7 Myths About Sleep
Sleep is a crucial component of overall health and well-being. However, many people struggle with getting enough high-quality sleep, leading to fatigue, irritability, and a range of health issues including mental and physical health. Let’s discuss several common myths about sleep and look at ways to potentially get a better night’s sleep.
Myth #1: You can train your body to need less sleep.
While it may seem appealing to try to squeeze more hours out of the day by cutting down on sleep, the truth is that everyone has a genetically determined need for a certain amount of sleep. Attempting to force your body to function on less sleep than it needs can lead to negative consequences (I’m sure we’ve all experienced brain fog), this may impair your focus and put you at an increased risk of accidents, reduced productivity, and impaired cognitive function.
Myth #2: Snoring is harmless.
Other than how your snoring may affect the people around you… It also has the potential to affect your health. If you’re a frequent snorer, it could be a sign of some underlying health issues that need addressing. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnoea, a potentially serious sleep disorder that can have negative impacts on your health. Sleep apnoea is characterised by pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep and putting you at an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If you’ve been told, or you are aware that you regularly snore, it is worth discussing with your Doctor, as sleep treatments (such as a CPAP machine) may assist you with your snoring and improve your sleep quality.
Myth #3: Waking up during the night is a sign of poor sleep.
It is normal to wake up briefly during the night, and these brief awakenings are usually not a cause for concern. However, if you are consistently waking up during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, it may be a sign of a sleep disorder or other underlying health conditions that may be affecting your sleep quality.
Myth #4: Sleep is for the weak.
Quality sleep is necessary for optimal physical and mental health. Attempting to function on too little sleep can have negative consequences (as discussed in Myth #1), including increased risk of accidents, reduced productivity, and impaired cognitive function. Additionally, getting enough quality sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. When we enter a deep sleep, our body goes into recovery and repair mode, our muscles have an increase in blood flow that allows the oxygen and nutrients to regenerate cells.
Our hormones get to work too, certain hormones are released during a deep sleep that stimulates muscle repair and growth, as well as hormones that help regulate inflammation. If you don’t get enough quality sleep you’re more likely to experience inflammation within your body and can put yourself at risk of injury and illness.
Myth #5: A nightcap (alcohol) helps you sleep better.
While alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt the quality of sleep and lead to waking up frequently during the night, this prevents your body from being able to move into a deeper sleep stage. In addition to disrupting sleep, excessive alcohol consumption can have negative impacts on overall health and well-being.
Myth #6: Sleep aids are a safe and effective solution for poor sleep.
Sleep aids such as melatonin, magnesium, CBD products and a range of other prescription and non-prescription medications may seem helpful in certain situations. However, many sleep aids can be habit-forming and have the potential for negative side effects. It’s important to address underlying issues causing poor quality sleep leading to the use of sleep aids rather than relying on medication for long-term solutions.
Some sleep aids do not allow the body to enter a deep sleep state, some may help you become unconscious but, it’s important to be aware that sedation is not the same as sleep. It is also important to be aware of the recommended length of time to use sleep aids as many sleep aids are not recommended for long-term use.
Myth #7: You can catch up on sleep on the weekends.
Ever heard of sleep debt or sleep deficit? When our body doesn’t get an adequate amount of sleep (which can be between 7-9 hours depending on the individual) a sleep debt can progressively begin to build.
As an example, a person that typically needs 8 hours of sleep but only gets 5 builds 3 hours of sleep debt for that day. Over 5 days of only 5 hours of sleep each night, there is now a sleep debt of 15 hours, that’s almost 2 full nights’ sleep in debt!
Researchers have identified that it can take up to four days to recover from just one hour of lost sleep and up to nine days to eliminate sleep debt (1). This can explain why if you have a poor night’s sleep it can take a few days before you feel reset again.
While it is better than getting no extra sleep, attempting to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends is not a substitute for consistently getting enough sleep each night. Consistently getting enough high-quality sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal health and well-being.
In conclusion, there are many common myths about sleep that can lead to negative consequences for health, mood, and well-being. By debunking these myths and promoting healthy sleep habits you can take steps to improve sleep quality and quantity. Some healthy sleep habits that can help improve sleep include:
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle and promote better sleep.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Engaging in relaxing activities such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music before bed can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep: Keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet can help create a comfortable sleep environment. Additionally, investing in a comfortable mattress, pillows, and bedding can help promote better sleep.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: Consuming caffeine or alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime can disrupt sleep and lead to reduced sleep quality overall.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help promote better sleep, but it’s important to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it can make it harder to fall asleep due to the hormones released during exercise.
Hopefully by implementing these healthy sleep habits and understanding the significance quality sleep has on your body and mood, you can improve your sleep quality and quantity and enjoy the many benefits of getting enough restful sleep. Taking care of your sleep can ultimately lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive life.
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- (1). Kitamura, S., Katayose, Y., Nakazaki, K., Motomura, Y., Oba, K., Katsunuma, R., Terasawa, Y., Enomoto, M., Moriguchi, Y., Hida, A., & Mishima, K. (2016). Estimating individual optimal sleep duration and potential sleep debt. Scientific reports, 6, 35812.