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.
Misinformation regarding sleep is still widely disseminated online, via social media, and even by word of mouth, despite the advances in science. 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. Check out these and other myths in order to understand the truth, correct the record, or discover new ways of getting the sleep you need.
Myth: Your Body Gets Used To Getting Less Sleep
The short- and long-term effects of sleep deprivation have been documented, indicating that your brain and body can’t just adapt to a lack of sleep.
Sleep deprivation can cause you to be more tired during the day. Despite the fact that this tiredness may stabilize over a period of weeks or months, this does not suggest that your body has fully adjusted to the lack of sleep.
Chronic sleep deprivation, on the other hand, negatively impacts daily performance, impairing judgment, memory, concentration, and creative thinking. When you don’t get enough sleep, your metabolism, cardiovascular system, immune system, hormone production, and mental health can all be negatively impacted.
Due to the body’s inability to obtain the rest it needs to recuperate, even if it may appear that you are becoming used to sleeping less, more serious health issues are accumulating as a result.
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.
Rare as they are, it is believed that one in four million people have a genetic mutation that allows them to sleep for shorter amounts of time and yet wake up feeling rested, but this is the rarest of all possible outcomes.
Myth: How Long You Sleep Is All That Matters
It’s crucial to get enough sleep, but it’s not the only factor. 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.
When sleep is interrupted by frequent awakenings, the amount of time in the most restorative stages of sleep is reduced, making it more difficult for the body to recuperate. 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
Studies have shown that the timing of sleep is important, and it’s ideal to sleep as much as possible during the night. At night, the body’s circadian rhythm (or internal clock) is synchronized with its surroundings. The quality of one’s sleep and the state of one’s mind, heart, circulatory system, metabolism, and all of these other aspects of one’s health are directly impacted by the circadian rhythm.
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:
- prolonged or chronic
- Incongruous (such as sleepwalking).
- Abrasive or aggressive in nature.
- Inconvenient for a mate in bed.
- arousal in the middle of the night
Myth: Your Brain Shuts Down During Sleep
The brain is not completely shut down while you are sleeping. There are many stages of sleep, and in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the brain is active at the same level as it is when you are awake.
Brain activity changes during sleep have been shown to be a key factor in the importance of sleep for successful thinking, memory, and emotional 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. It is common for dreams to have diverse content depending on whether they are in REM or NREM sleep.
Myth: More Sleep Is Always Better
Even while most people worry about sleeping too little, there are also dangers to oversleeping.
A person’s need for extra sleep might vary depending on the situation, but excessive sleep can be a sign of an underlying health issue. 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
Snoring that isn’t too loud or too frequent is usually not a cause for concern, but snoring that is can be.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a dangerous breathing problem that disrupts sleep and stops a person from getting the oxygen their body needs, maybe the cause of loud or persistent snoring. Sleeping partners and roommates might be bothered by snoring, as well.
Snoring can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the underlying reason. OSA can be treated using positive airway pressure (PAP) devices that keep the airways open. Many people’s snoring can be reduced or eliminated with the use of anti-snoring mouthpieces and mouth exercises, and decreasing weight is often effective in this regard.
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 pain, might also make it difficult to get a decent night’s sleep.
Myth: The Ability To Fall Asleep Anywhere and at Any Time Means You’re a “Good Sleeper”
“Good sleepers” aren’t those who can fall asleep at any moment or under any circumstance. They’re those who have sleep issues.
Putting a positive spin on excessive daytime sleepiness, which is frequently a sign of insomnia, inadequate sleep, or an underlying problem like sleep apnea, is dangerous since this misconception implies that excessive daytime sleepiness is a good thing. Circadian rhythm problems and narcolepsy can also be linked to sleeping at any hour.
If you want to be a good sleeper, you shouldn’t aim to fall asleep at any time. If you want a healthy circadian rhythm, you need to make sure you get a proper quantity of high-quality sleep that occurs on a regular schedule and, if feasible, at night.
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.
Many individuals who don’t get enough sleep try to make up for it by taking naps, but this might actually make it more difficult to get to sleep at a normal time. Long snoozes can leave you feeling disoriented and sluggish when you get up in the morning.
Even if naps aren’t always terrible, relying on them to make up for sleep deprivation isn’t a good strategy. Napping should be limited to no more than 30 minutes and should be done in the early afternoon.
Myth: Teens Don’t Sleep Enough Only Because They Choose To Stay up Late
As many as 72 percent of high school kids, as well as a considerable percentage of teenagers, are sleeping less than the prescribed amount. This is often due to the fact that they have a nightly sleep routine that keeps them awake until the early hours.
Even so, being a “night owl” isn’t only a personality trait. Instead, the circadian rhythm of teenagers is pushed back by roughly two hours as a result of biochemical changes that begin around puberty. This physically delayed sleep scheduling may be exacerbated by individual choices to prioritize school and job requirements, social gatherings, and screen time.
Major organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged school districts to move school start times back in order to offer teenagers more time to get the sleep they need because of the natural shift in circadian timing in teens.
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.
Stopping for the night or taking a 15- to 30-minute nap are the safest and best options if you’re feeling weary while driving.
Caffeine can assist temporarily, but it can take a while for it to take effect. Even so, it’s dangerous to rely on coffee while driving.
You can avoid drowsy driving by having a good night’s sleep the night before your journey. Any time you’re unsure about driving, avoid it since the implications for you and other drivers on the road could be fatal.
