Everything you know about sleep is wrong

By Jeffrey Owusu-Mensah

Sleep is an essential act of survival and a linchpin on which civilization is built. So why is it still such a mystery?

For as long as we’ve needed sleep — which is to say forever — humans have tried to make it better. And we have! Mattress technology is nuts (shoutout to Beautyrest for making the mattress of our dreams), someone invented pillows (insert praise hands here,) and family beds aren’t really a thing (unless you’re all about that Willy Wonka grandparent life.)

But, for every innovation and scientific breakthrough, there’s a sleep myth running amuck that we somehow still believe. From the sanctity of the eight-hour sleep cycle to swallowing spiders — we debunk some of the biggest offenders and finally put these sleep lies to bed. 

You Should Drink Coffee Before A Nap

 

When it comes to rest, caffeine has long been deemed the enemy. (All buzz, no zzz's.) Recently though, sleep experts suggest that some caffeine before a quick nap is the real power move. And it makes sense. 

Coffee takes about 20 minutes to kick in, and power naps should end before deeper sleep begins, which is around the 30-minute mark. A coffee nap means you get the best of both: enough sleep to feel rested and a burst of energy when it’s time to wake up.

You’re Not Really Swallowing Spiders In Your Sleep 

 

The hilarious thing about this myth is its origin story. According to Snopes, the “fact” that the average person swallows eight spiders a year was made up in a 1993 PC Professional Article to illustrate how gullible people are.

Well, point taken. We humans are gloriously gullible. Besides, arachnid scientists agree that spiders avoid humans because their vibrations send off danger messages and there’s not much prey to be found in your bed, anyways. 

Dozing Off At Work Is A Good Thing

 

Maybe not during a client call or a meeting with your boss, but 30-minute naps during the work day is proven to significantly boost productivity. Especially after you went for the lasagna special with extra garlic bread for lunch.

An exhaustive list of reports show that quick naps improve attention span, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities. Brb, going to install some beds in the conference room.  

Our Modern Sleep Cycle Is A Construct 

 

It goes against convention to think that, prior to the Industrial Revolution (and, you know, electricity), folks didn’t sleep straight through the night and wake up with the sun. There are hundreds of historical references that point to the practice of having two four-ish hour sleeps, with a two-ish hour window of activity in between. Since there wasn’t much light, this activity was typically reserved for reading, writing, and prayer.

The segmented sleep practice began to fade around the 17th Century, as better home and street lighting became the norm and the stigma that nighttime activities were reserved for drunks and criminals loosened. 

Spicy Food Won’t Give You Nightmares

 

Well, not technically. During REM sleep, our body cools down. Spicy foods raise our body temperature, interrupting the early stages of our sleep cycle and making dreams more conscious.

You may have the exact same dreams no matter your meal, but because you ate something spicy, you’re more likely to remember them as you never fully entered a deep sleep state. 

You Can’t Really “Catch Up” On Sleep 

 

At least when it comes to long-term sleep loss. If you slept poorly the night before, going to bed early the next day will likely have you feeling next to normal. But, if you keep starting new Netflix shows and blowing right past bedtime every night, a few sleep-in weekends aren’t going to repair the damage done.

Your irritability and reaction times have already suffered, and sleeping in late throws off your sleeping rhythm and can make going to bed on Sunday tricky, which starts your next week already in the negative.

Your best bet? Getting a solid night’s sleep as often as you can. Revolutionary thinking, we know. But when it comes to getting good sleep, you have to be kind to your body and intentional with your hardware. Take a nap when you need one, maybe don’t go for the midnight triple chili curry, and get a mattress that sets you up for sleep success. (Psst, Beautyrest makes some pretty great ones.)

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