News & Blog

Myth vs reality – how to get a good night’s sleep in 2023

Sep 20, 2023

As part of our Sleeptember #KnowYourSleep campaign, we commissioned a survey to understand the extent of the UK’s sleep knowledge and to inspire the nation to think about how they can achieve better sleep.

The results found nearly a quarter of Brits (23%) say they don’t have the knowledge they need to get a consistently good night’s sleep, made up of 25% of men and 20% of women. This data is supported by the ever-growing demand for our National Sleep Helpline, in partnership with Furniture Village, which is celebrating its second anniversary this month. The helpline team has taken nearly 2000 calls and spent more than 781 hours supporting UK residents with their sleep issues since it opened.

Clearly, there’s a real need for education around sleep. Sleep is critical to health and wellbeing and as a nation we really aren’t getting enough. It is a basic and fundamental human requirement and is vitally important for good physical, mental and emotional health as well as crucial for memory, learning and growth.

There is a lot of conflicting info out there about sleep which can be quite confusing so we’re going to bust some myths to help you get a good night’s sleep. When asked which of the following contributed to a good night’s sleep, 2,000 British respondents replied:

· 24% think that alcohol consumption would help them nod off

Alcohol is bad for sleep and, while it might make you feel tired and go to sleep quickly, your sleep won’t be as deep meaning it won’t be as restorative for your mind or body.

60% think that avoiding naps would help them get a good sleep

It’s normal for people to need a nap every now and then, and they can even help to improve alertness when done right. However, sometimes napping can make you feel worse. Try to limit naps to around 20 minutes – any longer and it could interfere with your night-time sleep. But always remember, napping should not be used as a substitute for good quality sleep.

· 19% believe a pre-bedtime scroll on their phone will help with a good night’s sleep

The blue light emitted from our phones screens prevent us from getting to sleep as it stops the production of melatonin which makes it difficult to fall asleep and make you feel groggy the next morning.

· 35% think that using a sleep app will help them to get to sleep

There are numerous sleep apps available these days and some can help you to create healthy routines. However, it is important that we don’t rely on apps for good sleep. For example, if your phone is dead or you’re on holiday out of your routine, reliance on these apps can cause anxiety and lead to poor sleep.

· 26% think that watching TV before they go to sleep will help them drift off

As with phone screens, TVs produce blue light which harms our sleep. Watching TV will keep your brain stimulated meaning you can’t relax effectively.

· 37% think that exercising before bed is good for sleep

Engaging in daytime exercise can make your sleep deeper and more refreshing. However, exercising too close to bedtime can prevent sleep so try and leave at least two hours between exercising and going to bed.

· 23% think a big meal is good for sleep

Eating or drinking a lot right before bed can make us uncomfortable or even suffer indigestion or heartburn through the night. However, eat too early and you might be going to bed hungry which can also prevent good sleep. It’s all about finding what works for your routine and striking a balance.

· 18% think eating or drinking citrus helps us to nod off

Fruit and natural fruit juices that are high in citrus contain sugar, too much of them too close to bed can provide a rush of energy. Citrus fruits are also quite acidic and enhance stimulation and energy, which is not conducive to a good night’s sleep!

· 15% think that smoking helps them to nod off

“It is quite concerning to see that so many Brits think that smoking and/or vaping will help them to achieve a good night’s sleep when it is actually the opposite. Aside from the general health concerns around smoking, nicotine is a short-acting stimulant that can keep you awake so should be avoided in the later part of the evening and during the night, should you wake up.”


· Only 17% think that eating cheese helps us to sleep

One of the most common sleep myths I have encountered is that cheese gives you nightmares, but this is false. Cheese is a dairy product which is naturally high in tryptophan which helps us to nod off. Calcium also helps with stress reduction, which in turn helps to relax and get ready for sleep.

· Only 25% think that eating a banana will help them to sleep well.

Bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium. They also contain tryptophan an amino acid that helps us to sleep but don’t forget fruit contains sugar too. Blend one banana with one cup of milk or soya milk to make an ideal bedtime drink.

· Only 17% think eating fish will help them nod off

Fish is rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which both help to promote healthy sleep patterns.

· Only 18% think nuts are a good pre-bedtime snack

Nuts, in particular almonds, contain magnesium which promotes sleep and muscle relaxation. They also help to keep blood sugar levels stable as we sleep.

· Only 21% think eating cereal helps achieve a good night’s sleep

Not only is cereal a healthy snack, but it can also help you snooze. Complex carbohydrate-rich foods increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream. Avoid sugar-coated cereals though, these can give you a sugar rush which may wake you up.

We hope this helps you to distinguish between fact and myth when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. For more help and advice on sleep, take a look around our website. If you’re struggling with your sleep call our National Sleep Helpline on 03303 530 541