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7 Common Myths About Sleep: What Are the Facts?

Did you know that we spend around one third of our lives… sleeping?! Don’t know about you, but we could definitely benefit from another third. Whether you’re sleep deprived or religiously follow an 8-hours-a-night routine, we all hear different sleep myths… but how many of them are actually true?

1. The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need

As we get older, our lifestyle habits change and the same goes for our sleep patterns. Many adults have a harder time falling asleep at night and then waking up too early in the morning. However, the number of hours most healthy adults need doesn’t necessarily decline with age – the same recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night still applies!

Lifestyle Tip: Avoid naps after 3pm and expose yourself to bright natural light in the mornings (so escape that black hole and keep your curtains open!)

2. Watching TV is a good way to unwind before bed

Wrong! In fact, watching TV before bed can make it even harder to go to sleep. This is due to the type of blue light that comes from electronics (the same goes for your phone!) and how it triggers the brain to stop making melatonin. Just because you’re dozing off while watching your fave Netflix show doesn’t mean the light coming from the screen won’t affect you.

Lifestyle Tip: Try turning off the TV at least 30 minutes before going to bed. If you’re the type that struggles to fall asleep, reading is a good alternative that can help.

3. It doesn’t matter what time you sleep, all that matters is the number of hours

Just because you slept at 3am and woke up at 11am doesn’t mean you got a “healthy” 8-hour sleep. Everyone is different when it comes to what time their body chooses to sleep and wake up. The optimal bedtime window is typically between 8pm and 12am so the number of hours really depends on what time you plan to wake up in the morning.

Lifestyle Tip: You can try experimenting with different sleep timings to find out what your body prefers. If you usually wake up an hour before your alarm goes off, move your bedtime a bit later (and vice versa). But the key thing here is to keep your sleep timings and number of hours consistent during weekdays and weekends; your body will become familiar with this pattern making it a lot easier to fall (and stay) asleep.

4. Daytime sleepiness means a person isn’t getting enough sleep at night

Ever found yourself falling asleep at your desk? There are several reasons that can cause daytime sleepiness and these all result from poor sleep habits. While one of the main causes is lack of sleep during the night, other causes can also be related to poor sleep quality and changes in your day-to-day schedule/lifestyle.

Lifestyle Tip: Try to avoid caffeine in the afternoons and make sure you’re getting enough wind-down time in the evening before going to bed.

5. Loud snoring is harmless

Loud snoring is a common (and annoying!) sleep habit that’s pretty normal for most people. It’s actually more common as you get older because the throat muscles relax more. However, in some cases, it can be harmful for some. If snoring is combined with symptoms such as daytime drowsiness, morning headaches or weight gain, there’s a chance that sleep apnea may be the cause.

Lifestyle Tip: Some snoring remedies include losing weight, adjusting the temperature of your bedroom, changing your sleeping positions and getting your hands on an anti-snore pillow (yes, there is such a thing!)

6. If you’re struggling to sleep, stay in bed

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems that many, many people face. If you struggle to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, it’s recommended that you get out of bed until you’re feeling sleepy – as opposed to just lying there counting sheep.

Lifestyle Tip: Create a bedtime routine that helps you relax; this can be anything from drinking decaffeinated tea or having a warm bath.

7. It’s okay to hit the snooze button for extra sleep time

Let’s face it: we all do this (some more often than others!) But, have you ever thought about the knock-on effect that comes with it? By hitting that snooze button every morning, you’re actually making yourself more groggier than you would have been if you had just woken up from that first alarm ring. Why? Every time you hit snooze, you’re actually tricking your body into thinking it’s awake while you’re still flicking between sleep stages. This is what you call ‘sleep inertia’.

Lifestyle Tip: Rather than have your alarm at arms length on your bedside table, place it somewhere that’s hard to reach AND forces you to physically get up.