We’ve all heard that cheese before bed gives you nightmares, alcohol can help you get a better night’s rest, and that we need eight hours of sleep each night, but is this true? In some cases, these claims are little more than old wives’ tales and by following some, you could actually be disrupting your sleep.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the science behind some of the most common sleep myths, so we can put them to bed once and for all.
EATING CHEESE BEFORE BED WILL GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES
It’s perhaps one of the most common sleep myths around, and many people assume that eating cheese before bed can give you a bad night’s rest. But, if you find yourself waking up from dreams of monsters and ghouls, it’s probably down to something other than the full camembert you ate before heading to bed.
This myth was debunked back in 2005, when the British Cheese Board conducted a study to find out if cheese before bed can really cause nightmares. They gave 200 participants 20g of different types of cheese before bed for a period of a week. Overall, 72% of them reported sleeping well each night and, of the 67% who said they could remember their dreams, none of them reported having any nightmares.
Interestingly, this myth does have some merit. The same study found that, although eating cheese didn’t cause bad dreams, there was a correlation between the types of cheese people ate and the content of their dreams. The results showed that:
- 85% of female participants who ate Stilton reported unusual (but not scary) dreams,
- 65% of participants who ate Cheddar had dreams about celebrities,
- Over 65% of participants who ate Red Leicester reported dreaming about their old school days,
- 100% of female participants who ate British Brie said that they had relaxing dreams, but male participants eating the same cheese reported cryptic dreams,
- Around 67% of participants who ate Lancashire cheese said they had dreams about work,
- And over 50% of participants who ate Cheshire cheese said they didn’t dream at all.
While the claim that eating cheese before bed seems to be a myth, there does seem to be a correlation between types of cheese and the content of dreams. None of them seem to be particularly bad, though. So, if you’re experiencing scary dreams, it’s probably down to something other than your love of cheese.
YOU SHOULD TRY TO SLEEP FOR EXACTLY EIGHT HOURS EVERY NIGHT
You’ve probably heard that adults need eight hours of sleep each night to avoid the risk of over or under sleeping. But, is this true?
Research published by the Nature and Science of Sleep concluded that there is no correct number of hours you should sleep for each night, and that the optimum number of hours can vary depending on factors such as your age, health, and lifestyle. For example, high performance athletes should get more hours of sleep each night to account for their energy usage and focus during the day. Therefore, the amount of sleep you should be getting each night depends entirely on who you are. To find out how much sleep you need based on your age, take a look at our handy chart below:
As a general guide, healthy adults should aim to get 7–10 hours of sleep each night. This means, if you find yourself sleeping in for a bit or waking up a little early, you don’t need to worry about getting your full eight hours. Experiment a bit with your sleep times and track how alert you feel each day to find the optimal sleep time for you.
HAVING A DRINK BEFORE BED CAN HELP YOU SLEEP
Some people say that drinking acohol before bed can help you sleep and, although this might feel like the case, a little tipple on a night could actually be giving you a worse quality of sleep. Research conducted by the Sleep Disorders and Research Centre of the Henry Ford Hospital found that, although alcohol helped participants fall asleep quicker, it resulted in lighter sleep and more disruption during the later stages of sleep. This, combined with more frequent toilet trips throughout the night, could cause significant disruption to your rest, and you’ll probably wake up feeling tired in the morning.
So, if you’re thinking of having a glass of wine tonight to help you sleep, you might want to try a cup of warm milk instead.