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Although many sleep mysteries still need to be resolved, science has been successful in debunking sleep myths. Many people believe in some things that, as it turns out, are far from the truth. If you don’t want to believe in popular misconceptions about sleep and want to know more about the most common myths, you should continue reading.
More is Better
One of the most popular misconceptions is that the more you sleep, the better for you. Something like this is not true. Sleeping too much can have an adverse impact on your sleep quality. The amount of sleep that we need varies, depending on the person and on age. However, according to research, if you sleep 10 hours or more, it will have a negative influence on your quality of sleep. If you want to get well-rested during the night and wake up refreshed, your goal should be to get better sleep, not more sleep. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can get by with only 5 hours of shut-eye, as you still need at least 7 hours of rest at night to function properly. It simply means that spending half of the day asleep won’t do you any good.
Everyone Needs 8 Hours of Sleep
This common myth is also not true. Our needs change with age. For example, newborns need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep each day. Getting enough sleep is crucial for their development. Toddlers need to get between 12 and 14 hours of shut-eye on a daily basis, counting night sleep and daytime naps. Preschoolers should sleep between 11 and 13 hours so that they can stay healthy and grow strong. School-aged children should get at least 10 hours of shut-eye, which is not always easy because of the various school obligations, but it is the key to staying healthy and being able to function properly. When it comes to teenagers, although they take pride in staying up late and getting insufficient rest, they need at least 8 hours of shut-eye at night.
On the other hand, adults up to 64 years of age should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, and seniors need 7-8 hours so that they can function properly. As you can see, children need more sleep than adults. However, the time we spend asleep is not the only thing that matters; its quality is vital as well.
Snoozing is Good For You
No matter how painful it is to admit it, snoozing our alarm in the morning will only make us feel worse. Hitting the snooze button doesn’t give us more time to sleep, and it will only make us feel more tired. It would be best to drag yourself out of bed as soon as the alarm wakes you up. No matter how tempted you are to press the snooze button and return to bed, you shouldn’t do it as it won’t do you any good, and it won’t help you feel more well-rested. Instead, you should get up and try to go to bed on time in the evening.
Snoring is Not Harmful
Although this one is true to some point, it doesn’t apply to all. For most people, snoring is harmless. There is no need to worry if you snore occasionally. However, for some people, it can be a symptom of a serious disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. It happens when the airway becomes blocked or collapses during sleep. As a result, air can’t circulate properly to the lungs and out of the body, and that’s when pauses in breathing occur. People with this medical condition often wake up at night gasping for breath. Pauses in breathing lead to reduced blood oxygen levels and can increase the risk of the development of cardiovascular disease. Luckily, sleep apnea can be treated. Regular snoring is also associated with hypertension. If you start snoring, it would be the best idea to visit a doctor who will determine what the cause of your snoring problem is. Sometimes, losing weight or changing your favorite sleep position will do the trick.
Obesity, Hypertension, and Diabetes are Not Related to the Amount of Sleep
Some health problems are directly related to the quality and the amount of sleep that we get during the night. For example, obesity is related to insufficient sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, it will have an impact on the growth hormone secretion, which is directly linked to obesity. As the amount of secretion decreases, it will increase the chance of gaining weight.
Interrupted sleep also has a negative impact on our blood pressure, and it can lead to cardiovascular problems and hypertension. If you don’t sleep enough during the night, it can impair the ability of your body to use insulin, which can sometimes result in diabetes. As you can see, the lack of sleep is directly related to different health problems.
Watching TV Will Help You Fall Asleep
Many people believe that, if they have a TV in their bedroom, and watch it before going to bed, it will help them fall asleep faster. However, it is far from the truth. Something like this is bad news for everyone who does this in the evening as a way to relax and unwind. If you use your computer, watch TV or use your smartphone close to bedtime, it will hinder the quality of sleep that you get. These devices emit blue light that is distracting your brain from calming itself before drifting off to dreamland. This light interferes with the body’s melatonin secretion, which is also known as the sleep hormone and it affects sleep patterns. As a result, we feel awake and alert, which prevents us from falling asleep easily and getting the best slumber possible. It would be the best idea to use the sleep environment only for sleep, and to remove all electronic devices from your bedroom, or at least stop using them a couple of hours before going to sleep. If you want to relax in the late evening, you should try taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading a book before bedtime.
People Suffering From Insomnia Have Troubles Falling Asleep
Insomnia is a very complex disorder, and it has four symptoms, one of which is difficulty falling asleep. People with this problem also tend to wake up too early and can’t get back to sleep, feel tired and unrefreshed, and wake up frequently during the night. If you have troubles with one of these symptoms at least a few times a week, it would be the best idea to consult your doctor. Insomnia has different consequences that can impact your life, such as depression, decreased performance at work, mood swings, and increased risk of car crashes. Luckily, it is a treatable disorder. Also, since some people are wondering “is insomnia contagious?”, you should know that it is certainly not true.
