If you’ve struggled with sleep, it’s likely you’ve looked all over for solutions. And whilst there is so much information out there- it’s hard to know what to believe.
Recently, a panel of 10 sleep experts got together to assess the validity of many sleep myths. Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it does help to break down some of the most common misconceptions about our slumber.
Check out the myths below and see how your knowledge stacks up!
Myth 1: Your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep
Whilst you will likely adapt to short term sleep deprivation, your brain and body would still be better off with more sleep. Studies clearly show drops in attention, creativity, reaction time and overall performance the more sleep is reduced.
Myth 2: Many adults only need 5 or less hours of sleep
It’s common in the media to see prominent personalities boasting of their minimal sleeping hours. Recently Donald Trump revealed that he will usually only get 4-5 hours of sleep- although this may explain a lot! There is a very small percentage of people who seem to be able to function at an optimal level with much less sleep. Let me again emphasize that this is a very tiny percentage of people!
Myth 3: Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep
Whilst you might drift off to sleep better after a couple of wines, it’s likely at the depth of your sleep and recovery is not as good.
Myth 4: Adults need more sleep as they get older
If someone is getting good quality sleep it’s not likely that will need more sleep as they age. Due to sleep disruptions, health concerns or poor quality sleep older adults may feel like they need additional hours.
Myth 5: Loud snoring is mostly harmless
Regular loud snoring can affect the quality of your sleep as it’s likely your air flow is being obstructed. This can even lead to sleep apnea where the breathing actually stops during the night. If you or your partner notice this you should speak to your doctor and get investigated as it can lead to other issues.
Myth 6: You should stay in bed if you are having trouble falling asleep
If you have been unable to get to sleep for some time, it can be beneficial to get out of bed and do something relaxing until you are tired. This could include reading with a dim light. It is not ideal to watch TV or use your phone as the bright light from this can hinder your sleep.
Myth 7: Lying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping
During the day shutting the eyes can be useful to get some rest and relaxation. At night however, we need to enter sleep to get the full benefits (see below).
Myth 8: During sleep the brain is not active
To follow on from the above myth, sleep is an active process for our brain and body. For our mind it is where we can consolidate our memories, make meaningful connections, solve problems and more. Our body also goes through its own clean out and recovery process.
Myth 9: It does not matter what time of the day you sleep
Our body works off an (almost) 24 hour circadian rhythm which helps to guide when we wake up, have the highest alertness and when we feel sleepy. Historically we have therefore used the dark period overnight to guide our sleep patterns and we still benefit when our routine is guided by the hours of light. It is beneficial for us to stick to similar sleep and wake up times to help set this rhythm.
Myth 10: Being able to fall asleep anytime, anywhere is a sign of a healthy sleep system
We all know someone who seems to be able to sleep at the drop of a hat. Whilst some people will naturally be better at this- it could also be a sign of tiredness and a need for more sleep and recovery overnight.
So with many common sleep myths now debunked, how do we get a good night's sleep?
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If you want to check out the original paper this is based on,