Sleep myth #1 A nightcap will help you sleep better
We all know at least one person that claims that their nightcap of brandy or red wine is their essential tonic for a good night’s sleep. And while alcohol can certainly help you fall asleep faster, it is ultimately a stimulant and can stop you achieving the deeper stages of sleep and cause sleep disturbances throughout the night. This can lead to a restless, fragmented sleep that leaves you feeling more tired and worse for wear the next morning.
Sleep myth #2 I can just catch up on sleep in the weekend
Ah, if only this was true! This myth is often used to justify a poor sleep routine throughout the week. Quality sleep, however, is not only about clocking up “X” amount of hours when you can, but rather reaching deep sleep every night, so that your body can do it’s repair work. 8 hours is the scientifically proven length needed for most people to achieve 5 full cycles of sleep, including the deeper phases, which is why two extra-long “sleep ins” in the weekend isn’t going to make up for the sleep debt you have created Monday to Friday.
Sleep myth #3: Older people need less sleep
Elderly people often face sleep difficulties which means they get less sleep, but this does not mean that they require less sleep. Certain medications, accumulative lifestyle factors, chronic pain or illnesses and a lack of prioritizing sleep are significant factors that can affect sleep patterns in the elderly. However 8 is still the magic number of hours of sleep this age group should be striving for.
Sleep myth #4: An afternoon coffee will keep you up at night
Caffeine has a surprisingly long half-life which is the time it can take for the body to metabolize it. Caffeine can remain in the bloodstream for 9 to 12 hours, which is why it is often recommended to stop drinking coffee at 12pm. A small group of people however, are very efficient at breaking down caffeine and can clear it very quickly. This is why some people can drink a soy flat white at 5pm and still be out like a log at 9.30pm. The rule here is to listen to your body and adjust your caffeine intake accordingly.
Sleep myth #5 Counting sheep will make you fall asleep
In theory, this old wives tale does sound like an easy solution to drop off to sleep, however city dwellers need to take care. One study conducted on insomniacs by the University of Oxford found that the task of counting sheep was less effective than other visualization strategies such as imagining tranquil scenes, as participants found counting sheep either too boring or it gave them feelings of anxiety. It seems that this sleep hack should be reserved for farmers only.