You would think that the information age would make us all experts in topics as important as sleep science, but in a sea of data, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. All the worse when research counters received wisdom, since age-old myths are notoriously hard to debunk. If you think you know everything there is to know about sleep, check and see if you still believe any of these common sleep myths.
1. You can catch up on sleep on the weekends
Much to the chagrin of weekend warriors the world over, you cannot "catch up" on missed sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep for a few days and then try to make up for it with a weekend snooze-fest, research shows that you’ll continue to experience symptoms of sleep deprivation, like impaired reasoning and slowed reaction times, until you reestablish your sleep schedule over an extended period. Check out our article on how to repay your sleep debt for more on this topic.
2. It’s okay to drive drowsy if you roll the windows down and turn the music up
An alarming number of Australians admit to driving drowsy, which research has shown can be as dangerous as driving drunk. Sleep deprivation slows your reaction time and hampers your reasoning skills, and no cold blast of air or heavy metal soundtrack will fix this. A particularly frightening factor in sleepy driving is the prevalence of microsleeps at the wheel. A microsleep is when, despite your best efforts, you nod off for a moment and wake up with a jerk. They’re completely involuntary and common in sleep-deprived people. Remember that it only takes a second to cause a deadly car crash.
3. Drinking alcohol before bed helps you sleep better
Ah, the proverbial nightcap. Many people swear that a glass of wine or a scotch neat before bed helps them fall asleep faster, and technically, they’re right. Mild boozing before bed decreases sleep latency, or the time it takes you to fall asleep, but it also negatively affects the quality of your sleep. In particular, alcohol seems to reduce the amount of REM sleep you get, which can cause you to feel sleepier during the day. If you really must, be sure to keep it to one drink max, but your best bet is to switch to warm milk or herbal tea (yes, mom was right).
4. Waking a sleepwalker could kill them
Sleepwalking was poorly understood for most of human history (some cultures even believed that sleepwalking is a symptom of demonic possession) so it makes sense that this myth persists. There’s never been a documented case of someone dying from being woken up while sleepwalking. However, a sleepwalker may react with distress and confusion, so the best strategy is to gently guide them back to bed without waking them up.
Here’s what’s absolutely not a sleep myth: Sleeping on a well-fitted, supportive surface leads to higher quality sleep. Pop into a Regal store today if you’re struggling to get the rest you need with an old, lumpy mattress.