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The 8 Most Common Sleep Superstitions

A black cat against a deserted road.
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“Very superstitious” isn’t just the opening lyric of an iconic Stevie Wonder song; it’s a mantra for many sleepers who struggle to get a good night’s rest and find themselves resorting to more desperate bedtime measures.

One quick search on good ol’ Google will reveal dozens of outrageous sleep superstitions that are not backed by any type of science. Of course, there is something to be said about a placebo effect and tricking the mind into thinking you’re proactively making changes to a nightly routine, but the reality, unfortunately, is that this approach can only last for so long and won’t address underlying and potentially serious health issues associated with catching Zzz’s.

So, we’ve gathered seven of the most common superstitions and supplemented them with helpful alternatives that may actually improve your habits and environment. Please consult a physician if you suspect that a sleep disorder is contributing to your insomnia or overall energy levels.

Sleeping on the Left Side of the Bed

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed can spill over into your entire day. But, getting out of bed on the wrong side may set you on the wrong path as well, according to some superstitions. While some believe getting out of bed on the left side is unlucky, according to feng shui experts, it’s the opposite. Exiting your bed from the left side is linked with family, better health, money and power.

A more realistic alternative: Whether you get out of the bed on the right or left side, you can make sure you set yourself up for success that day by following a bedtime and morning routine. Going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time is a tried-and-true method to achieve better sleep quality and improve your mood from the get-go.

Change the Sheets, Replace the Mattress Superstitions

There are many mattress superstitions, but one that seems to resonate most is when you should adjust the position of your mattress. Apparently, you should never turn it on a Sunday or you’ll have bad dreams for a week. Obviously, this isn’t true, but many sleepers are reluctant to do a bit of weekend cleaning and sprucing up because of tips like these. Instead…

A more realistic alternative: Worse than a bad dream is a bad back—and regularly rotating your mattress (including quarter turns if you’ve got a king-sized bed) can ensure that you’re getting the right support and evenly using your bed. But to start, make sure your mattress is comfortable enough to begin with because nothing guarantees a night of awful sleep more than a mattress in desperate need of replacement. Research what materials and firmness levels work in tandem with your preferred sleeping position and be willing to make the investment (keeping in mind that it’s something you’ll use every night). Mattresses at Mattress Firm also come with the Love Your Mattress Guarantee®, so you can choose without feeling like you’re stuck.

Close-up of dreamcatchers against a sunset sky, for dreamcatcher bedroom superstition.
Getty Images / EyeEm

Sleeping with a Dreamcatcher

Originally created by the native Ojibwe people, dreamcatchers, which are traditionally constructed with feathers and beads, have become somewhat ubiquitous as bedroom decor. The webbed hoops are certainly prettier than a Live, Laugh, Love poster, but commercial dreamcatchers may not deliver on their promise to filter nightmares through the web and allow only good dreams to pass.

If you want to use one, consider buying from an indigenous seller and think of it as a wonderful decorative item for the bedroom that serves as a reminder of both the deeply spiritual culture of those who first crafted dreamcatchers and to be more mindful in the bedroom.

A more realistic alternative: Opt for a dream diary. Whether you have a bone-chilling nightmare or a dream that makes you smile, you can make a habit of jotting down the time and details in a notebook that rests in or on your nightstand. Once you’re a few pages deep, you can then analyze the significance of these dreams and draw conclusions about what you’ve done on days when the dreams or nightmares visit, plus recurring themes and general interpretations to figure out the “why.”

Superstitious Dreams

There are many bizarre dream superstitions with expressions like “dreams at night are a devil’s delight, dreams in the morning, heed the angels’ warning,” but the reality is that there isn’t much research to back why or when your brain chooses to dream about certain things. Outside influences like stress, rejection or loss can certainly influence how your mind wanders during REM (rapid eye movement) cycles, but there is no need to panic and assume that an evil spirit is infiltrating your body if a nightmare happens to take place right after you fall asleep.

A more realistic alternative: Focus on breathing exercises to calm the brain before bedtime. Rather than worrying about your mind’s activity after you nod off, control your deep inhales and exhales as soon as your head hits the pillow. It’s one of the oldest and most effective techniques in the book with its scientifically proven therapeutic effects on the body.

Sleeping with a Worry Doll Under the Pillow

In Guatemala, you can purchase a hand-knit, colorful mini doll to divulge your worries to before placing it under your pillow. Legend says that the doll will harbor this negativity so you can sleep peacefully and wake up feeling refreshed and anxiety-free the next day. Even if the magical muñeca doesn’t absolve all of your stresses, it still seems like a much healthier alternative to abusing drugs, medication or alcohol, each of which can have negative effects on health and sleep quality.

A more realistic alternative: Journaling before bed. Not only can you use this as an opportunity to reflect on your day, document your life experiences and create a heightened sense of self-awareness, but it will also lull you to sleep without relying on the blue light of a phone (which, like drugs and alcohol, can be a detriment to sleep hygiene).

Clothes hanging on a hangers near a mirror at  home.
Clothes hanging on a hangers near a mirror at home.
Getty Images / Moment RF

Mirror Positioned Facing the Bed Belief

That “mirror, mirror on the wall” is apparently looking for the fairest one of all by dramatically sucking its victim’s soul through a portal and into another dimension, according to rules of Chinese feng shui. But before you reposition your bed or the furniture around it, find solace in knowing that cases of poltergeists are rare and really only found in horror movies or episodes of Unsolved Mysteries.

A more realistic alternative: Floor-length mirrors can actually make a space appear larger and can be cleverly situated around the bedroom to reflect intentional design decisions that promote coziness and comfort. But if you are startled by sudden movements (like pets) in the middle of the night, there actually is value in not placing mirrors within eyesight from the bed.

Bed Facing the Door Bad Luck

When configuring your bedroom, the mirror isn't the only thing you should take care to place mindfully. Positioning your bed in line with the door is one of the worst positions, according to Chinese feng shui. Known as the "coffin position" or "dead man's position," orientation with the head facing the door is similar to how a body would be removed from a room, so is a position to avoid if possible.

Hat on the Bed Bad Luck

There is an old superstition that claims hair and, as a result, hats are chock-full of evil spirits, so resting a cap or fedora on a bed can usher in bad luck. (This likely originated after a lice outbreak turned nighttime into a nightmare!). As long as your hair and hat are clean, odds are, where you leave that topper overnight won’t make much of a difference.

A more realistic alternative: Put away any clothing items before sleeping. Studies show that messy or chaotic bedroom will cause pre-sleep distress and can prevent you from falling asleep quicker.

Bonus Belief: The Cake Under the Pillow Superstition

We couldn't resist taking a slice out of this one: Putting a slice of wedding cake under your pillow isn’t just gross, it’s downright disrespectful. That cake deserves to be eaten and enjoyed, not left to collect dust and bacteria under a perfectly innocent pillow. But according to a 300-year-old superstition, it is said that placing a slice under your pillow will result in dreaming about the identity of your soulmate. Let’s just hope that the future partner is the owner of a laundromat because those sheets are going to be a complete mess and your pillow will need a thorough washing.

A more realistic alternative: If you really want to lure a lover, invest in an aromatherapy machine with scents that can mirror that of cake. Or—even better—scents that double as aphrodisiacs. There are plenty of essential oils to blend for your own unique scent, and some, like lavender, chamomile and ylang-ylang are also proven to encourage calmness and relaxation. A win-win.

Now put those superstitions to bed and go get some good sleep!

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