Sleep, the last frontier. We all need it, we all put our heads down at some point during the night (and in some cases the day) but most of us don’t understand too much about it.
Part of the reason for that is that sleep research as we know it now, didn’t begin until the middle of the 20th century so much of what we think we know is based on anecdotal, often flawed thinking.
But nowadays, researchers have some pretty sophisticated tools to track and analyse our sleep and understand a little bit about what’s going on when you lie down to get some shut eye; with the proliferation of wearable technology, we’re now able to track our sleep, record our snores and gain insights into our snooze patterns.
And whilst there has been a lot written about how the mega successful seem to be getting by on fewer and fewer hours a night, thanks to champions like Arianna Huffington, the value of a good night’s kip is back on the agenda and sleep is becoming kind of sexy again.
A couple of hundred years ago, there wasn’t much in the way of light at night so people tended to turn in not too long after it got dark, there weren’t any screens to keep them occupied, nor did the majority of people know how to read so there certainly wasn’t much of that going on, people typically hit the sack and slept without thinking too much about it.
Fast forward to today and it feels like we need all the tricks and tips in the world just to get some decent shut eye.
So here we are, 5 of the most common sleep myths, debunked!
If you have a lie in on the weekend you can catch up on sleep you’ve missed
If you’re someone who burns the candle at both ends thinking you can pay back some of that sleep debt on the weekend, think again. Research has shown that whilst you may be able to catch up on a bit of the sleep you’ve missed, it’ll take a lot longer than the time you’d have on a lazy Sunday morning.
Don’t skimp during the week, make sure you get what you need else you may never catch yourself up.
8 hours is enough for everybody
We’ve all heard this one, and lots of people claim to need a solid eight to be at the top of their game. The truth is that there isn’t a one size fits all. Five hours may work for me, but fifteen may be better for my teenager (OK that may be stretching it a bit even for her). Research shows that whilst on average adults require around 7 hours, this can vary anywhere between 5 and 12 hours depending on a number of factors. Get to know your rhythm, understand your needs and it’ll be a lot easier to get the right amount of sleep for you.
The Older you are the Less you need
Whilst this may be true of some things, it’s certainly not the case for sleep. Most after adults would do just as well to have as much sleep when they’re 80 as they did in their 30s. The reality is that other health issues may result in the elderly having poorer quality of sleep making it seem like they sleep less and hence need less.
Count a hundred sheep and you’ll get to sleep
Sheep are pretty boring, the false logic is that counting them will make you so bored that you’ll simply nod off. Oops, wrong answer people! Studies at Oxford University showed that the opposite seemed to be the case, the act of counting sheep was so boring that the brain started focusing on other worries, problems or thoughts thus keeping the test subjects awake for longer. Try picturing some detailed landscapes or relaxing images instead, supposedly there’s enough to keep your mind focussed on and not have thoughts pop in and out stalling your sleep.
Drinking Alcohol will help the sleep process
Sorry all you oenophiles out there, whilst a nice glass of Bordeaux may be a nice way to finish off your evening, it may not be a great way to start off your night – assuming you’re planning on spending it in bed that is. As the alcohol is metabolised, your sleep becomes lighter and lighter so though you may fall asleep a little quicker, you certainly won’t stay asleep as long. Alcohol has a negative effect on sleep in a number of other ways too, the long and short being that it affects the body’s ability to regulate the sleep cycle and impacting the amount of deep restorative sleep you get. The bottom line – lay of the wine.
Well there you go, five of the most common sleep myths put to bed, next time we’ll have a look at why sleeping in a flat bed may not be the best thing for you – good night and sleep tight!