Sleep: separating fact from fiction

By Melissa

Photo by Kat Wilcox

Sleep is complex and a little bit weird but an essential part of our overall health and wellbeing, enabling our bodies to repair and be ready to take on another day. Let’s take a look at some surprising myths and facts about this function we spend a third of our lives doing. 

MYTH Stay in bed if you can’t sleep

Staying in bed leads your brain to associate your bed with wakefulness so if you find yourself tossing and turning, get out of bed until you feel sleepy. Listen to music, read or meditate until you’re sleepy enough to get back into bed.

FACT Humans used to sleep in two shifts

Evidence suggests humans once slept biphasically – in two sleep shifts – instead of one long sleep. Historians credit our current sleep behaviour to the invention of electricity, and the standardisation of our work and school schedules.

MYTH You can catch up on sleep over the weekend

“Purging” sleep during the week and “bingeing” over the weekend (referred to by experts as “sleep bulimia”) can actually make things worse. A consistent sleep pattern is one of the best ways to regulate your circadian rhythm and get the best sleep.

MYTH Alcohol makes you sleep better

A relaxing drink or two before bed might make it easier to fall asleep but your sleep quality declines considerably. Leave 1 – 2 hours before bed alcohol-free to avoid an interrupted night’s sleep.

FACT There’s such a thing as too much sleep

Oversleeping and spending an excessive amount of time in bed can contribute to health complications – much like undersleeping can – or is possibly a sign of an underlying condition. 

MYTH You only dream during REM sleep

Dreaming can take place during any stage of the sleep cycle.  REM and non-REM dreams are usually different in content, with the more peculiar ones taking place during the REM cycle.

MYTH Snoozing your alarm = extra rest

Don’t count on hitting the snooze button if you want to wake up more refreshed. 

It might seem like precious extra minutes of sleep between alarms but these fragmented periods don’t provide restorative rest. 

FACT Your bedtime matters

Your sleep pattern and regularity is as important as the amount of sleep you’re getting. Try going to sleep around the same time every night to ensure you’re getting meaningful rest.


Breaking bad sleeping habits might be tough but debunking sleep myths is a good place to start!


“Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” – Napoleon Bonaparte