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  • Writer's pictureDaren

Some sleep myths debunked

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

There are many misconceptions about sleep. The realm of sleep is rife with myths, from old wives' tales to modern misconceptions. Let's clear the air and debunk some of the most common sleep myths.

Myth 1: Adults Need Only 5 Hours of Sleep

Debunked: While some people claim they feel well-rested on just 5 hours of sleep, most adults need 7-9 hours to function optimally. Consistently getting less sleep can lead to cognitive impairments, mood changes, and long-term health risks. Even if you can handle it, the health costs add up.

Myth 2: Snoring is Normal and Harmless

Debunked: While occasional snoring can be harmless, frequent and loud snoring might be a sign of a health condition called obstructive sleep apnea. It can lead to interrupted breathing, reduced oxygen to the brain, and strain on the heart.

Myth 3: Alcohol Helps You Sleep Better

Debunked: Although alcohol might help you fall asleep quicker, it can interfere with the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, leading to non-restorative sleep and waking up feeling groggy.

Myth 4: Watching TV Helps You Wind Down Before Bed

Debunked: The blue light emitted by TVs, phones, and tablets can suppress melatonin production, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. While you might feel "relaxed" watching a show, it can interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Myth 5: If You Can’t Sleep, It's Best to Stay in Bed

Debunked: If you can't fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, it's often better to leave your bedroom. Engage in a relaxing activity in low light, and return to bed once you feel sleepy. Or, try sleeping in a different place to really reset your mind.

Myth 6: Your Brain "Shuts Down" During Sleep

Debunked: Sleep is an active period for the brain. During various sleep stages, the brain is busy processing information, consolidating memories, and regenerating.

Myth 7: Older Adults Need Less Sleep

Debunked: While sleep patterns might change with age, the amount of sleep adults need remains consistent in later years. Older adults might sleep more lightly or wake up more frequently, but their sleep need doesn't decrease.

Myth 8: You Can "Catch Up" on Lost Sleep Over the Weekend

Debunked: While sleeping in on the weekend might help reduce sleep debt, it can't fully make up for the effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Moreover, irregular sleep patterns can disturb your circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep at night.

Myth 9: Eating Cheese Before Bed Gives You Nightmares

Debunked: While the origins of this myth remain unclear, there's no scientific evidence linking cheese consumption to nightmares. However, heavy meals before bedtime can cause discomfort and disturb sleep.

Myth 10: Yawning is Always a Sign of Sleepiness

Debunked: While yawning can indicate fatigue, it's also a mechanism to cool the brain and can occur in various situations, such as during periods of boredom or even when talking about yawning!

Myth 11: More Sleep is Always Better

Debunked: While getting adequate sleep is essential, there's a thing as too much sleep. Regularly sleeping more than 9-10 hours can sometimes be indicative of health issues or disrupt natural circadian rhythms.

Myth 12: Sleeping Pills are a Safe Solution for Insomnia

Debunked: While some sleeping aids can be effective in the short term, they are not usually meant for long-term use. They can have side effects, cause dependency, and might not address the underlying cause of insomnia.

Myth 13: Sleep Position Doesn’t Matter

Debunked: Your sleep position can have a significant impact on your health. For example, sleeping on your back might exacerbate snoring and sleep apnea, while side sleeping can reduce these risks. However, side sleeping might also lead to shoulder or hip pain for some.

Getting wiser on sleep

Sleep is an intricate and vital physiological process, and understanding it can help us make informed decisions for better rest. It's crucial to separate fact from fiction.

With sleep such an important part of our lives and our professional performance, it pays to continually revisit assumptions and look for better information. Sleep is an active area of research, all the more so now that it's becoming well recognized for its connection to longevity and also professional (even non-athletic) performance.

Apps like CalmAlma are a powerful tool in helping optimize sleep, but they can only go so far if the rest of the picture isn't consistent.



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