Sleep myths

Friday 19th September

How much do you know about sleep? Check out these nine common sleep myths and the facts behind them…

Everyone needs eight hours of sleep

Not true! Everyone has different sleep requirements – for some eight hours works best, but for other people it could be more or less. How much sleep you need can depend on a variety of factors, including age, pregnancy, etc. Find out more information about how much sleep you need.

It’s a good idea to make up for lost sleep on weekends

Not true. Skipping sleep during the week and then trying to make it up during the weekend can upset your sleeping pattern and make it harder to get a refreshing sleep. If you stay in bed until late on a Sunday, you won’t be ready to sleep at your normal bed time later that day, which can then create problems for your sleeping cycle for the rest of the week. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day if you can, which will help your body establish a good routine.

The older you get the less sleep you need

This is a myth. As we get older, we still need the same amount of sleep, however our sleeping patterns may change. Older people may get less sleep at night if they wake more frequently and may nap more during the day. Experts recommend that the average adult should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a day. Find out more about the amount of sleep you are likely to need.

Exercising in the evening will wear you out and help you sleep better

Not true. Whilst regular exercise is essential for getting a good night’s sleep, exercising right before bed can actually have the opposite effect. Exercising makes your core temperature rise, which can make it harder for you to fall to sleep. Sleep experts recommend exercising at least three hours before your usual bedtime to give your body temperature time to cool down. Read more about exercise and sleep.

Snoring is common and always harmless

Incorrect. Whilst snoring is common and may be harmless for most people, it can also be a symptom of sleep apnoea, a life-threatening sleep disorder. Those suffering from the condition - where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep - can have their breathing interrupted – this reduces their blood oxygen levels and puts strain on the heart and cardiovascular system. Find out more about sleep apnoea and if you are worried about your snoring, speak to your GP.

A glass of wine before bed will help you sleep better

This is a myth. Whilst wine (or any other alcohol) may make you feel sleepy and get you off to sleep, it’s not a good idea to drink before bed. This is because alcohol can fragment your sleep and cause you to wake in the night, meaning you won’t fall into the deep sleep that you need. Find out more about the effect of alcohol on your sleeping pattern.

Sleep deprived children will be drowsy during the day

Incorrect. Children can react differently to lack of sleep than adults do. Instead of feeling drowsy, it can have the opposite effect and make children more hyperactive and talkative. Sleep deprivation can also make your child ‘overtired’ which means they can have trouble falling to sleep. If you are concerned that your child isn’t getting enough sleep take a look at these tips.

Insomnia is being unable to fall asleep

Not true. Whilst having insomnia can mean being unable to fall asleep, it can also include waking up and being unable to get back to sleep, frequently wakening or waking up feeling unrefreshed. It's thought that a third of people in the UK have episodes of insomnia in their lifetime and it tends to be more common in women and more likely to occur with age. Find out more about insomnia.

Watching TV is a good way to help you relax before you sleep

Untrue. Whilst establishing a relaxing bedtime routine is key for getting a good night’s sleep, too much light, right before bedtime may make it hard to drift off into a deep sleep. Before bedtime, try to limit how much TV you watch, especially in the bedroom, as it can hinder you getting a good night’s sleep.

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). Benenden has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like further information or support.