the myths of sleep

Counting sheep to help you sleep? Just how good for you is a siesta? We take a deeper look at some common myths and claims about sleep.

Have you ever tried counting sheep to help you get to sleep? This is the classic technique people are told can help you put to bed any difficulties you’re having sleeping, allowing you to drift off into your slumber.

But just how accurate is this claim?

In a recent “Sleep Fact and Fiction” article by the Guardian, several sleep facts are placed under the microscope to see whether there is any scientific evidence to back them up, or whether they are indeed just the stuff of dreams…


“Is a power nap or siesta a good idea if you’re exhausted?”

The article states that “a nap of 15-25 minutes avoids getting into deep sleep, but can still renew levels of alertness and restore the brain’s capacity for learning”.

This would suggest that a quick power nap within the 15-25 minute gap would be beneficial to your energy levels, but ultimately this should not be used as a substitute for a good night’s sleep.


“Is an hour’s sleep before midnight really as good as two after?”

Simply put, no – get as much sleep as you can.


“Can we catch up on sleep at the weekend?”

This is possible, however the article references the fact that “daytime performance during the week will be suboptimal when we have had insufficient sleep during night-time”.

Whilst you can enjoy a lie-in to get back on track with your sleeping, it’s important to remember that you won’t be functioning to the best of your abilities during the week on less sleep than you need.


“If I wake up during the night, have I got a sleep disorder?”

If waking up in the night is becoming frequent and consistently disturbing your night’s sleep, you should visit a GP to identify the cause of this.


“Does counting sheep get you to sleep?”

The age old story of counting sheep is one of the most popular stories told to get people to go to sleep. But just how helpful is it actually to count sheep in order to put you to sleep?

The article cites research performed by Oxford University back in 2002, where people who “thought of idyllic, beautiful places, such as a beach in the south of France, went to sleep on average 20 minutes earlier than they would normally do on nights when they were not concentrating on faraway places”. The test referred to the practice of counting sheep as “too mundane to effectively keep worries away”.

This test therefore shows that by concentrating or thinking about places of beauty, tranquility and calm are better for helping you get to sleep than counting a seemingly endless amount of our wooly friends. The key is to make sure you think of something that puts your mind at ease, and allows you to relax and de-stress at the end of your day.

So, when you’re trying to drift off to sleep tonight on your nanu pillow, try not to think too hard about sheep unless they’re relaxing on a sun lounger on a beautiful, golden faraway beach…



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