Sleep—it’s one of life’s little essentials. We can’t live without it, and that’s a fact! But if you’re not getting a good night’s kip, it can also be one of life’s hugest stressors too. Enter endless internet research on the best tips and tricks to get over to sleep. But when you’re researching online, how do you know which to trust and which is trash? You don’t, and that’s the truth! Telling the can’t sleep myths from good sleep facts can be a full-time job, and that’s why we did the hard work for you and gathered all the sleep myths and facts all in one place. Hint! It’s right here.
7 Sleep myths debunked
Myth #1: I need 8 hours of sleep a night
Facts: “Is 8 hours of sleep a myth?” is one of the most asked sleep-related questions out there. But the facts show that getting a solid 8 hours of sleep a night is a myth. Currently, the recommendations on how much sleep is enough vary based on a person’s age:
- 0-3 months—14-17 hours per day
- 4-11 months—12-15 hours per day
- 1-2 years—11-14 hours per day
- 3-5 years—10-13 hours per day
- 5-12 years—9-11 hours per day
- 13-17 years—8-10 hours per day
- 18-64 years—7-9 hours per day
- 65+ years—7-8 hours per day
But that’s not the whole picture. Genetics also plays a role. Some people find themselves needing to sleep a little more, and others (a lucky few) less. That means that the 8 hours a night myth doesn’t hold true for everyone, not by a long shot. So don’t stress if you’re sleeping a little more or a little less.
In addition, there’s also evidence to suggest that getting all your sleep in one batch isn’t necessarily the most effective way to do it. Instead, history shows that previously humans had two sleeps during the day and found themselves more productive and perhaps even happier. However, it can be difficult to establish precise patterns of sleep and their effects on health in the past due to a lack of data.
Despite the evidence against the 8 hours of sleep myths, many continue to base their routines around the 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, and 8 hours leisure time structure. However, it might be a better idea to listen to your body and establish a routine that works for you.
Myth#2: Following a 90-minute sleep cycle will help me sleep better
Fact: If you’ve heard that sleeping in increments or multiples of 90-minutes is the ultimate way to sleep, you’ve heard the 90-minute sleep cycle myth. And while there is some truth to this one, it’s not the whole story.
Like the 8 hours of sleep a night myth, it can be said that, on average sleep, cycles are 90 minutes. BUT! For each individual, this may be different. Research shows that sleep cycles vary from 60 to 110 minutes, from person to person and even day to day, so sticking strictly to 90 isn’t the way to go.
In addition, when practicing sleep cycling, people often forget to account for the time it takes to fall asleep, and this can impact your routine and sleep cycle. So, instead of sticking strictly to the 90-minute rule, try to ensure you practice good sleep hygiene—no blue lights before bed, dark room, cool temperature—and don’t stress about the math.
Myth #3: I’ve collected sleep debt. I’ll catch up by sleeping in on the weekend
Fact: We all do it! Pull those late-nighters to get a project in, file a report, or even binge-watch a TV show. And while we might succeed in our short-term goals, there’s something else at stake—our sleep. When we miss out on a couple of hours of rest, we become sleep-deprived and create something called sleep debt. And just like a credit card, it had to be paid back.
Sleep debt impairs our ability to function. You may notice yourself feeling drowsy, unable to concentrate, have increased blood pressure, struggle to remember things—these are all signs you’re not sleeping enough.
But if you think it’s easy to catch up and make quick sleep repayments, you got another thing coming. Extended weekend lie-ins are the sleep debt myth. While you will clock up some extra hours, extra sleep after the workweek does not ease sleep debt. What does? Instead, focusing on a long-term sleep routine is crucial to reducing those tired feelings and improving your health. And no, you don’t have to give up your weekend lie-ins. Instead, you’ll enjoy them all the more.
Myth #4: I need a toasty room to fall asleep
Fact: If your idea of a good night’s rest is a centrally heated room that’s warm and toasty, you could be setting yourself up for a restless night of tossing and turning. Contrary to popular belief, a warm room actually impedes your ability to rest—it’s warm, it’s stuffy, and none of this is good for your nighttime routine.
Instead, grab a warm and toasty blanket, let a little fresh air in, and keep your room temperature around the 65-70°F (18-21°C) mark. This will allow you to get rested and refreshed.
