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Facts about sleep - true or false?

Sleep is one of the most important things that we all need. Not only can it improve our mood, it can make us live longer and healthier lives.

Over the years we have been told many facts about sleep, ranging from how much we should be getting each night to what we should and should not be eating before we go to bed. But how many of these facts we’ve been taught about sleep are true? And are any of them affecting our health instead?

Fact 1: You don’t need 8 hours sleep a night – This is partly true. The body can cope well with 7-8 hours a night. It is however false when people say you only need a few hours. Yes, Margaret Thatcher swore by only having four hours of sleep a night and claimed this to be one of the reasons she was successful, however this is not good for our bodies. If we consistently have fewer than five hours of sleep per night, it can increase the risk of serious health issues such as heart attacks and strokes.

Fact 2: You can catch up on sleep at the weekend - No matter how long you lie in on a Saturday or Sunday, it will never completely make up for any sleep lost during the week. The key is to remain as consistent with your sleep as possible.

Fact 3: Alcohol helps you sleep - True in the way it can help you fall asleep, however if you have alcohol in your body you are less likely to have a good night’s sleep. You are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet or grab a drink of water.

Fact 4: You don’t need as much sleep as you get older - Although older people tend to wake up more during the night and wake up earlier, they still need the same amount of recommended sleep as anyone else.

Fact 5:  Count sheep - This is one of those things you learn when you are really young. However, reading a book or listening to music have been proven to be a much quicker way of falling asleep.

Fact 6: Buy a firmer mattress - It is commonly said that a firm mattress will help people sleep better. Although this will be the case for some people, everyone is different so you will have to choose a mattress that suits your own personal needs.

Fact 7: Some people don’t dream - This is completely false. Although some people never remember their dreams, everyone has them, whether they can be recalled or not.

Fact 8: Cheese gives you nightmares – There is no evidence to support this. However, all meals (consisting of cheese or not) should ideally be finished two or three hours before you go to bed if you want to sleep well.

Fact 9: Watching TV before bed helps you relax - Many people head up to their bedrooms to watch some telly to wind down before bed, but this is not ideal for two reasons. Depending on what’s on TV, you could end up going to sleep feeling anxious or stressed, which will cause you not to sleep as well. In addition to this, TV’s, phones and tablets all emit a blue light which delays the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Fact 10: Hit the snooze button if we need more sleep - It is normal to feel groggy when you first wake up. It is also natural to think that this means we need more sleep and should hit the snooze buttons on our alarms. However, this is not the best thing to do. Hitting the snooze button allows you to fall back to sleep, but it will only be low quality and for a short amount of time which could make you feel worse. Try and wake up on the first alarm and open the curtains to expose yourself to as much bright light as possible as this will help you feel more awake quicker.

Do you have any other facts or tips about getting a good night’s sleep? Let us know by connecting on social media at @TimeForYouGroup

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