There is a lot, and we mean a LOT, of information out there these days about how, when, and where we should or shouldn’t sleep. A lot of this information can be super helpful and is (hopefully!) helping to correct our general sleep deficit, but unfortunately there is also a lot of misinformation floating around.
Recently, a study published in the journal Sleep Health sought to clarify some of the sleep myths and shine a light on what we really need to be well rested.
Keep reading as we debunk some of today’s most common sleep myths.
Myth 1: We only need five hours of sleep per night
While many people today do get by on five hours (or less) sleep per night, this doesn’t mean it’s okay or won’t affect your health. Girardin Jean-Louis, a professor in the Department of Population Health and one of the senior study investigators, said that this myth was one of the most problematic they found in their research.
The amount of sleep that each person needs per night is unique to each individual, but overall, it’s recommended that we get between seven to nine hours per night. Five or less, is significantly under the recommended amount and has been linked to a whole host of physical and mental problems, including cardiovascular disease, mood swings, weight gain, dementia, depression, and diabetes, just to name a few.
Myth 2: You can sleep anytime if you’re getting in enough hours
Getting enough hours is only half the equation- it also matters when you’re sleeping. This applies especially to people who work shift work or have irregular schedules or sleep patterns and may be getting their seven to nine hours during the day, rather than at night.
Our natural circadian rhythm is designed to have us more or less sleeping when it’s dark out and being awake and active during the day, and when we switch this, it can have consequences on the quality of our sleep.
“Timing of sleep is important,” said Rebecca Robbins, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU School of Medicine in the Center for Healthful Behavior Change and study author, “That’s why we see health risks cluster among individuals who work on shift schedules.”
While maintaining a normal sleep schedule just isn’t an option for some people, making an effort to sleep during normal hours when possible can go a long way in improving your sleep.
Myth 3: Remembering your dreams is a good thing
There are tons of articles and entire books out there, dedicated to interpreting our dreams. While some people chalk them up to nothing more than random thoughts, others consider them to be a medium for messages and insights from our subconscious mind.
We aren’t supporting or debunking the deeper meaning of dreams, but we will say that remembering a lot of your dreams can be a sign that your sleep is restless or light. Some people think they don’t have dreams, but the average person typically has 4-5 dreams during the night. So, if we all have dreams, why do only some of us remember them? Generally, we only remember our dreams if we wake up during them, so if you’re remembering your dreams, it likely means you’re waking up throughout the night.
A very emotional or vivid dream may stick with us regardless, but overall, we typically won’t remember our dreams if we’re sleeping deeply at night. If you do find you remember a lot of your dreams and are wondering why you wake up still feeling tired, consider looking at some ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
Myth #4: If you can’t sleep, lying in bed is still beneficial
We all have those nights when we just can’t fall asleep, and we often comfort ourselves by saying that even though we didn’t get to sleep, we were still resting by lying down. Unfortunately, researchers debunked this, saying you’re really either sleeping, or you’re awake:“One is either sleeping or awake with little overlap,” write the authors. “Available evidence is showing that cognitive activity when a person is sleeping is distinctly different from wake with eyes closed.”
That’s not to say that there’s no benefit to lying down- it can still be relaxing if you want a little mid-day break, but if it’s sleep you’re after, this isn’t a substitute.
If you do find yourself lying awake at night when you’d rather be sleeping, try getting up and doing a relaxing activity such as reading or journaling (not scrolling on your phone and watching TV!). Once you feel tired again, you can try getting to sleep.
Myth #5: A nightcap before bed will help you sleep better
A pre-bed nightcap is a common evening ritual for many people, but it isn’t doing them or their sleep any favors. While a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, your quality of sleep will be affected. Alcohol can keep you out of the deeper levels of sleep, so even if you sleep the entire night, you’re not getting the deep rest that you need. In fact, the reason we often forget things the night after a few drinks is that we’re missing those deep levels of sleep, which is when our short-term memories are processed.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try replacing your evening drink with a healthier alternative, such as diffusing essential oils, light yoga, deep breathing, reading, or another similar relaxing and calming activity.
Myth #6: Working out in the evening will keep you awake
It’s a commonly held belief that working out in the evening will keep you awake and make it difficult to fall asleep, but the study’s researchers say that anything before approximately an hour before bed is great. Exercise is another thing that we generally aren’t getting enough of, and if the evening is the only time you can fit it in, skipping it can be more harmful than beneficial.
As long as you don’t notice any change in your sleep, there’s no need to cut our your evening exercise.
Myth 7: It doesn’t matter what kind of bedsheet you choose
Many people choose their pillows and duvets to suit their climate and sleep habits- for example, side sleepers may choose a pillow with more loft (i.e. thickness and fullness) than someone who sleeps on their back, and many will use a warmer comforter in the winter than the summer. Bedsheets, however, get less attention, but they can actually affect the quality of your sleep as well! Different materials have different qualities, so some may be better for warmer climates, some for cooler climates, some are more breathable, etc.
At SOL, we know that everyone has different sleep needs, which is why we carry three different bedsheet options. Our sateen organic cotton sheets are slightly heavier and have a tighter weave, and are cozy for cooler temperatures, while still being breathable for the summer months. Our percale organic cotton sheets sleep slightly cooler than our sateen, and are great for warm climates, summer months, and anyone who tends to sleep warm. For the perfect year-round sheet, our linen bedding is temperature regulating during the winter and breathable during the summer.