Myth: If You Can’t Sleep, It’s Best To Stay in Bed Until You Fall Back Asleep
If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, doctors recommend getting out of bed. Get up, do something soothing in a quiet and dim environment (without using your cell phone or other electronic gadgets), and then try to return to sleep.
The reason specialists recommend this is because it’s essential to associate your bed with sleep. 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
Having a few drinks can help you relax and lull you to sleep more easily at first. Drinking alcohol has the unfortunate side effect of reducing the quality of one’s sleep significantly. Pre-sleep alcohol consumption can disrupt sleep cycles, increase the likelihood of interruptions, and worsen the symptoms of snoring and apnea.
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
Studies have shown that a warm bedroom isn’t optimal for a good night’s rest. During sleep, the body’s temperature naturally decreases, and an overly warm bedroom can interfere with this process. Sleeping in a heated bed can be a nuisance because it can lead to a number of uncomfortable awakenings.
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
Data from surveys and research studies show a lack of effect on sleep even after a night of intense exercise. 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
The Snooze bar provides what appears to be precious sleeping time between alarms, although this time is unlikely to generate actual sleep. Don’t expect on clicking snooze to help you wake up more rested when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep.
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. Additionally, studies have shown that sleeping in a room with too much light can cause eye strain and weight gain.
It is recommended to sleep in a room that is as close to total darkness as possible in order to get a better night’s rest and maintain a more consistent circadian rhythm.
Myth: Snoring is a common problem, especially among men, but it isn’t harmful.
Fact: Sleep apnea, a potentially fatal sleep disorder, can manifest itself as snoring, even if it isn’t accompanied by excessive daytime sleepiness. Breathing pauses in sleep apnea prohibit air from moving into or out of the airways of a sleeping subject. 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 caused by obesity and a big neck. Men and women who snore heavily, especially if pauses in the snoring are detected, should see a doctor about sleep apnea, which can be treated.
Myth: You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get.
Fact: Sleep specialists recommend that most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health, productivity, and safety reasons. Asleep debt that becomes difficult to “payback” if it grows too large occurs when we don’t get enough sleep. Health concerns including obesity and high blood pressure, depressed moods and behaviors, lower productivity, and safety difficulties in and around the house, at work, and on the road have 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: These so-called “aids” are harmful and inefficient for drivers who are already prone to falling asleep at the wheel. 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. After 30 minutes, the effects begin to take hold. The easiest way to avoid being tired while driving is to get enough rest the night before.
Myth: Teens who fall asleep in class have bad habits and/or are lazy.
Fact: The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but sleep specialists say that teens require between 8.5 and 9.25 hours. Because of their inherent biological clocks, they stay up later at night and go to bed earlier in the morning. A teenager’s body prefers to sleep, but many schools start lessons early in the morning. As a result, many teenagers arrive at school groggy and unable to concentrate.
Myth: Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep.
Fact: Insomnia is characterized by a number of symptoms, including difficulty falling asleep. Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent awakenings, waking up feeling tired and waking up too early. Many physiological and psychological conditions can manifest as insomnia, which can be alleviated with the proper treatment. A recent NSF Sleep in America poll found that 58 percent of respondents in the United States had had at least one symptom of insomnia in the preceding year. Insomnia symptoms should be examined with a doctor or other health care professional 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: A person with excessive daytime sleepiness experiences drowsiness throughout the day and has a strong desire to sleep while they should be completely alert and awake. Even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you may still be suffering from a sleep disorder like narcolepsy or sleep apnea, which can cause the condition. A doctor should be seen if you notice any of these symptoms, as they are typically treatable. This can be harmful, as it increases a person’s risk of being involved in an accident or being unwell due to drowsy driving.
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. Interrupted sleep can have a negative impact on the normal reduction in blood pressure, resulting in hypertension and cardiovascular issues. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes, according to studies. 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: The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, according to sleep specialists. The quantity of sleep we require doesn’t change much as we get older, even if our sleep habits alter. It has been observed that elderly persons do not sleep less than their younger counterparts, and average roughly seven hours of sleep every night. Chronic medical illnesses might be difficult for many older folks to deal with if they don’t get adequate sleep on a regular basis. Sleep issues are more common among the elderly when they are afflicted by poor health rather than simply getting older.
Myth: During sleep, your brain rests.
Fact: Many bodily activities are still controlled by the brain while we are asleep; for example, the brain is “recharged” during sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep stages alternate every 90 minutes when we sleep. One can be awakened from stage one drowsiness to stage three and four “deep sleep,” which are the most beneficial and restorative stages of non-REM sleep since they are more difficult to wake up from. No matter how deeply we sleep, our brains can still process information, even if we’re not experiencing rapid eye movement (REM). In REM sleep, dreams occur, respiration and heart rate pick up and become erratic, muscles relax and the eyes flit back and forth under the eyelids, all of which are indicative of an active state of sleep.
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: A common symptom of insomnia is the inability to fall back asleep after being awakened unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Sleeping with soothing images or ideas may be more effective than counting sheep, according to several studies. If you can’t get back to sleep within 15-20 minutes of getting out of bed, experts recommend getting out of bed, going to another room, and doing something calming like listening to music or reading. When you’re ready for a nap, get back to your bed. Avoid focusing on the time and instead focus on the task at hand.