False ideas about sleep may be sapping you of energy, vitality, and health.
Some people love to sleep—I’m in that camp—while others begrudgingly head to the mattress only out of sheer necessity. Some folks sleep on their sides; others, on their backs. And the rift between sock-wearers and no-sock enthusiasts is wide. But no matter our sleep differences, there seem to be common myths about sleep that are shared by many people.
A study out of NYU’s School of Medicine looked at 8,000 websites to find common misperceptions about sleeping. The researchers found that not only do many people hold false beliefs about sleeping, these myths may pose a threat to our health. Are you guilty of thinking any of these are true?
Here are five sleep myths debunked:
Myth: “I only need five hours a night.”
Truth: The NYU researchers say this myth is the one that poses the most serious risk to health, causing long-term sleep deficits. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need more like seven to nine hours to enjoy a good mood and have enough energy. Children need even more.
Myth: “Snoring is no big deal.”
Truth: Sure, sawing logs might be harmless. But it might also be sleep apnea, which could lead to a stopped heart and an increased risk of other health problems, like gout. If you or your partner snore loudly, get checked out by a doctor.
Myth: “Taking a nap can make up for my insomnia.”
Truth: Naps can increase performance and up your mood, but, if you are someone struggling with frequent insomnia, naps may actually worsen the problem. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you want to nap, keep it short (10 to 20 minutes) and before 3 pm. Having a routine time to nap, too, seems to help.
Myth: “I should stay in bed, no matter what.”
Truth: If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t lay there tossing and turning. Get up, keep the lights low, and do something boring like folding laundry.
Myth: “This nightcap will help me doze off.”
Truth: At first, you’ll feel sleepy, it’s true. But restorative sleep will be disturbed later in the night. That’s because alcohol blocks REM sleep and turns on alpha brain waves, which inhibit quality sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
There are a few areas of sleep myth where researchers still disagree. For example, the jury is still out on whether sleeping in on the weekends can help make up for a lack of sleep during the work week. We’ll have to stay tuned—and keep counting our sheep—while scientists learn more.
Keep reading: Why we're so emotional when we're tired