The UK’s lack of sleep knowledge has been laid bare as new data published by The Sleep Charity shatters myths associated with sleeping well in 2023. 

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. 

The research has been commissioned to mark Sleeptember, a campaign designed to inspire the nation to think about how they can achieve better sleep, and to consider the benefits a good night’s sleep can bring. 

The data is supported by the growing demand for support experienced by The Sleep Charity following the launch of its National Sleep Helpline, in partnership with Furniture Village, in 2021. 

Staff have spent more than 781 hours on calls with UK residents during the last 12 months, providing practical advice to help  olve issues relating to their struggles with sleep. 

73% of callers are women and an average call lasts 25 minutes. 

Deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity, Lisa Artis, said: “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. 

“Unfortunately, there are many myths out there about sleep, and how to get a consistent, good night’s sleep, which this new data lays bare, showing the impact that poor sleep education can have on people’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 

Artis said: “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.” 

Meanwhile… 

  • 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.” 

For more information on The Sleep Charity and to access support, please visit: www.thesleepcharity.org.uk