Getting enough sleep can be a tough thing to do. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done and the to-do list finished. Unfortunately, too many people sacrifice a good sleep in favour of staying awake and getting things done, resulting in some pretty interesting beliefs around sleep and high rates of poor sleep patterns among adults.
According to a 2019 nation-wide Amcal Sleep Health Survey, less than a quarter of Australians are getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. In fact, the survey found that 62 per cent of Australians are ignoring the critical warning signs that their poor night’s sleep may be something more serious, such as consistent fatigue, loss of concentration and impatience with others.
Amcal Pharmacy Senior Pharmacist Brinley Hosking has identified and debunked five myths about sleep most people believe.
31 per cent of Australians believe that a weekend sleep-in can catch them up on lost sleep from earlier in the week
“You may feel more rested on a Monday morning after having some extra sleep on the weekend but this doesn’t mean that you have avoided the health consequences of poor sleep during the week,” says Brinley. “While extra weekend sleep does help to reduce daytime sleepiness and stress, your overall ability to focus and pay attention may still be reduced. This can also throw off your internal body clock (also known as your circadian rhythm), making it harder to establish healthy sleep patterns overall.”
47 per cent of Australians believe it’s ‘healthy’ to catch up on missed sleep at a later stage of the day
Brinley says this isn’t necessarily true. “Similar to sleeping in on the weekend, naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night and you risk creating an unhealthy sleeping cycle,” says Brinley. “Many people feel even worse after waking up from a nap as they sleep for too long and enter a deep sleep, struggling to then wake up. Naps should always be limited to 20 minutes.”
3 out of 10 Australians believe that taking a sleeping tablet always ensures a good night’s sleep
“This is not always true. Many people who take sleeping tablets still can’t sleep, or don’t feel rested when they wake up. In this case, you should see a specialist for a detailed sleep health check-up, as you may suffer from a sleeping disorder like sleep apnoea.”
“On another note, if you take sleeping pills over a longer period of time, you can quickly build up a tolerance. Your body may become accustomed to the medication and you will need a higher and higher dose to fall asleep, which is not always safe.”
27% of the population believe that it’s better to have coffee in the afternoon rather than the morning, for a better night’s sleep
Brinley says this is definitely not true. “Caffeine lasts for a while in your body and can cause sleeping problems if you drink your coffee too late. It’s best to drink your coffee in the morning or early afternoon and you should limit your intake to a maximum of four cups per day.”
1 in 5 believe that cheese before bed causes nightmares
“For centuries, people have believed that eating cheese can cause nightmares,” says Brinley. But no worries, you can still enjoy your brie before bed!
“There is no evidence to support this conclusion. Cheese does contain an amino acid called tryptophan that when consumed can be processed into serotonin, a substance involved in sleepiness, so there may be some tenuous connection, but there haven’t been any rigorous studies conducted to investigate this.”
You might also like: