The field of sleep science has grown dramatically in the last two decades, providing a better understanding of how sleep works, why it’s important, and how it might be disrupted.
There is still a lot of misinformation regarding sleep being disseminated online, on social media, or through word-of-mouth. Because some of this misinformation is repeated so frequently, it eventually spreads like wildfire.
Many people believe in these myths about sleep despite the fact that the data to the contrary shows that they are false.
An expert group convened by the National Sleep Foundation in 2019 was tasked with identifying the most pervasive and harmful sleep misconceptions. There are many illusions about sleep deprivation, and debunking them might help you get the rest you require.
Myth: Your Body Gets Used To Getting Less Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been shown to have a long-term effect on the body and mind, suggesting that your brain and body can’t just adapt to less sleep.
After a few nights of sleep deprivation, you’ll be more tired during the day. If you don’t get enough sleep for weeks or months, your daytime sleepiness may level off, but it doesn’t indicate your body is fully functional or has fully adjusted to the sleep deficit.
On the contrary, the effects of sleep deprivation on daily functioning, such as cognition, attention, and creativity are more detrimental when it is sustained over time. If left unchecked, sleep deprivation has the potential to negatively impact a wide range of physiological and psychological functions.
While it may appear that you’ve become accustomed to sleeping too little, more serious health issues may be building as a result of the body’s incapacity to rest.
Myth: Many Adults Need Five or Fewer Hours of Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s professional recommendations, adults should receive seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
People who have the genetic mutation that allows them to sleep for shorter amounts of time and still wake up feeling rested are the exception, not the rule, according to an estimated one in four million.
Myth: How Long You Sleep Is All That Matters
The amount of time you spend sleeping is significant, but it isn’t the only one. Another important consideration is the quality of one’s sleep, which is closely linked to the consistency of one’s sleep and the avoidance of sleep interruptions.
Fragmented sleep, which is characterized by frequent awakenings, can disrupt the sleep cycle and reduce the amount of time spent in the most restorative stages. As a result, getting enough sleep and getting uninterrupted, high-quality sleep should be everyone’s goal.
Myth: It Doesn’t Matter When You Sleep as Long as You Sleep Enough Hours
It has been shown in studies that the timing of sleep is important, and it is ideal to sleep as much as possible in the hours when it is dark outside. A healthy circadian rhythm is one in which the body’s internal clock is in sync with the external environment. There are numerous health benefits to getting a good night’s sleep and keeping your circadian rhythm in sync with your body’s natural rhythms.
Myth: A Good Sleeper Doesn’t Move at Night
During a sound night’s sleep, a person’s body can make small movements. If a person’s sleep is disrupted by one or more of the following:
- Chronic or long-term.
- This is not typical (such as sleepwalking).
- Violent or threatening.
- Inconvenient for a slumbering mate.
- arousal in the middle of the night
Myth: Your Brain Shuts Down During Sleep
During sleep, the brain continues to function. The brain’s activity patterns alter as you progress through the stages of sleep, and during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, your brain activity increases to a level that resembles that of waking up.
Brain activity changes during sleep have been shown to be a key factor in the importance of sleep for successful thinking, memory, and emotion processing.
Myth: Dreaming Only Happens During REM Sleep
Dreaming can occur at any stage of sleep, but it is more common during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The content of dreams in REM and non-REM sleep differs, with REM stages typically containing more vivid or strange dreams.
Myth: More Sleep Is Always Better
While most people are worried about getting enough sleep, sleeping too much can have its own set of issues.
Excessive sleep can be a symptom of an underlying health issue in people who are recovering from an illness, for example. Oversleeping has been linked to an increased death rate, although further study is needed to confirm this link.
Myth: Snoring Isn’t Harmful and You Can’t Do Anything About It Anyway
While occasional snoring can be tolerated, snoring that is excessively loud or occurs frequently is usually a cause for concern.
obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a dangerous respiratory problem that interrupts a person’s sleep and stops them from receiving the oxygen their bodies require, can produce chronic or loud snoring. Even if you’re sleeping alone, your roommate’s or spouse’s sleep may be disturbed by your snoring.
Snoring can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the underlying reason. OSA can be treated with PAP machines that maintain an open airway. Snoring can be reduced or eliminated by using anti-snoring mouthpieces and mouth exercises, as well as by decreasing weight.
Myth: Adults Sleep More With Age
Sleep deprivation is more common in the elderly than in the young. A person’s circadian rhythm might be disrupted as they become older, making it more difficult for them to get a good night’s sleep. Other age-related health issues, such as arthritic discomfort, may also make it difficult to sleep soundly.
Myth: The Ability To Fall Asleep Anywhere and at Any Time Means You’re a “Good Sleeper”
You are a bad sleeper if you are able to fall asleep at any moment and under any circumstances.
Putting a positive spin on excessive daytime sleepiness, which is frequently a sign of insomnia, inadequate sleep, or an underlying disease like sleep apnea, is harmful since this misconception implies that excessive daytime sleepiness is a good sign. Circadian rhythm problems and narcolepsy can also be linked to sleeping at any hour.
In order to get the best night’s sleep, you should not focus on being able to fall asleep in any situation. There should instead be a focus on getting a proper quantity of high-quality sleep on a regular basis that includes sleeping at night whenever possible to maintain a balanced circadian rhythm.
Myth: Napping Makes up for Lack of Sleep at Night
When it comes to quality sleep, a fast nap may provide you a boost of energy temporarily, but it does not involve the same stages of sleep as a regular slumber.
Taking naps to make up for a lack of sleep is a common coping mechanism for those who find it difficult to drift off to sleep at their regular bedtime. However, this can actually make matters worse by making it more difficult to fall asleep in the first place. Long snoozes can leave you feeling disoriented and sluggish when you get up in the morning.
However, relying solely on naps to deal with regular sleep deprivation is a lousy strategy. Shorter than 30 minutes and early in the afternoon are ideal times for a nap.
Myth: Teens Don’t Sleep Enough Only Because They Choose To Stay up Late
Up to 72% of high school students, for example, sleep less than the required amount of hours per night. This is often due to their irregular sleep routine, which necessitates them staying up longer than usual.
There’s more to this “night owl” mentality than just a preference for staying up late. Instead, the circadian rhythm of teenagers is pushed back by roughly two hours as a result of biochemical changes that begin around puberty. Individual choices to emphasize school and job commitments, social gatherings, and screen time oversleep may exacerbate this biologically delayed sleep schedule.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and other prominent groups have urged school start times to be pushed back so that teenagers have more time to receive the sleep they need.
Myth: Turning up the Radio, Opening the Window, or Turning on the Air Conditioner Are Effective Ways To Stay Awake When Driving
Ineffective “tricks” that keep a sleepy motorist behind the wheel are even more concerning if they do not prevent drowsy driving in the first place.
Taking a 15-30 minute nap or stopping for the night is the best and safest option if you’re feeling sleepy while behind the wheel. Caffeine can assist temporarily, but it can take a while for it to take effect. However, caffeine is still dangerous to use as a source of alertness while driving.
Preventing sleepy driving by having a good night’s sleep the night before your trip is the best defense against it. If you’re in any way sleepy, don’t go behind the wheel since the repercussions can be deadly for you and other drivers.
Myth: If You Can’t Sleep, It’s Best To Stay in Bed Until You Fall Back Asleep
If you haven’t been able to sleep for more than 20 minutes, sleep experts advise getting out of bed. Take a break from your sleep by getting out of bed, doing something soothing in a quiet and dim environment (without using your cell phone or other electronic devices), and then trying to go back to sleep.
Experts advocate this strategy since it’s critical to establish a connection between your bed and rest. While it may be tempting to stay in bed if you can’t sleep, this can actually cause you to associate your bed with feelings of frustration.
Myth: Alcohol Before Bed Improve Sleep
The tiredness induced by a few drinks can make it simpler to get to sleep at first. The issue is that drinking alcohol has a significant negative impact on sleep quality. Your sleep cycles will be disrupted and snoring and sleep apnea will worsen if you drink alcohol before going to bed.
Reducing or eliminating alcohol usage before bedtime is often considered an important aspect of good sleep hygiene because of the detrimental effects it has on restful sleep.
Myth: A Warmer Bedroom Is Best For Sleeping
Although a warm bedroom could feel cozier, research indicates that it’s not best for sleep. Body temperature drops naturally as part of the physical process of sleep, and a bedroom that’s excessively hot may impede that process. Inconvenient awakenings from a restless night’s sleep are common when you have a tendency to overheat while you’re asleep.
The ideal temperature for a bedroom is somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, however, this might vary from person to person.
Myth: Exercising at Night Disturbs Sleep
Even strenuous nighttime exercise, according to data from surveys and studies, has no effect on sleep quality. Many people find that working out at night improves their quality of sleep.
However, doing a particularly intensive workout just before bed can make it difficult for your body to relax and prepare for sleep for certain people.
Myth: Hitting Snooze Provides Meaningful Extra Rest
Using the snooze button will give you a few extra minutes of sleep between alarms, but it won’t provide you with any real rest. You shouldn’t expect hitting snooze to help you wake up feeling more rested if you have a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep for long periods of time.
Myth: Sleeping With a Light on Is Harmless
Sleeping in a dimly lit room might make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as disrupt your circadian cycle. There are numerous studies indicating that excessive light in the bedroom might cause eye strain and weight gain.
If you want a better night’s sleep and a more consistent circadian rhythm, it’s ideal to sleep in complete darkness.
Myth: Snoring is a common problem, especially among men, but it isn’t harmful.
