Dream On: 16 Sleep Myths That Could Explain Why You're So Tired

Myth #5: Sleep It Off


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Myth #5: Sleep It Off

Don't Sleep On It!

Between a steady stream of weather crises, the war in Ukraine, and other strife, a lot of people have been losing sleep lately — but the good news is that there's been plenty of research on the topic. The negative effects of alcohol and caffeine on a good night's rest are fairly well-known, but myths abound. A little myth-busting, along with free tools and tips, might help you catch the full night of sound sleep that you deserve. It won't bring world peace or halt climate change, but at least you'll be rested enough to deal with them. 

Related: This Is Why Insomnia Is So Common in Older People

Waking Up

Myth: Extra Sleep is Always Good For You

The exhortation to get extra sleep whenever you can may be the biggest myth of all. New research reveals that when it comes to sleep, there's a sweet spot for older adults: seven hours. While it seems feasible that more sleep is always beneficial, research shows that excessive sleep can have some of the same side effects as too little sleep, including trouble focusing and difficulty remembering things. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven hours to eight of sleep for adults 18 and older. 

Related:  25 Pieces of Advice From Seniors to Millennials

Alcohol Leaves Your System Within Hours

Myth: Stay in Bed Until You Have to Get Up

Penn Medicine research has found that you may be able to prevent acute insomnia from becoming chronic insomnia by getting out of bed if you wake before the alarm goes off. People who developed long-lasting insomnia stayed in bed in the morning trying to force more sleep. 

For more smart health and wellness tips,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

Myth: Pajamas Have Nothing to Do With Sleep Quality

Myth: Pajamas Have Nothing to Do With Sleep Quality

Research has shown that sleeping naked may improve sleep. Forgoing PJs is better for body temperature regulation, which helps relieve stress — and that, in turn, makes it easier to sleep. For some people, the absence of garments also leads to more intimacy in bed — another soporific. 

Mattress Problems

Myth: Mattresses Last for Decades

Mattresses are expensive, and some consumers like to believe that the high cost guarantees decades of use. Like all cushioned furniture, however, mattresses gradually decline in comfort and support. The lifetime of a mattress varies from person to person, but the Better Sleep Council recommends replacing a mattress every seven years.

Work Nap

Myth: Sleep Debt Can Be Repaid

There's no such thing as catching up on a sleep deficit. Research indicates that a lack of sleep has negative effects on the next day's energy, motor skills, cognitive thinking, and productivity. Studies have shown the effects of sleep deprivation on business leaders and adolescents alike, so strive to get the daily recommended amount of rest to avoid being so tired.


Myth: Getting the Recommended Number of Hours Is Enough

Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle can cause tiredness even in people who sleep the recommended number of hours. Try to time your morning wake-up so it falls between natural sleep cycles. Free tools like the Sleep Cycle Calculator can help determine the best times to begin preparing for bed based on when you need to wake up.


Myth: A Quick Nap Doesn’t Affect Nighttime Sleep

Naps come with great benefits, such as improved alertness, performance, memory, and even reaction time. People with no trouble sleeping at night probably won't be thrown off by a short nap during the day, but it's a different story for people with sleeping problems. For better nighttime sleep, power through drowsiness and resist napping. A quick walk outside or 10-minute stretch to activate the brain and body could stave off that tired feeling.

Myth: Exercise Is Unrelated to Sleep

Myth: Exercise Is Unrelated to Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise can make falling asleep (and staying asleep) easier. Even 10 minutes of physical activity during the day can improve sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of sleep disorders. People who have trouble sleeping and aren't particularly active can take a lunchtime stroll or go for a short pre-dinner speed walk. Challenge your partner to a joint workout so you both get better sleep.


Myth: Stay in Bed Until You Fall Back Asleep

Staying in bed may not help you fall asleep again if you wake in the middle of the night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Experts explain that if you don't fall back asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, it's best to get up and do something relaxing in another room. Don't switch on bright lights, a smartphone, or a laptop. Instead, read a book by lamplight or listen to calming music until you feel drowsy again.


Myth: Couples Should Sleep in the Same Bed

Tossing and turning, pillow flipping, or frequent trips to the bathroom by your partner may result in a sleepless night. Instead of trying to sleep through it, look at ways to alleviate the disruptions. Consider a memory foam mattress or topper, or even two twin mattresses in a king-size frame. Also, try using your own comforter or blanket.

Myth: You'll Sleep Better If You're Alone

Myth: You’ll Sleep Better if You’re Alone

Although there can be drawbacks to sharing a bed, a small University of Minnesota study reported in February that people with good romantic relationships in their 20s had less stressful life events and better sleep quality in their 30s. The study's authors aren't going overboard with their claims. Lead researcher Chloe Huelznitz suggested only that romantics may "have other relational skills and stronger social networks that help reduce their exposure to stressful life events."

Avoid Blue Light

Myth: Reading Before Bedtime Is Relaxing

This depends on the medium. Books and magazines are okay. Scrolling through social media feeds and news sites on a smartphone, not so much. The blue light from personal electronic devices suppresses melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles, according to Harvard Health. Practice self-restraint and keep the phones, tablets, and laptops out of the bedroom.

Myth: A Warm, Cozy Room Is Best for Falling Asleep

Myth: A Warm, Cozy Room Is Best for Falling Asleep

Hot temperatures and muggy conditions may induce drowsiness during the daytime, but they're not recommended for a good night's rest. Experts agree that the best temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. It's neither too cold nor too warm, and lets body temperature gradually drop — as it should — as you begin to fall asleep.

Coffee Shops

Myth: Caffeine Doesn’t Affect Sleep if You’re Immune to It

Caffeine consumption should be cut off at least four hours before bedtime, according to Australia's Sleep Health Foundation, because the effects can last up to six hours. Even people who don't feel the effects should still practice moderation or abstinence. Research shows that caffeine negatively affects sleep, regardless how "immune" someone has become.

Cut Down on Alcohol

Myth: Alcohol Helps You Sleep

A beer or glass of wine will make you drowsy and initially may induce sleep. But research shows that the quality of sleep deteriorates gradually during the latter half of the night. A glass of red wine may be recommended for other health benefits, but abstaining from alcohol before bedtime facilitates a better night's rest.

Myth: There Are Foods That'll Put You to Sleep

Myth: There Are Foods That’ll Put You to Sleep

A “sleep-friendly” ice cream called Nightfood is formulated for nighttime snacking, but it isn't going to help you sleep. Although it does have vitamins and minerals that supposedly promote sleep, the main thing is that it has less lactose, sugar, and caffeine that might keep you awake, so it may be a good choice for people who are going to have dessert in the evening regardless. There are also carbonated drinks and even coffees with additives intended to promote sleep. But AARP urges people toward natural foods including almonds or walnuts, bananas, cherries, and hummus for a more healthful bedtime snack.

Related: 'Healthy' Habits That Can Actually Cause Harm