According to a new study published online in Sleep Health, the journal of the National Sleep Foundation, we’re laboring under some false assumptions when it comes to understanding healthy sleep.
MYTH: It’s healthy to be able to fall asleep anywhere, anytime.
REALITY: If you’re falling into micro-sleep episodes, it means your body is exhausted and running a sleep deficit.
MYTH: If you’re not sleeping, just stay in bed and keep trying.
REALITY: Trying to go to sleep for more than 15 minutes increases insomnia. A change in environment or a small, mindless activity may help.
MYTH: Adults need five or fewer hours of sleep per night.
REALITY: More than seven hours is optimal. Fewer than seven hours of sleep per night increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 100% and is also linked to weak immune systems, weight gain, depression, stroke, and some cancers. More than 10 hours, though, unless you’re running on a deficit, can also harm your health.
MYTH: Snoring is mostly harmless.
REALITY: It could be a marker of sleep apnea, which increases the risk of heart attacks, asthma, cancer, kidney disease, and more.
MYTH: Your body and brain will adapt to less sleep.
REALITY: You need to cycle through the four sleep stages several times to adequately rest and repair your body.
MYTH: Drinking alcohol before bed helps you sleep.
REALITY: Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it traps you in lighter sleep stages, leaving you feeling unrested and exhausted.
MYTH: Snoozing the alarm is fine.
REALITY: Snoozing may allow you to fall back to sleep, but it will likely be a new REM cycle, which will then be interrupted by your snoozed alarm. This will cause you to feel groggy longer.
MYTH: Remembering dreams means you had good sleep.
REALITY: Everyone dreams multiple times per night. If you’re remembering dreams, it’s only because you’ve woken up mid-cycle, interrupting your sleep. Frequent dreamers tend to have higher activity in the information centers of their brain, and wake twice as often in the night.
MYTH: It doesn’t matter what time of day you sleep.
REALITY: Sleeping out of sync with your body’s natural circadian rhythm can cause disorientation and mental fog, and shows an increased risk of heart disease, depression, ulcers, obesity, and some cancers. Long naps during the day can disorient your circadian rhythm, too, leading to further insomnia.
MYTH: Watching TV in bed helps you relax.
REALITY: Blue light, which is the kind that comes from electronic devices like TVs and phones, impedes the release of the sleep hormone Melatonin more than any other wavelength of light. Avoid screens for two hours before bed or switch your screen to a warmer setting to lessen the effects.
We hope these tips help you become a healthier sleeper!