Menu
MattressFirm Logo
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Lifestyle & Life Moments

14 Top Sleep Myths, Busted

An illustration of a woman sleeping in bed with a lamp on with numbered sheep above her head.
The Infinite Agency

Sleep is a foundational contributor to your overall health and well-being. But a lot of misconceptions exist about how to get good sleep. If you’re searching for ways to sleep better, you might be hearing lots of well-meaning — but perhaps misguided — advice. In fact, long-held habits and myths might be exactly what is sabotaging your sleep. Here are some of the most common sleep myths that might be keeping you from your nightly Zzz’s.

Myth 1: Pillows Are One-Size-Fits-All

False! A quick glance at a pile of pillows might make you think that they're pretty interchangeable — give or take the type of fill — however, pillows are not one-size-fits-all. The way you sleep can impact the alignment of your spine, so the loft of your pillow should be selected accordingly to keep you supported. Stomach sleepers tend to need a thinner pillow, since it prevents the head from tilting too far up, while side sleepers should look for a pillow with a higher height, because the pillow should fill the space that the shoulder creates between the head and the mattress. If you’re not sure which pillow is right for you, try a pillow fitting. After all, a pillow takes up 25% of the length of your bed!

Myth 2: You Need Eight Hours of Sleep Every Night

Dr. Jade Wu: Sleep Myths - 8 Hours

False! Believe it or not, how much sleep you need varies, not only by person, but by that person’s age. For some people the golden number is eight, but for other that number might be seven, nine or even 10. “You might need more or you might need less,” Says Jade Wu, Ph.D., behavioral sleep medicine specialist and Sleep Advisor to Mattress Firm. “So many different factors go into it.”

Everyone has their own unique sleep needs. So rather than go by quantity alone, pay attention to the regularity of when you go to sleep. “Instead of hanging on to the eight hours idea, just get up at about the same time every day and listen to your body for sleepy cues in the evening,” Wu advises. Maintaining a consistent sleep and wake schedule may make more of a long-term impact on your health and well-being than simply the quantity of sleep you’re getting.

Myth 3: Weighted Blankets Don’t Help You Fall Asleep

Dr. Jade Wu: Sleep Myths - Weighted Blankets

False! It may seem like weighted blankets are just another gimmick in a long line of trends tried by people desperate for better rest. But there is real science behind how weighted blankets work. A 2015 study of participants with insomnia found that they tossed and turned less under weighted blankets, resulting in a calmer night’s sleep.

Wu tells us that while “the jury is still out about whether weighted blankets help everybody sleep, we do have evidence that they help people with ADHD, autism and anxiety.” A 2021 study found that children with ADHD and autism fell asleep and stayed asleep easier with a weighted blanket. The weight from weighted blankets helps slow down the body, causing the body to wind down enough to go to sleep.

Myth 4: Sleeping Like a Baby Is a Bad Thing

Both true and false! The expression "sleeping like a baby" is meant to describe restful sleep, but in reality, babies are very active when they sleep. They wake up, make noises, cry for comfort and may even need to eat a meal, all of which are developmentally appropriate and natural for babies. Suffice to say, babies are known for not sleeping through the night — especially when they’re too young to connect sleep cycles. One way babies sleep better than adults can be found in their ability to fall asleep in light, noisy settings, and often sleep through noises and environmental changes. Over the course of a human life, our sleep changes according to our current needs, and there is no one single way to achieve healthy sleep.

Myth 5: A Firm Mattress Provides the Best Support for Everyone

Dr. Jade Wu: Sleep Myths - Firm Mattress

False! Firmness and mattress support aren’t the same thing. Firmness refers to how hard or soft a mattress feels, while support refers to whether the mattress supports your optimal spinal alignment while you rest. Just because a mattress is firm doesn’t mean it will automatically meet your sleep needs, and the right supportive mattress for you may not be firm. “Depending on your unique body and sleep environment, you may need something softer or cooler — something that provides support in different ways,” Wu says. To find the best mattress for you, try out Mattress Firm’s MattressMatcher tool.

Myth 6: Being Able to Sleep on Command Is Something to Brag About

False! While falling asleep at will may be a cool party trick, it is also something to bring up with your doctor. While others (especially the sleep deprived) may look on in envy, falling asleep on command — meaning with no latency — is actually a sign of being sleep deprived or even having narcoleptic tendencies.

Myth 7: There’s No Difference Between Each ‘Color’ of Noise

False! Did you know sound has its own rainbow? White, pink, green, gray and brown noise all have different frequencies. For example, pink is meant to reduce the difference between the background hum and the loud, jarring noises that jolt you out of sleep, whereas brown noise is a lower frequency (similar to the brain’s natural resting state) and is supposed to help you relax. White noise is loud, but that’s because it’s meant to give you something to focus on and drown out any other competing noise, making it popular with parents of babies. Luckily, sound machines typically carry most noise “colors.”

Myth 8: Drinking Tart Cherry Juice Before Bed Enables Better Sleep

True and false! Tart cherries do contain anti-inflammatory properties as well as melatonin and tryptophan, which are hormones that can help you get better sleep. However, this isn’t a miracle cure, and it won’t work for everyone. There are many factors that play into whether tart cherry juice will work for you or not, like pre-existing medical conditions, bedroom environment and genetics.

Myth 9: The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Works

True, perhaps! Much like other myths on this list, this one will vary from person to person. The crux of the 4-7-8 technique is inhaling for four counts, holding your breath for seven counts and then exhaling for eight counts. This is supposed to relax the body enough to fall asleep quickly. Unfortunately, for some, this breathing method can cause even more anxiety. A good rule of thumb when trying breathing techniques is to just forget about the numbers, and instead choose to focus on breathing naturally.

