So you need eight hours sleep do you? FORTY popular sleep myths debunked in new book by local scientist

The new release sheds light on long-held notions about getting some shut-eye.
The truth about sleep myths such as ‘I should have 8 hours’ sleep’ are revealed in a new book by leading sleep scientists including Professor Graham Law from the University of Lincoln.

The release debunks 40 popular and persistent beliefs on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Better: The science and the myths by Professor Graham Law and Dr Shane Pascoe examines in detail common misconceptions such as ‘The older I get, the more sleep I need’ and ‘Cheese gives you nightmares’.

Professor Graham Law is a sleep scientist with more than 25 years’ research experience. Based in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln he is an Honorary Secretary of the British Sleep Society and specialist in health and epidemiology.

Dr Shane Pascoe is a psychologist at the University of New South Wales, Australia, with 20 years’ experience helping people with a variety of sleep disorders.

Professor Law said: There is a lot of mythology around getting a good night’s sleep, much of it well-intentioned, yet some of the most persistent myths are not only flawed, they could actually be harmful to our health and well-being.

“I’ve been working in the field of sleep research for a number of years and have heard hundreds of stories and examples from students and research participants about their sleep habits and attitudes. I started to write down some of the myths and by the time I got to 15 or 20 different myths I realised I needed to do something about it. There are 40 myths in the book but there were many, many more we left out.”

The book explains how sleep is governed by two processes: each person has their own ‘sleep debt’ and circadian rhythms – physical, mental and behavioural changes that approximately follow 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness. In healthy people these two processes should work in tandem but they can also run out of synch, and these imbalances are often the cause of sleep disorders. Common problems include insomnia, sleep apnea or excessive snoring.

Professor Law explained: “We can do very little to change our circadian rhythms, however, our sleep debt is very much influenced by our behaviour: when we go to bed, what we eat, how much we exercise, when we work and when we have fun. Many of these factors are things we can change. Just thinking a little more about how our behaviour affects our sleep can have a huge impact on health and well-being.”

The book outlines the scientific evidence relevant to each myth.

Each chapter closes with ‘top tips’ for readers to address underlying issues behind common sleep problems, for instance, the value of maintaining a sleep diary to understand individual sleep needs rather than aiming rigidly for a “staple” eight hours in bed each night.

Practical advice is based on principles of CBTI (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia), which aims to address the causes of sleep problems by adjusting individual attitudes and behaviours rather than through medication.

Sleep Better: The science and the myths is available in paperback, £9.99, and ebook by Sheldon Press.

The 40 myths tackled in the book:

  • I should have 8 hours’ sleep
  • I didn’t sleep a wink last night
  • I yawn because I’m tired
  • I must sleep in one continuous block of time
  • Don’t wake a sleepwalker
  • I haven’t slept well if I wake during the night
  • My television helps me to sleep
  • The more I sleep the more I need to sleep
  • One hour sleep before midnight is worth two after
  • My baby doesn’t ‘sleep like a baby!’
  • Cheese gives you nightmares
  • When I exercise I sleep better
  • Teenagers are lazy because they sleep too much
  • You shouldn’t keep your mobile phone by your bed
  • A little drink before bed helps me to sleep
  • I can catch up on my sleep anytime
  • Never go to sleep on an argument
  • Snoring means I’m sleeping well
  • The older I get, the more sleep I need
  • I can just take a tablet to help me with my sleep
  • You lose weight by sleeping less
  • I’d be in trouble without my snooze button
  • I tried mindfulness once and it didn’t help me to sleep
  • Your head can explode during your sleep
  • Holding a spoon allows me to nap
  • Coffee doesn’t affect my sleep
  • If dolphins slept, they wouldn’t be able to breathe
  • Routines are for babies
  • Sleeping is a weakness
  • I can’t sleep without my bed socks
  • Napping is for old people
  • I just need an app
  • There must be something wrong with me if I sleep more than my friends
  • A psychologist won’t help me to sleep
  • If I slept less I could get more done
  • I’m too busy to have breakfast
  • I won’t come to any harm from not sleeping
  • A banana before bed helps me to sleep
  • My laptop takes up little room in my bedroom
  • When I’ve caught up on my sleep, I can sort out the clutter

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