Fact: Many people consider snoring to be harmless, but it can be a sign of an even more serious condition called sleep apnea that can lead to serious health complications. Breathing pauses in sleep apnea prevent air from moving into or out of the airways of a sleeping person. Many times during the night, those who suffer from sleep apnea wake up gasping for air. Increases the risk of cardiovascular disease can be caused by breathing pauses, which lower blood oxygen levels and strain the heart and circulatory system. Hypertension has been directly linked to frequent or regular snoring. Sleep apnea can be exacerbated by obesity and a big neck. Those who snore loudly and frequently, especially if there are breaks in the snoring, should seek medical attention.
Myth: You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get.
Fact: For optimal performance, health, and safety, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Asleep debt that becomes difficult to “payback” if it grows too large occurs when we don’t get enough sleep. Obesity, high blood pressure, depressed moods, and behaviors, decreased productivity, and safety difficulties at home, work, and on the road have all been related to sleep deprivation.
Myth: Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving.
Fact: Drowsy or sleepy drivers should avoid using these “aids” because they are ineffective and harmful. Taking a 15- to 45-minute sleep at a rest area is the best solution if you’re experiencing fatigue while driving. For a brief length of time, a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage can help you stay awake. However, you won’t notice the effects for about 30 minutes. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before your trip is the greatest way to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.
Myth: Teens who fall asleep in class have bad habits and/or are lazy.
Fact: Teenagers, on the other hand, require an average of 8.5 – 9.25 hours of sleep every night, as opposed to the seven to nine hours that most adults get. Because of their internal biological clocks, they stay up later at night and go to bed later in the morning than people in the general population. A teenager’s body prefers to sleep, but many schools start lessons early in the morning. As a result, many teenagers arrive at school exhausted and unable to learn.
Myth: Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep.
Fact: Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep as one of four symptoms. The inability to get back asleep, frequent awakenings, and the sense of waking up unrefreshed are all signs of insomnia. Sleep disorders and other medical or psychological/psychiatric issues can cause insomnia, which is generally treatable. One in every five adults has had some form of sleeplessness in the past year, according to a survey conducted by the NSF called “Sleep in America.” Insomnia symptoms should be handled with a doctor or other healthcare provider if they occur more than a few times per week and interfere with a person’s everyday activities.
Myth: Daytime sleepiness always means a person isn’t getting enough sleep.
Fact: When an individual is unable to stay awake and aware during the day, he or she is suffering from excessive daytime drowsiness. There may be an underlying medical illness or sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy, that is causing the condition, which occurs even when the person has had a good night’s sleep. Symptoms should be brought to the attention of a doctor if they persist or worsen. In addition to the dangers of drowsy driving, injury, and disease that can result from driving while fatigued, daytime sleepiness can also impair one’s mental abilities, emotions, and performance.
Myth: Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression are unrelated to the amount and quality of a person’s sleep.
Fact: Many health issues have been linked to insufficient or poor quality sleep, according to research. Sleep deprivation, for example, has been related to obesity by a decrease in growth hormone release, which in turn raises the risk of weight gain. Interruption of sleep can cause hypertension and cardiovascular disease by disrupting a person’s sleep cycle, which is natural. The body’s ability to utilize insulin is hampered when people don’t get enough sleep, which has been linked to the development of diabetes. More and more research indicates a link between health problems and sleep deprivation.
Myth: The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need.
Fact: As a general rule of thumb, adults should aim for between seven and nine hours of shuteye each night. The quantity of sleep we require doesn’t change much as we get older, even if our sleep habits alter. In truth, the 2003 NSF Sleep in America survey indicated that older persons normally do not sleep less than their younger counterparts and that they average roughly seven hours of sleep a night. NSF. However, many older persons’ ability to manage chronic medical illnesses may be hampered if they suffer from regular, untreated sleep disorders. A poll conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) found that many older adults have difficulty sleeping because of poor health, not age.
Myth: During sleep, your brain rests.
Fact: While the physical body sleeps, the brain continues to work, recharge, and regulate a variety of bodily activities, including breathing. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep stages alternate every 90 minutes when we sleep. There are four distinct stages of non-REM sleep that range from stage one drowsiness, when one can be quickly roused, to stages three and four, where the most positive and restorative effects of sleep occur. Nevertheless, our minds can still process information even in the deepest non-REM sleep. REM sleep is characterized by an increase in breathing and heart rate, as well as the relaxation of muscles and the movement of the eyes under the eyelids, as well as the occurrence of dreams.
Myth: If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed, count sheep, or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep.
Fact: Insomnia is characterized by waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to return to sleep. Research reveals that soothing imagery or ideas, rather than counting sheep, may be more effective at getting you to sleep. Most experts believe that if you don’t go asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed, walk to another room, and do something calming like listening to music or reading, regardless of the strategy you employ to help you fall asleep. When you’re tired, go back to bed. Do not keep an eye on the timer.