Arguing before bed, exercising late and checking work emails really do affect your sleep – but eating cheese and taking daytime naps may make no difference, according to experts.
TV medical professional Dr Ranj has debunked some of the popular myths about sleep, including claims that everyone needs to get a full eight hours a night.
Eating a light snack before bed is also unlikely to affect your quality of sleep.
However, tucking into a full meal shortly before going to sleep, using a phone at night and the temperature of a room will affect your chances of getting a decent kip.
It comes after a study of 2,000 adults, by Furniture Village, found being too hot or cold, needing to go to the toilet and stress levels are among the top reasons for having a bad night’s sleep.
According to Dr Ranj, there is little evidence to support the idea that eating cheese before bed gives you vivid dreams or nightmares, and that in fact, cheese is a source of B vitamins which can help you sleep.
But 11 per cent of those polled believe tucking into cheese last thing at night will result in poor sleep.
Reading too late, which is considered to be true by 14 per cent of those polled, is also unlikely to leave you unable to sleep and actually helps you to wind down, especially if done on a non-electronic screen.
And while 31 per cent believe that everyone should get eight hours sleep in order to class it as good, Dr Ranj believes that different people require different amounts of sleep – with the average adult needing anything between seven and nine hours.
Dr Ranj, who is Furniture Village’s new sleep ambassador said: “Sleep is as vital to good health as diet and exercise, and it’s often easier, yet many people believe in popular myths and rely on home sleep remedies, which may not work.
“While the general impression is everyone needs eight hours of sleep, different people require different amounts of sleep – some people need less and others more.
“The common myth that eating cheese effects sleep actually has no impact at all and in reality may be associated with more pleasant dreams and while having a small snack before bed is usually fine, a large meal can make it uncomfortable to lie down and keep you awake.
“Electronics should also be avoided for at least an hour before bed as the light emitted by devices can interfere with the sleep-inducing hormones that our brains produce.
“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.”
The study also found just 19 per cent of those polled believe their overall diet affects their sleep quality and only a tenth feel the same about smoking – both of which Dr Ranj confirmed do have an influence.
Typically, the average adult leaves two hours between eating and going to bed, while just over an hour is allowed between a drink and sleep.
But while Dr Ranj believes that having a snack shortly before going to bed is fine, a large meal could cause disruption.
He also added that drinking to stay hydrated is important, but too much too close to bedtime could mean late-night trips to the loo.
Worryingly, 43 per cent of those polled via OnePoll admitted they ‘struggle’ to sleep, with more than a third even researching how to improve their shut-eye.
On average, adults take 32 minutes to drift off once they’re in bed and wake up twice during a standard night.
But more than two in five believe their sleep has worsened with age and 63 per cent have struggled when in a bed which isn’t theirs, such as at a hotel.
A spokesperson for Furniture Village said: “The research proves that, particularly in these uncertain times, people are focused on both the quality and the quantity of their sleep, with many seeking out strategies – which may or may not work – to help them sleep better.
“Dr Ranj has helpfully debunked some of the more common myths around sleep, like eating cheese before bed and getting a strict eight hours of sleep every night.
“As well as before-bed routines and night time habits, we know that the quality of an individual’s sleep can also be affected by his or her bed and mattress.”
Dr Ranj’s tips for a better night’s sleep can be seen at https://www.furniturevillage.co.uk/sleep-essentials.html
Sleep myths debunked
Eating cheese affects sleep – FALSE
It’s commonly believed that eating cheese before bed gives you vivid dreams or even nightmares – but for most people it 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.
Having a lie in on the weekend affects sleep – TRUE
It’s tempting to catch up on lost sleep at the weekends, but this can disrupt your sleep pattern overall. Reclaiming sleep debt slowly over several nights is a safer way than having one big lie-in.
Reading too late affects sleep – FALSE
Reading before bed can help you wind down (ideally on a non-electronic screen). If you can’t sleep it can help to do something else – like reading – for a short period of time before trying again.
Smoking affects sleep – TRUE
Smoking affects our breathing, lung health, and overall health which can all have a direct impact on the quality of our sleep.
Having an argument before bed affects sleep – TRUE
Increased stress levels can disrupt sleep, so an argument before bed isn’t a great idea.
Getting less than eight hours affects sleep – FALSE
Different people require different amounts of sleep. The average adult probably needs around 7-9 hours, but some people need less and others more.
Napping during the day affects sleep – FALSE
For some, napping during the day is just part of their routine. For others, napping too much means they may struggle to sleep at night.
Needing less sleep as you get older – TRUE
As we age, our sleeping patterns change. It’s quite normal for older people to require less sleep at night, but nap for a short time during the day.
Eating too close to bedtime affects sleep – TRUE
Having a small snack before bed is usually fine, however, eating a large meal too close to bed could keep you awake as it may make it uncomfortable to lie down as well as cause indigestion or heartburn.
Overall diet effects sleep – TRUE
Eating a diet which has a variety of different food providing important nutrients is helpful for sleep. For example, food rich in B vitamins and vitamin D, magnesium, iron etc. can all help you sleep better as part of a balanced diet.
Drinking caffeine close to bedtime effects sleep – TRUE
Caffeine is a stimulant and ideally avoided in the six hours before bed time. Caffeine is also a weak diuretic meaning that it makes you go to the toilet more.
Using your phone at night affects sleep – TRUE
The light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with the sleep-inducing hormones that our brains produce, so should be avoided for at least an hour before bed.
Watching TV in bed affects sleep – TRUE
While watching TV can be a great way to relax, the light they produce can interfere with production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Exercising late affects sleep – TRUE
Exercise is great for general health and helps you sleep better at night. However, exercising too close to bedtime is stimulating and can disrupt your sleep.
Stress levels affect sleep – TRUE
Stress causes the production of various hormones in our bodies that keep us alert. Being stressed a lot therefore tends to make sleeping more difficult.
The temperature of the room affects sleep – TRUE
Your bedroom should ideally be cool and comfortable. If it’s too hot or too cold then you may struggle to sleep.
Drinking alcohol affects sleep – TRUE
Alcohol can make you drowsy, but it changes the type of sleep that you have and makes it less restful.