We're all on the quest for a perfect night's sleep, but what really aids it? The below myths are extremely unhelpful when considering a great snooze.
You can catch up on your sleep at the weekends
Busy week? Burning the midnight oil can really influence our rest time, which helps us acquire what some may call 'sleep debt'. A common held belief is that you can catch up on any hours you may have missed during the week by sleeping a few extra hours at the weekend. However, research by Dr Daniel Cohen, a researcher in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), has shown that this may not be the best tactic. As the sleep debt increased, volunteers' performance on reaction time tests got worse faster for each hour awake, despite being within normal limits when they first awoke. The moral to this story: get the right amount of sleep every night and try to keep your sleep pattern regular at the weekend.
You can get by with just 4 hours sleep
Recently, scientists discovered a gene that may explain why some people can get by with a fraction of the amount of sleep most of us need, however this is thought to apply to only around 2-3% of the population. While the rest of us need on average between 7-8 hours each night to stay fit, healthy and alert during the day. In partnership with the University of Leeds, we have created an interactive sleep map to show people around the UK how much sleep they're getting.
Cheese gives you nightmares
According to a 2005 study by the British Cheese Board, different cheeses can give you different types of dreams. None of the study volunteers reported nightmares from their bedtime snack, thankfully! Fun fact for you: Cheddar is the most commonly eaten cheese in the UK, and those who snacked on this variety in the study were found to dream of celebrities.
Counting sheep can help you sleep
In a sleep study, Oxford researchers found that people who counted sheep took longer to fall asleep than they normally would had they not counted sheep. On the other hand, they found that people who instead imagined a relaxing scene, such as a peaceful beach or a soothing waterfall, fell asleep an average of 20 minutes earlier.
A glass of milk before bed can help you sleep
According to Drew Dawson, a sleep and fatigue expert and director at Appleton Institute at Central Queensland University, drinking milk may help, but not for the reason you think - "It could be that it just takes you 10 minutes to make a cup of milk and by that time you're relaxed enough to fall asleep," Dawson said. The common thought is that milk can help people fall asleep because it contains two substances which are known to be related to sleep and relaxation: the hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan.