Sleep scientist debunks common sleep myths

Sleep Scientist Dr Rebecca Robbins helps us debunk the sleep myths that may be hindering our healthy sleep routines.

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Our daily lives have changed dramatically over the last couple of years. Practising a healthy and consistent sleep routine is now more important than ever. At Savoir, through over a century of handcrafting luxurious sleep, we continuously seek ways to improve our knowledge of sleep and rest. From implementing a calming bedtime routine to learning about the impact of music on sleep. However, as important as uncovering the science of sleep is, it’s also crucial to look back at things we’ve been taught and debunk sleep myths.

With that in mind, we asked the Harvard Sleep Scientist and Sleep Expert to Savoir, Dr Rebecca Robbins, to uncover the misconceptions which may be hindering our healthy sleep routines this spring. From temperature and movement to brain activity and dreams, Dr Robbins reveals the sleep science to help you achieve a restorative night’s sleep all year round.

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Quality sleep is the most pleasurable and effective way to improve our overall health and well-being.

Sleep Myth 1:For sleeping, it is better to have a warmer bedroom than a cooler bedroom

“A cooler temperature is actually optimal for sleep. Your sleep can be disturbed, and you may even wake up if the temperature of your bedroom or sleep environment is too hot and rises above 23.8°C (75°F).  Your body’s ability to regulate temperature is a big part of how it regulates sleep. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep the brain’s temperature-regulating cells switch off and your temperature is impacted by your surroundings. If your bedroom is too warm and stuffy or your sleeping surface is unable to breathe and disperse moisture, you may begin to sweat and overheat at this stage. Effectively, your body’s temperate may start to rise and disturb your sleep.

Good air quality and a breathable sleeping surface made from natural materials can help prevent you from overheating. Natural fibres are great for wicking away moisture. They are also breathable and allow airflow, keeping you cool during warmer nights.


Sleep Myth 2: Adults sleep more as they get older

Our need for sleep varies across our lifespan. Infants and children need as much sleep as they can get. Teenagers also need as much sleep as possible. Yet, they face a number of barriers to obtaining sufficient, good-quality sleep. These can range from increased academic responsibilities to school start times and social pressures. Despite these pressures and barriers, it is optimal for teenagers to get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep.

Many adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep to support their health, alertness, productivity, well-being and longevity. There are some individual differences, whereby some adults are fine on approximately 7 hours. While others do better with approximately 9 hours of sleep on a regular basis. We do have evidence that, unfortunately, despite our need for sleep, older adults (age 65 and above) do struggle to obtain sufficient sleep duration. Due to a decline in their physiological drive for sleep but also chronic conditions which are more common among these groups than younger adults.

A cooler temperature is actually optimal for sleep. Your sleep can be disturbed, and you may even wake up if the temperature of your bedroom or sleep environment is too hot.

Dr Rebecca Robbins
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Sleep Myth 3: Being able to fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” is a sign of a healthy sleep system

Sitting down and consuming a large meal is a sure sign of extreme hunger.  Similarly, lying down and falling asleep instantly is a sign that one is sleep deprived. Falling asleep is actually a process and it does take time. The well-rested sleeper takes an average of 15 minutes to fall asleep. Therefore, falling asleep instantly can be a sign you are not getting enough quality sleep.

Quality, restorative sleep is all about routine. Our circadian rhythm is our internal body clock and sleep system. It has the ability to know when we should be tired and when we should be awake. It’s not capable of responding to sudden changes. The time we go to bed and wake up, the timing of our meals, work, exercise and exposure to light. It all provides our circadian rhythm on when to fire the ‘alert’ phase of our rhythm and when to trigger the ‘sleepy’ phase. From time to time, we can get into a rut with our sleep, including falling asleep instantly. If you are, you might consider paying more attention to your daily behaviours. Being mindful of the timing of your meals and exercise. Another key to sleep quality is maintaining a good sleep schedule, falling asleep at the same time and waking up as close to the same time Monday to Monday as possible. Including the weekends.

Falling asleep is actually a process and it does take time. The well-rested sleeper takes an average of 15 minutes to fall asleep.

Dr Rebecca Robbins

Sleep Myth 4: A sound sleeper rarely moves at night

Although you will commonly hear people declare they ‘sleep like a log,’ this is actually a myth. We all move in our sleep, but we are not aware of these movements. The average sleeper will actually move between 18 and 30 times at night, in and out of various positions and postures.  Most of the movements are natural and will not cause us to wake up.

The right sleeping foundation ensures that you can easily make these movements, preventing a night of disturbed sleep. A comfortable bed will help relieve pressure points. Offering the correct support in all the various positions. It’s also important to ensure that your bed provides enough space for easy, free movement.

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Debunk more sleep myths with us, join us as we talk with physiotherapist Tobina Marx about the most common sleeping position myths.

Sleep Myth 5: During sleep, the brain is not active

For many years in medicine, we had a limited understanding of sleep, but science is now rapidly emerging to irrefutably debunk this myth that the brain is not active during sleep. On the contrary, our brains are highlyactive after we fall asleep. We go in and out of several sleep stages, each marked by nuanced activity in the brain. In fact, some of the brain activity we see at night shows that memories or things we learned from the day are actively rehearsed, categorised and stored during sleep.

Also, research demonstrates that toxic build-up in the brain, which is simply a by-product of our waking hours, learning things, making decisions, and meeting new people, comes to a halt at night. However, the removal of these toxins in the brain is accelerated during sleep. These two forces of lower production and higher waste removal make sleep a critical part of our brain health.

Sleep Myth 6: Remembering your dreams is a sign of a good night’s sleep

It is a common myth about sleep that some people dream while others do not dream during sleep. On the contrary, we all dream but we differ in our ability to remember our dreams. Dreaming takes place primarily during the critical REM stage of sleep, a time at night when our brains are highly active and engaged in processing memories from the prior day, solidifying them and transferring these memories to longer-term storage. Interestingly, our ability to recall our dreams can be improved if we simply start a new routine of journaling our dreams or speaking about them to loved ones. One challenge is that dream research is heavily reliant on self-report, making it hard to conclusively debunk this myth. Nevertheless, the best sign of a good night’s sleep is not whether or not you dream, but how rested you feel in the morning.”