Myth #5: I need to sleep facing north
Fact: According to modern science, there is no general consensus on which direction is better for sleeping in. But let’s dive in a little deeper. Where did this myth come from, anyway? The sleeping facing north myth originated from Vaastu Shastra, the ancient Hindu practice. However, even here, we’re met with confusion. Vastu Shastra actually believes that sleeping facing north is dangerous for the body as it is believed that the soul travels north when it leaves the body.
So, let’s break it down a little more. Vastu Shasta believes that the flow of all energies around the world is connected. But how? Magnetism. At the very core of the Earth is iron, and when this spins, a magnetic field is generated. In general, it’s said that this field runs from north to south, and can affect a person’s sleep. But is there any truth in this?
The answer? It’s debatable. Some suggest that sleeping with the head to the east neutralizes these magnetic fields, and so the sleeper gets a better night’s rest. Other studies show that REM latency (aka deep sleep) is shorter when sleeping to the east, whereas facing the north creates deeper, more satisfying sleep.
With the jury still out, our final word on this sleep myth is to try different sleeping positions for yourself and see which one works best for you.
Myth #6: Eating before sleep will make me fat
Fact: Calories are calories no matter when you eat them. What this means is theoretically, it doesn’t matter whether you eat your calories at 2 AM or 2 PM. They’re still the same amount of calories and have the same effect on the body. So why is intermittent fasting so prevalent then, and does it work?
Intermittent fasting focusing on reducing the number of hours spent eating, therefore reducing the calorie intake overall. This often leads to weight loss, and many people find this pattern of eating sustainably in the long term.
Now, that’s not to say that you should develop free-for-all midnight snacking habit. There is a “But.” Studies show that eating late at night can impact your circadian rhythm and lead to nighttime restlessness, which in turn leads to poorer food choices and weight gain. That’s why, it’s essential to power down before sleep, and that includes limiting large meals before bedtime.
Myth #7: A nap during the day will not affect my nighttime rest
Fact: Napping makes insomnia worse. According to the Sleep Foundation, long naps during the day can impact nighttime sleep and increase the likelihood of insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping during the night, you may find yourself more likely to seek out a nap during the day, but this could be a big mistake. Getting in a long nap might make you feel better in the short term, but when it comes time to bed down for the night, you’ll find yourself energized and restless, not sleepy. So, the best thing you can do, is avoid the nap and wait it out.
Why do you NEED a good night’s sleep?
Time to stop wearing those all-nighters or late nights at work as a badge of pride and prioritize good sleep habits.
When you sleep well, you:
- Are less likely to overeat and keep a healthy weight
- Improve your performance and ability to work effectively
- Will feel better and are less likely to have anxiety
- Have a clearer mind and think better
- Improve your memory and boost your thinking capacity
- Have a stronger immune system
No-myth, all-fact sleep tips
Why can’t I sleep myths are persistent, but why dispelling the myths around sleep we can get to the truth of how to get a good night’s kip—and that’s what’s most important, right? Here are some of the best tips to follow to improve your routine and sleep soundly.
1.Listen to your body
Every person is an individual, and until you know what works for you, you’ll never get the sleep you deserve. Start by tracking your current sleep routine over one month, make lots of notes to what you did before sleep, after, and during—you can even record the room temperature. Now see what you did on the nights you slept the best, and work from there. Forget about general data. Focus only on what works for you.
2.Reduce use of technology before bed
Blue lights given off by modern tech can impede our ability to get a good night’s sleep. So, before you even try to dose off, switch off. Allow yourself time to relax and rest and avoid the FOMO of social media.
3.Don’t go to bed hungry
While there are lots of benefits to intermittent fasting, and not eating right before bed, going into the land of nod while starving isn’t going to work. Grab a cup of tea or a light snack and quell that hunger before dreamland.
4.Create a routine
Life is so busy that we often forget to make time to just relax and wind down, and this can majorly impact our ability to switch off and get rest. That’s why creating a set routine—something you will do every night and love it—will help your body know it’s time for rest. This can be a relaxing meditation, a beauty routine, or even reading a book. Do what works for you.
5.Kick the caffeine habit in the evening
Coffee. One love. But no matter how much you love the black stuff, there’s no doubt that drinking this stimulant late in the evening can set you up for a bad sleep (or none at all). Try to avoid drinking caffeine late in the evening, or if you can’t, try to switch to a decaffeinated version and see how your ability to fall asleep improves.