It happens every Thanksgiving, and you know someone is going to say it. It’s all just a matter of time.
The turkey is carved, the food has been scarfed down, and someone (your dad, uncle, or maybe your annoying cousin) is bound to say, “Welp, I’m sleepy. Must be all that turkey I ate because it has tryptophan in it.”
It’s the same line used in households all across the country during the holidays. Truth is, it’s a myth. There’s so little tryptophan in turkey that you’d have to eat several whole turkeys in order to get sleepy.
There are a lot of sleep myths out there. Here are seven myths we can debunk right now.
1. You should never wake a sleepwalker – Totally false. Waking a sleepwalker might startle them, but it is no way going to hurt them. In fact, NOT waking them might do more harm than good, as they’re more likely to run into things and get hurt.
2. Lying in bed is as good as sleeping – Nope. Your brain tends to do different things when you’re awake versus when you’re asleep. For example, fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure levels during sleep promote heart health. The immune system also produces hormones that help fight off the cold and flu. Lying awake in bed doesn’t do much more than keep you bored.
3. You eat spiders in your sleep – One of my favorite myths. Spiders tend to stay away from sleeping humans because the vibrations humans put off sends messages of danger to spiders. Also, there’s not really much in the way of food for spiders in your bed. Coincidentally, this myth all started because of a hoax. In 1993, a columnist for the publication PC Professional wrote a piece with made up “facts” to show how gullible people were. She wrote the average person swallows eight spiders a year. So now that you know the truth, you might be able to sleep a little easier!
4. Spicy/savory foods before bed will give you nightmares – This is one spicy myth that goes back many years. Even Ebenezer Scrooge blamed cheese on his bad dreams in A Christmas Carol. While eating rich and/or spicy foods before you go to sleep will cause your stomach to be restless during the night, there is no proven link between that and nightmares.
5. Drinking alcohol will help you sleep better – Save yourself the hangover. Although alcohol before bed reduces sleep latency – meaning it’s easier to fall asleep – it doesn’t mean the sleep quality is any better. Remember, alcohol is a depressant, which reduces REM sleep. Not getting enough REM sleep has been linked to migraines and poor emotional stability. In the second half of the night, the body compensates for decreased REM sleep by inducing longer periods of the stage, which disturbs your sleep cycle and results in morning crankiness.
6. The older you get, the less sleep you need – Your grandparents might disagree. Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night for the average adult. Sleeping patterns do change as we get older, but the amount of sleep needed doesn’t. Older people may wake more frequently during the night and might get less nighttime sleep. However, older people tend to nap more during the day to make up for the lost sleep.
7. Counting sheep will help you sleep – No chance. A 2002 study suggests those who pictured sheep actually had a harder time falling asleep, while those who pictured calming images such as waves on a beach or a roaring fire in a fireplace fell asleep much quicker.