We've written a lot about sleep — from how a lack of sleep can undermine your weight loss and productivity to how sleeping too much can be counterproductive. Still, misconceptions about sleep persist. This video by Mental Floss helps clear up a few of them. Have you ever been told to count sheep to fall asleep? I know I have, and it never did a lick of good for me. What keeps me from properly concentrating on counting sheep ends up being the same thing that keeps me from falling asleep: a brain that just won't shut up. Sure enough, Mental Floss explains that a better way to slip into sweet slumber is to actually imagine a relaxing scenario, like you sitting on the beach while sipping a cold one and watching the sunset.
It's the same reason you want to avoid just lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come. If it doesn't, it's better to get up and do something relaxing to help you feel sleepy again (hint: don't check your Twitter or emails). What's more, the video goes on to explain that even after you've finally entered sleep's warm embrace, your brain is still fully active. Your body may be resting, but your mind is still churning just as hard as when you're awake.
Other misconceptions: how your body adapts to less sleep over time (not quite) and the notion of exercising at night and its impact on sleep quality. To the latter point, I will contest that I tend to have trouble falling asleep if I've done hard exercise some hours before bedtime.
Sleep is seriously important, so check out our articles on how to get better sleep and how to deal with insomnia. And remember, while the standard recommendation is eight hours a night the true amount varies from person to person.
Misconceptions About Sleep [Mental Floss]