Alcohol Can Help You Sleep Better
Alcohol can help us fall asleep at night, which is logical as it has a natural sedative effect. That’s why many people enjoy a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or some whiskey in the evening as a way to relax after a stressful day at work and to sleep better at night. Unfortunately, although it can help us drift off to dreamland, alcohol can disrupt our sleep patterns and wreck our rest quality by making us wake up frequently during the night. As it is metabolized through the body, our sleep can become progressively lighter, which increases the likelihood of wakefulness. All in all, alcohol will help you fall asleep faster, but it won’t help you sleep better. It is the best idea to drink alcohol in moderation and to avoid consuming it at least one or two hours before going to bed.
Daytime Sleepiness Means that You Didn’t Get Enough Sleep
We all know that, when we don’t get enough shut-eye at night, we feel tired and sleepy the next day. Something like this is normal, and we have all been through it. However, if you are consistently tired, and you regularly feel sleepy during the day, other things may be to blame. The lack of sleep is not the only thing that can cause something like this. If you are sleepy regularly, the level of stress that you are facing or your diet may be causing this. Some underlying medical issues can also be the cause of regular daytime sleepiness. If you get enough sleep during the night and still feel tired and sleepy the next day, you maybe suffer from narcolepsy or a different disorder. It would be the best idea to discuss your symptoms and sleep habits with a physician.
You Can Catch Up on Missed Sleep on Weekends
Very often, we don’t have a chance to get a proper amount of sleep every day of the week. Various social engagements, work projects, important meetings, and other things can make us sleep less than we need. When we don’t get enough shut-eye, sleep debt gradually increases. If we have only two hours of sleep debt, we can catch up by sleeping one hour longer on Saturday, and one hour longer on Sunday. However, if our debt builds up to 10 hours or more, it is not possible to make up for it. If our sleep schedule varies by more than one hour, our circadian clock will be disrupted. That’s why sleeping 5 hours longer on Saturday and Sunday is not a solution to make up for the 10 hours of sleep debt that you accumulated during the week. Instead, your priority should be to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day, and you can also take a short power nap in the afternoon.
Additionally, you can get an extra hour of sleep each night during the next ten days. However, if your debt is long-term, the best solution is to take a vacation and focus on sleeping until you naturally wake up. It will help you get back on track, but it won’t repay the debt that has accumulated over the last few weeks or more.
Your Brain Rests During Sleep
Another widespread misconception is that our brains rest when we sleep. Something like this is not true. During sleep, our bodies rest, but our brains remain active and still control many body functions, such as breathing. A complex sequence of events happens every night, and numerous homeostatic processes go on, although we are not aware of them. Some brain activities increase when we sleep, and different hormones such as prolactin and human growth hormone are produced during this period. Sleep is also responsible for building neural connections and consolidating memories. All in all, a lot of things happen when we are asleep, and our brains certainly don’t rest during this period.
If You Wake Up at Night, You Should Stay in Bed Until You Fall Back Asleep
Waking up during the night and not being able to fall back asleep is something that happens to all of us from time to time. However, many people think that, in order to fall asleep again, they should stay in bed and wait. Although it is true to some point, experts agree that, if you aren’t asleep within the next 15 or 20 minutes, it is the best idea to get up and do something. You don’t need to get out of the bed as soon as you wake up at night. Instead, you should give yourself a chance to drift off to dreamland again. However, if it doesn’t happen within 15 minutes, you will be better off getting up and doing something that will occupy your body and mind, including listening to relaxing music, meditating, doing breathing exercises, or trying other relaxation techniques. You should go back to bed as soon as you feel tired. Keep in mind that, if you wake up often during the night, and stay in bed awake, sooner or later you will associate your bed with the lack of sleep. That’s why you should go to a different room, do various relaxing things, and return to your bedroom when you start feeling tired again, as that way, you will associate it with a place for rest.
You Only Dream During REM Sleep
Every night, when we are asleep, we go through five sleep stages, and REM or rapid eye movement is one of these stages. Some people think that dreaming only happens during this stage, but it is not true. According to studies, when people are awoken during the REM stage, they recall vivid dreams, and can often describe them in detail. This stage is associated with longer, more complex, and the most vivid dreams, but dreaming also occurs during non-REM sleep.
You Shouldn’t Wake Up a Sleepwalker
Many people think that they should never wake up a sleepwalker. Of course, it is not true. You should wake up a sleepwalker in some cases as if you don’t, he or she might put themselves in danger. If your loved one or a family member is sleepwalking, the last thing you want is for them to fall down the stairs or get hurt while using kitchen appliances. Their nocturnal activities vary and can range from a simple walk around the room to complex actions, such as using a computer or even driving. Although we don’t know much about sleepwalking, the myth that we shouldn’t wake them up is a result of fiction from movies and books. If you want to avoid your loved ones getting hurt, you should either gently guide them back to bed or wake them up.
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Renata is an economist who has always had a passion for writing. She is a dog lover, Netflix addict and a sleepaholic. When she is not busy doing sleep research, she spends her time reading books, hiking and playing video games.