The 10 sleep myths people believe - and why they're wrong

There's nothing worse than lying in bed wide awake after having tried everything under the sun to drop off.

Sleeping problems are wide-spread, with statistics showing four in 10 Australian adults - or 7.4 million people are affected by sleep deprivation alone.

In a bid to understand why people struggle, meditation app commissioned research delving into what people believed about getting a good night's slumber.

After surveying 4,337 participants in the US and UK, the study, revealed the top 10 sleep myths - and why they're wrong.

Myth 1: Fresh air will keep you awake

The study revealed 56 per cent of respondents believed it was possible to stay awake longer if driving in the car with the windows open or air-conditioning turned up.

According to this myth, not only is this an ineffective strategy but one that's also dangerous. 

'If you're feeling tired while driving, pull off the road in a safe rest area and take a nap for 15 -45 minutes.’

Myth 2: Your brain 'rests' while you sleep

Close to half of those taking part in the questionnaire (48 per cent) said they believed during sleep, your brain finally rests.

The National Sleep Foundation explains: The body rests during sleep, however, the brain remains active, gets "recharged," and still controls many body functions including breathing.'

Myth 3: Never wake a sleepwalker 

One of the more enduring myths is that if a person is sleepwalking, they shouldn't be woken.

It's also one believed by 50 per cent of those taking part in the study. However, as it turns out not waking sleepwalkers isn't the correct thing to do.

Experts say if you encounter a person who is sleepwalking, the best thing is gently guide them back to bed as they could be at risk of falling or hurting themselves in other ways.

Myth 4: People swallow a few spiders in their sleep every year

If you live in Australia, chances are you share your bedroom with a few crawling insects, including spiders.

However, the probability of swallowing these eight-legged creatures while sleeping is so low, it rates as almost nil.

Yet, it's a belief held by 30 per cent of those surveyed. 

Myth 5: You only dream during deep sleep

Fifty per cent of those surveyed said they believed dreaming only occurred during deeper levels of sleep.

While a person will experience several different stages while asleep, dreaming isn't relegated to just one.

'Dreams can be experienced in all stages of sleep but usually are most vivid in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.’

Myth 6: Alcohol before bed helps you sleep

While a nightcap before you go to bed might relax you and potentially help you get to sleep, it's not an effective sleep aid.  

Although 20 per cent said they believed the myth, experts at the National Sleep Foundation debunk this.

'Alcohol, a depressant, can help you fall asleep faster, it also contributes to poor quality sleep later.'

Myth 7: It's best to stay in bed if you can't sleep

A third of those surveyed held the belief if you're struggling to fall asleep, it's best to stay in bed.

While it might feel difficult to get up and do something else, Australian sleep expert Carmel Harrington said doing this is more effective.

'If you find you're really not falling asleep after 30 or 40 minutes, you need to get up, go to a comfortable room, read a book under dim light until you start to feel sleepy again,' she told

Myth 8: You can make up on missed sleep

If you've burnt the candle at both ends and are heading into the weekend thinking you'll 'catch up', think again.

While a fifth (20 per cent) of respondents believe is possible, the reality is you can't make up for lost sleep.

Additionally, its thought oversleeping on the weekends can be disruptive to sleep patterns, with the best advice being to aim for a more consistent bedtime.

Myth 9: Snoring is harmless 

As many as 17 per cent said they thought snoring was nothing more than a harmless annoyance, however, it can potentially signal a health problem.

Sleep apnoea, a condition characterised by snoring, occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep.

If you suspect this may be a problem, you need to request a sleep study through your GP.

The study works either in the hospital or at home. You'll have to use a finger pulse oximeter, which checks for oxygen de-saturations, and a breathing cannula to check for apnoeas and hypopnoeas. 

Myth 10: Eating cheese before bed increases the risk of nightmares

The myth abounds if you eat cheese before you go to bed, you'll be beset by nightmares of the worst kind.

It's a belief held by 15 per cent of those who took part in the survey, but not one that has any validity.

Experts say eating a small slice of cheddar before you hit the hay could help you drop off.

'Dairy contains something called tryptophan, which is like a sleep-inducing nutrient,' said Lisa Artis of the Sleep Council speaking to .

'It is effective in stress reduction and stabilises nerve fibres in the brain. It is like a calming food.' 


Compiled by Olalekan Adeleye


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