Good quality sleep is an important part of healthy living. We know sleep is important, but we hear myths about it often, so how do you know what to believe? We consulted the National Sleep Foundation to find out what’s really behind common sleep myths so you can get a good night’s rest.
There are hacks that can help your body need less sleep.
Sleep experts suggest that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night for their body and mind to function optimally. What you might not know is that the body accumulated “sleep debt” that can be difficult to pay back if you become too deprived. This is something to watch if your bedtime is creeping later each night, or if you have a period of time (say, a vacation) where your sleep schedule is thrown off. It’s a good idea to plan time to make up for your loss, or your sleep deprivation could lead to health problems. Issues like high blood pressure, decreased productivity, obesity, safety issues on the road and low mood can all be linked back to not getting enough sleep.
As you get older you need less and less sleep.
The recommendation is to get 7-9 hours on average for adults. It is true that sleep patterns change as we get older however, the amount of sleep required stays the same. It’s common for older people to wake more often during the night and therefore sleep less at night time, but they should look to make up for these missed hours during the day. Planning naps is a good idea for older adults who wake a lot in the night so they can keep their health in check with an optimal number of total sleep hours.
Lots of people snore, it’s not bad for you.
This myth is half true. Regular snoring is associated with hypertension, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your heart health if you snore.
For many people snoring can be harmless, but for some it’s a symptom of a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnea. One way to tell the difference is if you’re extremely tired throughout the day. This could be a sign of a greater problem.
Sleep apnea is when breathing pauses while you’re sleeping causing reduced blood oxygen levels. This is hard on the heart and cardiovascular system and can cause strain that leads to heart disease. The good news is that there are treatments for sleep apnea. If you suspect you might have this condition, consult your doctor for next steps.
Sleep is time for your brain to rest.
This is actually not true. Your body does the resting during sleep, but your mind remains active. During sleep, we shift between REM (rapid eye movement) sleep where dreams occur, and non-REM sleep, in a series of 90-minute cycles.
Non-REM sleep has four stages including: drowsiness, when you can easily be woken up, and deep sleep stages, when you’re less likely to be awakened and the restorative effects of sleep are taking place. Even during the deepest stages of Non-REM sleep, the mind remains active and processes information.
When you wake in the night, it is best to lie in bed until you eventually fall back asleep.
For people who wake up in the night without being able to fall back to sleep on a regular basis, it’s important to know this is a symptom of insomnia. If this happens to you on a rare occasion, there’s less reason to be concerned.
When you wake up in the night, the first step is to try to relax your mind and body so you can get back to sleep. Sleep experts agree that if you’re not able to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes it’s best to get out of bed. Ideally you stay in a dark (or dimly lit) room and do something that relaxes you, like deep breathing, listening to music or in some cases reading. The goal here is to stay relaxed so you get sleepy and return to bed so you can fall back asleep.