Common Myths About Sleep - Busted!
Sleep has been a mystery to us in the past. But, with the advancing sleep science, we are unravelling the enigma around sleep step-by-step. In the past few decades, we have gained new insights about sleep that have helped debunk popular myths and misinformation about rest.
Here is a list of these prominent and problematic sleep myths to help improve your sleep quality and ensure good health and well-being. Let’s have a look!
Which common myths are associated with sleep?
Myth 1: It doesn’t matter what time of day you sleep
Our body has an internal clock that works in sync with our natural surroundings. This means our system is aligned to fall asleep and wake up depending on sunset and sunrise. However, due to our lifestyle, we sometimes tend to ignore our night’s sleep.
Many believe this doesn’t affect their health as long as they rest for enough hours. But shifting your sleep schedule long-term isn’t healthy. It can make you feel out of sync and lead to poor-quality sleep.
Myth 2: Falling asleep anytime and anywhere signifies a healthy sleep system
A healthy sleeper generally takes at least a couple of minutes to fall asleep. But, if you can drift off right away without concern for where you are and believe this is healthy, you are wrong. Falling asleep anywhere and anytime may be a symptom of sleep deprivation.
Although this habit may seem like a gift, it can mean dozing off during a boring meeting or while driving home. Lack of sleep affects attention span and the ability to make decisions. It can ruin your performance at work and even lead to work or car accidents.
Myth 3: For adults, only five hours of sleep is enough
While experts recommend adults catch at least seven to nine hours of rest every night, several people believe they can make do with five or six hours of sleep. Moreover, the myth that you can train your body to function with less sleep is widespread. As much as we would like this to happen, all evidence shows that chronic sleep deprivation has diverse and far-reaching side effects.
Myth 4: Lying in bed with closed eyes is as good as sleeping
You might feel like you’re getting enough sleep as long as you are in bed and trying to drift off. However, experts suggest this is a harmful myth. Every organ in the human body, including the brain, heart, and lungs, function differently when you’re sleeping. If you know you are awake, your brain and body are also aware. This means your organs are not getting the necessary rest and won’t feel rejuvenated after getting out of bed.
Myth 5: Watching TV before falling asleep relaxes the mind
After toiling for the whole day, most of us prefer to relax and loosen up before going to bed. But watching television right before falling asleep is not the way to achieve this. For that matter, neither is using your phone, laptop, tab, or other electronic items. These devices emit blue light that affects sleep negatively.
Myth 6: Loud snoring signifies deep sleep
Snoring occurs when the blocked airway causes vibration in the throat tissues. It doesn’t signify deep sleep but indicates fatigue, abnormal mouth anatomy, nasal problems, and sleep deprivation. Besides, one reason for snoring can be sleep apnea.
While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, for some people this may be the case. To know more about whether you have sleep apnea, undergoing a sleep test is recommended.
Myth 7: Sleep duration is all that matters
While it is true that gaining seven to nine hours of sleep is necessary, this is not the only parameter for good sleep. Rest quality is another equally crucial factor. If fragmented sleep and nighttime awakenings are interfering with your sleep cycle, this needs to be addressed. You should aim for seven hours of rest and catch high-quality and undisturbed sleep.
Myth 8: People who get sound sleep do not move at night
While it’s a widespread belief that people who get sound sleep do not move while sleeping, this has no element of truth. Experts suggest that minor movements can occur during normal and healthy sleep. It is not concerning unless you behave aggressively or bother your partner while sleeping.
Myth 9: The more you sleep, the better
People only worry about sleeping too little and are not concerned with excessive sleep. But, this is not okay as sleeping too much also gives rise to health concerns. If you sleep for more than nine hours and still feel tired the following day, it may signify an underlying health problem. It is associated with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Myth 10: The brain shuts down when you are sleeping
While the brain feels relaxed when you wake up, this doesn’t mean the mind shuts off completely while you rest. Instead, what happens is that when you rest, your activity patterns change. The mind stays active during different sleep stages and functions differently, which enhances memory, thinking, and emotional processing.
Myth 11: Dreams only occur during REM sleep
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is when the brain activity, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure increase, and the eyes move rapidly while closed. During this stage, the most intense, bizarre, and vivid dreams occur. But dreaming is not limited to REM sleep and can happen during any stage of sleep.
Myth 12: Napping during the day makes up for lost sleep at night
A quick nap is good for recharging your system and getting a boost of energy, but it cannot make up for lost sleep at night. It is so because the sleep cycle doesn’t function the same way during the day as it does at night. When you try to complete your sleep by napping for a long time during the day, you throw your sleep schedule further down the drain.
Myth 12: Turning up the radio or AC help you stay awake while driving
Drowsy driving is not safe and may lead to life-threatening conditions. While you may think turning up the radio, cracking the air conditioner, or opening the window can keep you awake, these tricks are ineffective. Instead, a better solution would be to pull away at the roadside and nap for 15-20 minutes.
Myth 13: Teens don’t catch enough sleep only by choice
Most teenagers fail to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. While you may think this is so because teenagers prefer to stay up and consciously choose this lifestyle, the biological changes in the body are also responsible for the night owl tendency. These alterations start around puberty and push the circadian rhythm in adolescents by almost two hours.
Myth 14: If you stay in bed long enough, you will eventually fall asleep
While it is commonly encouraged to stay in bed waiting for sleep to come until you drift off, this is not a healthy practice. Sleep experts recommend that if you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing in a quiet and dim setting. It is so because your bed should only be associated with sleep. Lying awake in bed frustrated is not a recommended practice.
Myth 15: Exercising at night disrupts sleep
Exercising before bed is discouraged since the myth is that working out before drifting off affects sleep. But this is not true. In fact, for some people, the case is just the opposite, as exercising helps them sleep better. With that said, you should still stay away from an intense workout at night and instead opt for stretching or yoga.
Myth 16: Having alcohol at night helps improve sleep
You should stop drinking for two to three hours before falling asleep. While most people believe that alcohol promotes a good night’s rest, this is not true. Drinking makes you fall asleep faster but compromises your sleep quality. It throws off your sleep cycle and increases the possibility of interrupted sleep.
Myth 17: Sleeping with open lights is okay
Many people prefer falling asleep with the lights turned on as it brightens the path to the bathroom in case they wake up. But, this is not encouraged as lights increase the risk of disrupted sleep and have a negative effect on circadian rhythm. If the light is bright, it may cause eye strain.
Myth 18: Hitting snooze does not harm your sleep
While it may be tempting to hit the snooze button when resting at night, it is not okay. When you hit the alarm and try to squeeze in extra minutes of sleep, you do not acquire meaningful rest. Since fragmented sleep is not beneficial for recharging your mind and body, the practice should be avoided.