Fitness + Well-being

Experts debunk the biggest myths about sleep



Does counting sheep help you nod off, and does eating cheese late at night give you nightmares?


Recent studies have found that at least one-third of the Australian adult population regularly suffers from significant sleep problems, which can lead to a raft of illnesses, including diabetes and depression.

But many of the things we know about sleep are completely wrong, according to U.K. sleep and insomnia expert Dr. Tania Ahern.

This month is National Bed Month, and Dr. Ahern has teamed up with Drift Sleep, maker of mattresses with natural surfaces, to explain the truth behind the top sleep myths.

“We all want to sleep well and get up ready for the day ahead, and in our quest to do so over the years, we’ve created so many myths,” she said. “We wanted to share these with people so they can stop worrying about unnecessary problems and focus on fixing the underlying problem.”

1. Taking sleeping tablets ensures a good night’s sleep
Studies have shown that sleeping tablets increase total sleep time on average by just 25 minutes. Although they induce sleep more quickly, the amnesiac effect means that you are less likely to remember waking up during the night and long-term use can impact on your general health.

2. A nightcap will help me drift off
Although alcohol will make you sleep more quickly, it also has significant negative effect on sleep quantity and quality. In the first half of the night it brings on deep sleep but suppresses REM (dream) sleep. Once the alcohol has worn off, there is a "rebound effect" with more episodes of wakefulness and lighter sleep.

3. I can make up for lost sleep at the weekend
Two-thirds of the population go to bed later and sleep in at weekends but they may be experiencing “social jet lag.” A change in pattern disrupts the natural rise and fall in body temperature, which in turn delays onset of sleep. This, in turn, leads to Sunday night insomnia leaving you tired on Monday morning.

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