Many of us will have our own ways of getting to sleep, whether it’s reading a book before bed or a quick nightcap.
But a new study has revealed some popular myths around sleeping could be ruining your quality of shut-eye and putting the public’s health under threat.
That’s according to researchers from the School of Medicine at New York University, who reviewed more than 8,000 websites to pick out the 20 most common assumptions about sleep.
With a team of sleep medicine experts, they highlighted how science debunks some of the top myths.
“Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and wellbeing,” says study lead investigator, Dr Rebecca Robbins.
So, what are some the myths which might actually harm your sleep instead of help it?
- ‘All you need is five hours of sleep’
Sometimes it’s just unavoidable, but the advice is to get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.
Dr Robbins says they gathered “extensive evidence” to show sleeping for five (or fewer) hours consistently makes us more likely to suffer “adverse health consequences”.
Those consequences include cardiovascular disease and early death.
- Have a nightcap
You may have heard drinking some alcohol before bed will help to ease you into sleep – many believe this, Dr Robbins said.
While it may help you to fall asleep, it dramatically reduces the quality, pulling you out of rapid-eye movement and the deeper stages of sleep.
So that’s why, even if you have had enough hours of sleep, you could still wake up not feeling refreshed and restored.
- Watching TV before you sleep
This is actually bad.
“If we are watching the TV, what’s on are programmes that are stressful – it’s something that will cause stress right before bed, when you need to relax,” explains Dr Robbins.
Moreover, your TV gives off blue light, which tells your brain to come alive in the morning and will hold you back from drifting off to sleep.
The same applies to your smartphone, so it’s best to keep these devices off and away from you.
- If you can’t sleep, stay in bed
Another bad idea.
A healthy sleeper needs around 15 minutes to get to sleep, but if it takes much longer than that you should not just stay in bed and hope for the best.
Dr Robbins says this will make you associate your bed with insomnia - she likens it to going to the gym and standing on the treadmill instead of running.
A better thing to do is to go and do something “mindless” and making sure wherever you are is reasonably dark.
- Hit the snooze button
We all have a bit of inertia in the mornings, Dr Robbins says, but we have to resist that temptation to hit the snooze button for a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning.
You will get back to sleep, if you do this, but it will be low-quality, instead, the best thing to do is to get up and start your day.
Get exposed to some blue light and get on with the day.