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Survey: Debunking Sleep Myths

We all know that good sleep is essential for good health, both mental and physical. But how are we all sleeping these days? We surveyed 2,000 adults to learn more about the nation’s sleep habits and the tips and tricks we rely on to sleep better. It turns out that many of us think that some popular sleep myths are actually true. Read on for our survey results and to see which sleep myths Furniture Village sleep ambassador Dr Ranj debunks.
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What’s the best way to get to sleep at night? It’s a question that, in these uncertain times, is increasingly relevant. We are, as a nation, undoubtedly struggling with our sleep, with many people reporting that they’re sleeping less, waking up more and feeling less rested in the morning. Some of us are even having more vivid dreams than usual.

But what actually helps us get to sleep? Many of us are familiar with home sleep remedies, but do they actually work? We surveyed the great British public to ask about their sleep tips and beliefs, and asked our sleep ambassador Dr Ranj for his thoughts. As he says, “Sleep is as vital to good health as diet and exercise, and it’s often easier. Yet many people believe in popular sleep myths and rely on home sleep remedies, which may not work.”


How well are we sleeping?

Our survey of 2,000 adults in the UK found that 43% admitted they ‘struggle’ to sleep, with more than a third even researching how to get a better night’s sleep.

On average adults take 32 minutes to drift off once they’re in bed, and wake up twice during an average night.

More than two in five believe they sleep less well as they’ve grown older, and 63% have struggled when trying to sleep in a bed which isn’t theirs, such as in a hotel room.

Overall, our survey respondents said that the temperature of the room, needing to get up to go to the toilet and stress levels are among their top reasons for having a bad night’s sleep.

And while 31% believe that a good night’s sleep means eight hours a night, Dr Ranj tells us that different people require different nightly amounts of sleep. He says, “The average adult probably needs around seven to nine hours, but some people need less and others more. If you’re finding yourself consistently tired, especially mid-morning, then you may not be getting enough.”


Bedtime routines

Our survey also found that many people believe having a consistent bedtime routine is key. A quarter of people stick to a regular bedtime, 31% avoid caffeine after a certain time, and 23% put on fresh bedding.

Half of those polled try to go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends, while 22% do so during the week, too.

When it comes to the typical night time routine, a third read a book, while 11% opt for a Kindle and 38% watch TV.

However, 14% of respondents said they believed reading too late would disrupt sleep. This is a popular sleep myth about which Dr Ranj says, “If you can’t sleep, it can help to do something else – like reading, ideally on a non-electronic screen – for a short period of time before trying again.”

A fifth of our respondents also look at social media before they go to sleep. On average, people scroll through their phones for 22 minutes before lights out.

Dr Ranj says “We know that electronic devices can interfere with your ability to sleep because of their potential effects on the hormone melatonin. That’s why most health professionals would advise switching off devices for at least an hour before bed if you are having trouble.”


Eating and drinking

Our survey also found that 11% believe that eating cheese before bed gives you vivid dreams or nightmares. But according to Dr Ranj, there is little evidence to support this. He says, “For most people, eating cheese has no effect at all, and for others it may actually be associated with more pleasant dreams. Plus, cheese is a source of B vitamins that can help you sleep.”

Our survey also revealed that, typically, people leave two hours in between eating and going to bed, and just over an hour in between a drink and sleep. Dr Ranj recommends eating your last meal of the day a few hours before bed, at around 7:00 pm. He comments, “Having a small snack before bed is usually fine. However, eating a large meal too close to bedtime could keep you awake as it may make it uncomfortable to lie down as well as cause indigestion or heartburn."

Almost half believe that water is the best drink to have before bed, while 22% opt for milk and 17% think chamomile tea is the safest option. Dr Ranj also recommends a malted milk drink before bed which can help boost melatonin, the hormone that helps you drift off and regulate the body’s sleep wake cycles. Be careful about drinking too close to bedtime though, as it could mean trips to the toilet during the night!

The study also found that just 19% believe their overall diet affects how well they sleep, and only a tenth feel the same about smoking. Dr Ranj says, “Smoking undoubtedly affects our breathing, lung health, and overall health which can have a direct impact on the quality of our sleep.”

What actually helps you sleep?

The research suggests that people are often unable to separate the sleep facts from the sleep fiction – and that people who struggle to get to sleep at night are often willing to try a whole range of tactics in pursuit of a good night’s rest. Dr Ranj has weighed in on some of the more common home sleep remedies associated with popular sleep myths to explore what may or may not have an effect on sleep.

If you’re struggling to get to sleep, finding the right mattress could be the first step on the path to better sleep. Use our mattress buying guide to find the right mattress type, firmness and size to suit you.


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