In your quest for a good night’s sleep, you’ve cut out foods that can wreak havoc on your sleep, you’ve done the research and found the best pillow for your sleep style and you’ve even decorated your bedroom with plants scientifically proven to promote better sleep. Still you find yourself tossing and turning and wishing that damn melatonin would do something already. Could it be that you’ve fallen for a sleep myth that’s secretly preventing you from getting a restful night? From the incorrect assumption that you can make up for a lack of sleep during the week on the weekends to the fallacy that a warm, cozy room is best for sleeping, read on for five sleep myths it’s high time we all stop believing.
1. Myth: Sleeping in on the Weekend Makes Up for Bad Sleep During the Week
You had a crazy week and your sleep suffered. That’s OK, you think, I’ll make up for it by sleeping in all weekend. Not so fast: According to sleep scientist Matthew Walker, sleeping until noon on the weekends won't actually make up for a week of bad nights. “Sleep is not like the bank, so you can’t accumulate a debt and then try and pay it off at a later point in time,” he told NPR. “So the brain has no capacity to get back that lost sleep that you’ve been lumbering it with during the week in terms of a debt.” This means that sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t reset your internal clock. Instead, all it does is hinder your sleep cycle during the week, which benefits from regularity.
2. Myth: A Warm, Cozy Bedroom Is Best for a Good Night’s Sleep
Tempting as it is to bury yourself under three blankets for optimal coziness, too-warm conditions can actually negatively impact your sleep. You don’t have to go to bed shivering, but your body prepares itself for sleep by cooling down, so it’s a bad idea to go to bed in an overly warm room. Aim to keep your room temperature between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit—it will naturally aid in the sleep process. One way to do this? Go to bed with the door open. In a study published by Indoor Air: International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health, scientists observed a group of healthy young adults sleeping over a period of five nights. Those who kept the bedroom door open reported a better and longer night’s sleep than those who slept with the door closed, partially because the open door allows for better ventilation.
3. Myth: Working Out at Night Means You Won’t Sleep as Well
You might think that taking a heart-pumping HIIT class a few hours before bedtime will make it nearly impossible to fall asleep, but in general, exercising at night should not mess with your sleep. On the contrary, a 2014 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that performing vigorous exercise 90 minutes before bedtime was associated with falling asleep faster, fewer wake-ups in the middle of the night and improved mood.
4. Myth: You Need Less Sleep as You Get Older
It might seem like older people need less and less sleep, but that’s not the whole truth. While older people frequently sleep less than younger people, it’s not because they need less sleep, it’s because aging can affect your circadian rhythm (your internal clock), making it harder to sleep as long as you want or need. So no, grandma and grandpa don’t require less sleep, they just have a harder time clocking sleep hours than they did in their younger days.
5. Myth: If You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night, You Shouldn’t Get Out of Bed
It’s 3 a.m. and you wake up from a deep sleep—ugh. You might think you’ll have the best chance of falling back into slumber if you wait it out in bed, but if you can’t fall back to sleep within 20 minutes, experts say you should actually get up, move to a dimly lit area and do something relaxing that doesn’t involve a screen (read a book, meditate, etc.). Why? For optimal sleep, it’s important that your brain associates your bed with sleeping. If you’re staying in bed trying to force yourself back to sleep, your brain could come to associate your bed with stress or frustration.