Sleep on it!

Widely held myths about sleep are damaging our health and our mood, as well as shortening our lives, say researchers.

A team at New York University trawled the internet to find the most common claims about a good night’s kip.

Then, in a study published in the journal Sleep Health, they matched the claims to the best scientific evidence.

They hope that dispelling sleep myths will improve people’s physical and mental health and well-being.

So, how many are you guilty of?

Myth 1 – You can cope on less than five hours’ sleep

This is the myth that just won’t go away.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously had a brief four hours a night. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made similar claims and swapping hours in bed for extra time in the office is not uncommon in tales of business or entrepreneurial success.

Yet the researchers said the belief that less than five hours’ shut-eye was healthy, was one of the most damaging myths to health.

“We have extensive evidence to show sleeping five hours or less consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences,” said researcher Dr Rebecca Robbins.

These included cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and shorter life expectancy.

Instead, she recommends everyone should aim for a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Myth 2 – Alcohol before bed boosts your sleep

The relaxing nightcap is a myth, says the team, whether it’s a glass of wine, a dram of whisky or a bottle of beer.

“It may help you fall asleep, but it dramatically reduces the quality of your rest that night,” said Dr Robbins.

It particularly disrupts your REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is important for memory and learning.

So yes, you will have slept and may have nodded off more easily, but some of the benefits of sleep are lost.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, so you may find yourself having to deal with a full bladder in the middle of the night too.

Myth 3 – Watching TV in bed helps you relax

Have you ever thought “I need to wind down before bed, I’m going to watch some TV”?

Well, the latest Brexit twists and turns on the BBC News at Ten might be bad for sleep.

Dr Robbins argues: “Often if we’re watching the television it’s the nightly news… it’s something that’s going to cause you insomnia or stress right before bed when we’re trying to power down and relax.”

And as for Game of Thrones, it’s hard to argue the Red Wedding was relaxing.

The other issue with TV – along with smartphones and tablets – is they produce blue light, which can delay the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

To read more on sleep myths, continue reading the article on the BBC health website.

Cat
Cats don’t seem to have an issue with quality sleep

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