There are so many myths about sleep that we have likely all heard some at one point or another! However, are these just myths? Or are some of them facts? Let’s take a look at the most common ones…
This has got to be the most commonly heard one – ‘eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares!’ Does it? Funnily enough, there isn’t actually any evidence to prove this, or to even suggest it! The calcium found in cheese is in fact a natural sleep aid due to the tryptophan in it; the body uses this to produce the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. So, whilst there is no solid evidence that cheese gives us nightmares if we eat it just before bed, there is evidence that it can help us sleep. So, if you struggle to drift off on a night, try a small cheese snack before hitting the hay.
Struggling to sleep? ‘Count some sheep!’ Erm, Ok… Though this can actually help to bring on sleep, it doesn’t matter what we’re counting – sheep, dogs, cats, cows, we could go on… Whilst it isn’t the little bundles of white wool jumping over a fence that sends our brain off to the land of nod, it is actually just the repetitiveness of the task that brings on tiredness. We all know doing the same thing over and over again can cause us to feel tired and bored, so next time you’re counting sheep, try it with dogs instead, you’ll get the same results.
‘A nightcap will help me sleep’ *reaches for the bottle of whiskey* – actually, it won’t. Drinking alcohol before bed prevents us from entering into the REM stage of sleep, which is the deepest stage where the majority of dreams occur. So, whilst a good old nightcap may help us feel tired and fall asleep faster, it will only deliver to us fragmented, broken-up sleep, which is of a poor quality and won’t leave us feeling very refreshed at all. It’s advised to have your last drink a couple of hours before you will be going to bed, as this gives the alcohols effects more time to wear off.
‘We must all get a solid eight hours sleep a night.’ Though this might be nice, it isn’t always possible. Everyone is different, and each of our bodies have their own sleep requirements, some might be seven hours, some might be eight. The best way to judge if you are getting enough sleep is by how refreshed you feel the next day. It is best for adults to attempt to sleep for seven to nine hours per night; people who often sleep for less than six hours have been proven to be at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
So, instead of having a nightcap before bed, have a snack of cheese instead, and don’t fret that you have been counting those sheep (or dogs, or cows, or cats) for too long and you won’t get your solid eight hours in, sleep for the time your body tells you to, just try not to sleep for less than six hours too often!