False Beliefs About Sleep
Sleep myths are simply false information that are regularly disseminated online, at home, among friends, and so on. Unfortunately, sleep myths can also be damaging to your health if you develop sleep deprivation by adhering to them.
Sleep deprivation is an insidious condition that lowers performance and quality of life in the Big 4 aspects of your life:
Here are the common myths, and you will likely be familiar with some of them – for better or worse – already.
1 – Snoring Is Harmless
Snoring might make you the end of many jokes among family and friends, but it’s not always harmless. Chronic snoring, especially socially unacceptable snoring, is a primary sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where you continuously stop breathing for about 20 seconds and then rouse yourself (though you won’t remember it in the morning) in order to start breathing again. This can happen dozens to hundreds of times per night. The result, severe sleep deprivation.
2 – Alcohol Helps You Sleep Better
If you are like many people, maybe even most people, a night cap before bed is a regular occurrence. After all, a drink does seem to make you tired and too much drinking will make you figuratively or actually pass out.
Unfortunately, while it may incite you to head to bed, it will result in significantly reduced sleep:
- It disrupts REM sleep, which is important for memory and learning
- Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to use the rest room
Alcohol should be avoided in the hours leading up to bed. If you are used to having a nightcap before bed, you will likely experience a noticeable difference in wakefulness in the morning if you cut out your night cap.
3 – If You Say In Bed Long Enough, You’ll Fall Asleep
If you think that you can “bull” your way through being unable to fall asleep simply by staying in bed, you would likely be wrong. Most healthy sleepers take about 15-20 minutes to fall asleep.
By staying in bed on sleepless nights, you condition your body into associating bed with sleeplessness, which is obviously not something you want. In the words of Dr. Rebecca Robinson, a sleep researcher, “…make sure to get out of bed, change the environment and do something mindless.”
It’s important to point out that “mindless” activity should avoid blue lights. So no phones, movies, videos, or TV. Reading a book, journaling, meditating, yoga, and so on are just some of the non-screen, relaxing activities you can do to help sleep.
4 – Falling Sleep to TV/Noise is Okay
Countless people fall asleep to television and videos. Tune in, relax, zone out, and finally fall asleep. While white noise such as fans or running water may be beneficial as they are “natural” or simulate “natural” sounds, if your goal is to get good sleep then you should turn off the TV and shut your computers [Sleep.org].
For one, TVs screens emit blue light that delays and suppresses melatonin. Then there is the problem that TV and videos can emit unnatural, jarring noises that temporarily wake you up, even if you don’t remember waking up in the morning.
5 – “I’m Fine on 4-5 Hours of Sleep”
I’ve heard people say this, you’ve heard people say this, and you might have even said it yourself. But any scientific research study will show you that it simply isn’t true, no exceptions. Getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of cumulative sleep per day results in lower performance in every aspect of life.
An important word is cumulative sleep. You might only sleep for 4 or 5 hours at a time, but unless you are supplementing that amount of sleep with naps in order to get around 7-9 hours you will suffer sleep deprivation. End of story.
The real danger of this thinking is that over time, chronic sleep deprivation will result if you do not get enough sleep night after night.
How are you sleeping? Take this free online sleep test and assess whether or not you are getting enough sleep: