The old wives' tales which aren't too far from the truth

sleeping, bed

What should we believe about sleeping myths?

When it comes to sleeping patterns, unfortunately there is no one size fits all. Some of us are able to drift off in a matter of seconds, whereas others toss and turn into the early hours of the morning.

There are numerous old wives’ tales deemed a ‘must try’ in order to help us drift off into a slumber. Jonathan Warren, director at online bed retailer, Time 4 Sleep, suggests his top five tales which may have an element of truthfulness after all.

Beauty sleep

According to legend, if you wanted to be prettier or more attractive, it was vital you had a good night’s sleep. While this shouldn’t be taken literally, there are elements of truth to the tale; tiredness can have physical effects on the body, causing premature wrinkles and bags under the eyes.

Dr James Jackson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Trinity University said: “It’s well known that people feel stressed during the day, but one of many consequences is that we don’t heal while under stress – the body concentrates on survival now and worries about healing later. Stress hormones inhibit growth hormones and while adults are no longer growing, we need to repair the damage of the day we’ve just had.”

“A good, healthy sleep enables those hormones and toxins to clear, allowing us to repair. Hence, beauty sleep. In fact, this is one of the major consequence of growing older. With age, we find it harder to sleep through the night and with the lack of deeper sleep comes ageing.”

Drinking warm milk before bed

Prior to bedtime, drinking warm milk can cause drowsiness. Milk contains tryptophan, a hormone which leads to relaxation, in turn helping you prepare for sleep much better. It’s comforting, particularly in winter and can be enjoyed alongside a book or watching television in bed.

The effects of the full moon

Apparently we find it harder to sleep around the time of a full moon. For years, people have expressed concern around sleeping when the moon is full, reporting sluggishness the next day. But, is this a myth passed through the generations, or does the moon really mess with our sleep pattern? A study of 33 volunteers by Current Biology found that when the moon was round, the volunteers took longer to nod off and had a poorer quality sleep. It remains to be proven, but is certainly something to think about.

Counting sheep

An age old tale that counting sheep will help you to fall to sleep. Does it work? The visualisation and mental imagery is a distraction and allows you to gently nod off. Definitely one to teach the children.

Eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares

The myth goes as far back as Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ where Ebenezer Scrooge believed his ghostly hallucinations were due to eating cheese before bed. There is no definitive answer, it’s purely personal preference.

Dr James Jackson added: “It comes as no surprise that every human being in history has had thoughts on the best (and worst) ways to sleep. Many old wives’ tales have a bit of truth to them but it may also be true that they tend to be snappy sayings that bring out preferred behaviour in children.”

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