Myth 10: Mouth Taping Is a Safe Way to Encourage Better Sleep

False! Most sleep experts and health professionals actually warn against the use of mouth tape. Why? People often use it to resolve a symptom, instead of fixing the underlying problem behind the symptom. People mistakenly assume that snoring is the problem, so they tape their mouths to keep themselves from doing it rather than work with a medical professional to treat causes like obstructive sleep apnea. But really, the problem is that we often snore at night because our brains are trying to get more oxygen, so tape could inhibit oxygen intake, waking you up. It can also lead to skin irritation.

Myth 11: Cloud Beds Are Both Instagrammable and Beneficial for Sleep

False! Unfortunately, for all their aesthetically pleasing glory, cloud beds aren’t worth giving up a good night’s sleep for. For those who don’t know, cloud beds are cocoon-like beds that resemble giant pet beds. They are very plush and pliant, meaning they aren’t great for those with mobility issues and back or knee pain. Sleeping on a soft bed can lead to unnecessary back pain, which could be easily fixed with a more stable foundation.

Myth 12: Diffusers Don’t Benefit Sleep

False! Different scents evoke different things. There are different types of diffusers and scents that are compatible with sleep and can actually help with winding down before bed. Scents like lavender and jasmine have been shown to be as effective as medications for managing anxiety — a huge sleep blocker. If the scent is used correctly, people can associate the unique smell of their diffuser with bedtime, which provides cues to the brain that it’s time for sleep.

Myth 13: Dreams Are Only Dreams; They’re Totally Random

False! Of course, dreams are not just dreams! While some people can control their dreams through a practice called lucid dreaming, most of us dream regularly, with our brains processing memories and emotions through them. Often, dreams can help us piece together random life moments to help make sense of what's happened and our resulting feelings.

Myth 14: Eye Masks Are a Luxury, and Not Necessary for Great Sleep

False! The smallest amount of light can greatly disrupt rest, so sleeping with an eye mask has been shown to help sustain a restful night of sleep. A new study also shows that eye masks can increase deep sleep, improving memory and alertness.

You Might Also Like

A man and a woman laying together on a bed with their arms around each other.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
How to Sleep Like Your Relationship Depends on ItWe all know sleep is essential for good health. But what happens if we can’t get into a groove with our bed partners? Or if we’re too tired to be good-tempered due to nighttime caregiving or changes in our sleep habits caused by aging? Not only can sleep deprivation trigger an avalanche of health concerns, but it can also negatively impact the emotional and physical aspects of our romantic relationships.
Two people holding hands, with feathers falling around their face.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Pillow Fights: The Crazy History (and Future), From Innocent Pastime to Professional Sporting EventWhile most sleep psychologists will designate the bedroom as a sanctuary, exclusive to sleep and sex, we can’t help but think there’s a third use for it: pillow fighting.
Grandmother and granddaughter in summer enjoy harvesting vegetables from home organic vegetable garden.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Why Gardening May Help You Sleep BetterThe sheer number of juicy tomatoes you can grow in a backyard garden is reason enough to pick up a trowel. But the benefits of gardening extend far beyond your harvest — believe it or not, it can work wonders for your sleep as well.
A group of christmas presents laid in a pattern on a colorful background
Lifestyle & Life Moments
2023 Holiday Gift Guide: Nighttime Gift Ideas Ah, it’s that time again. Parties, presents and quality time with our loved ones. The holidays are fun, but there’s so much going on that many of us miss out on the most important thing of all: sleep—and nobody’s at their best without it.
Profile of young woman practising yoga sitting Lotus pose at home. Selfcare and wellness concept. Close up. Selective focus.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
How This Year's Biggest Wellness Trends Can Help You Get a Better Night's SleepFor many people, a new year brings a renewed interest in all things wellness. And now that 2024 is in full swing, there are a number of wellness trends emerging aimed at helping people be their healthiest (and happiest!) selves.
A white digital flip clock shows six o'clock on a brown wooden cabinet next to a fresh eucalyptus plant in the living room, with sunbeam shining through the window on a fresh beautiful morning. A brand new day, fresh start, fresh energy, new opportunities.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Why You Should Keep Your Bedtime and Wake-Up Time the Same Each DayGood, consistent sleep has a host of benefits: Boosted immunity, reduced stress, easier weight control, better focus and more. But, if it’s typical for you to skimp on sleep all week and then try to “catch up” over the weekend, the bad news is you might not be getting these benefits. Even worse is that playing catch-up with sleep doesn’t really work that way.
Group portrait of dogs
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Happy International Dog Day!August 26 is International Dog Day. But for some of us, every day is dog day. After all, our four-legged friends are so much more than just pets: Studies have shown that companion animals can improve our physical activity levels, improve our mental health, lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure and decrease feelings of loneliness or isolation.
A woman leaning over looking at her smart watch.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Should You Hit the Gym After a Bad Night of Sleep?For many people, working out is a great way to increase energy and feel great. But after a rough night of sleep, it’s tempting to skip the gym. On one hand, we know consistency is crucial for progress in the gym, but on the other hand ... there’s nothing quite like getting sufficient sleep. Not to mention that anyone who’s ever tried to physically push their limits after tossing and turning can probably tell you that things are significantly less productive when your eyelids are drooping.
A business woman asleep in a comfy chair. Her phone next to her and a planner on her lap.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Why a Nap May Be Your Secret to a More Productive WorkdayNapping often gets the reputation of being only for babies and toddlers. After all, once you get old enough, life can feel too busy to slow down midday for a restful pause. Let’s face it: Many of us are lucky to even get a full night’s rest.