleep during the week may not be a good strategy as poor sleep can affect everything in our day-to-day life,” says Professor Espie. Sleeping longer than usual on the weekends can disrupt our body clocks so try sticking to a regular sleeping routine.

Older people need less sleep

“They need just as much sleep as younger people. What tends to happen in old age is that sleeping patterns change, so they might need a little extra sleeping during the day,” says David Hamilton, author of I Heart Me: The Science Of Self-Love.

Sex at night will keep you awake because it’s arousing

Quite the opposite, in fact. “Having sex produces endorphins and the hormone oxytocin. Endorphins help us relax while oxytocin lowers blood pressure, also aiding relaxation, which makes sleeping easier,” reasons David Hamilton.

Drinking herbal tea at night will help you sleep

This is only partly true. “While some teas, such as camomile, do help with sleep, some brands of green tea contain as much caffeine as black tea, therefore acting as a stimulant rather than a relaxant,” warns David Hamilton.

Eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares

Not true, according to research carried out by the British Cheese Board, who found that eating cheese before bed could even help you get a good night’s sleep.

Babies over six months should be sleeping through the night

“Actually, the most common age for waking frequently at night is nine months, when around three-quarters of babies wake regularly at night,” states Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of The Gentle Sleep Book.

“In an average 10-hour night, your child will wake about 13 times. On most occasions, they will simply begin a new sleep cycle and you will be unaware that they have woken. However, at other times they will need you to comfort or feed them back to sleep.”

Babies and toddlers can soothe themselves back to sleep

“Neurologically, it is impossible for a baby or toddler to self-soothe because the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for self-soothing behaviour, is too under-developed in the first few years of life,” reveals Sarah Ockwell-Smith. “Children can’t self-soothe until they are about four years old.”

Sleep problems can’t be cured

“There’s not usually just one thing that causes poor sleep – in most cases, it’s a combination of circumstances. What we do know is that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques that address sleep-related thoughts and behaviours can be very effective,” says Professor Espie.

Waking up during a lighter phase of sleep means you feel less groggy

Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter what stage of sleep (light or deep) you are in when you wake up, the most important thing is that you get enough sleep.

Words: Gabrielle Nathan

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