You would think we would have mastered the art of sleeping by now, but many of us are still sleeping poorly. The problem is that perhaps our information and views on this critical health need is dated. Let’s examine these 20 myths you may have heard about sleep which aren’t completely true.
1. Sleeping is passive
Sleep was always believed to be inactive. But in fact, sleep involves continuous activity within the body and brain. Sleep entails a chain of actions every night. Though we are not active when we sleep, there are countless formations running in our brain which we’re unaware of. Some brain activities are enhanced when we are asleep. As we sleep, the endocrine system boosts the development of human growth hormone, critical for a healthy immune system.
2. We need less sleep as we get older
It’s a common fallacy that the older you are the less sleep you need. Older people tend to have disrupted sleep patterns, which may be due to other health issues as we get older. Professor Sean Drummond of the University of California stated that “The problem is people find it harder to sleep as they get older and they think that that is a sign that they need less sleep but that is not the case”.
3. You can make up for lost sleep at weekends
A hectic week at your workplace or countless social engagements may reduce your sleeping hours. Many feel you can compensate for your lost sleeping hours during the week by catching extra hours on weekends. Studies have indicated that this may be insufficient to rejuvenate you for the week ahead.
4. Snoring is not harmful
If you habitually snore loudly, it may be a sign of a severe, even fatal condition of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is detected by intermittent breathing while you sleep. It could be due to blocked airways. If undetected, OSA can decrease oxygen levels in your blood and stress your heart and breathing functions, which will amplify the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart problems.
5. It is safe to take sleeping pills
We frequently pop in sleeping pills prescribed by medical practitioners. Doctors have been called to find new ways of managing people with sleep disorders. Regular sleeping pills have been linked with a notable risk of death and cancer.
6. You can get by with just 4 hours sleep
Margaret Thatcher, the former UK Prime Minister commented at an interview that only 4 hours of sleep a day was all she needed to function well. In recent years, scientists discovered a gene that may shed light on why a few people need only a fraction of sleeping hours than most of us. This applies to less than 3% of the population. Most of us need between 7-8 hours of sleep at night to stay healthy, fit and vigilant every day. Insufficient sleep may lead to health complications like heart disease, depression, weight gain and more.
7. Watching TV helps you fall asleep
We often think that watching TV with the flickering light and background sound will be a mental distraction to relax a busy mind before dropping off to sleep. However, studies have indicated that sleeping while the TV is on may lead to several health issues including depression. The blue light of the TV specifically controls the flow of melatonin or sleep hormone. When we are exposed to blue light, our body obstructs the production of melatonin which makes us feel vigilant and awake.
8. You can have a better night’s sleep when you drink alcohol
Many feel having a glass of wine, a whiskey or beer before bed would help you have a restful night’s sleep. This is due to the sedative nature of alcohol. Though alcohol could help you drop off to sleep faster, as the alcohol metabolizes through your body during the night, your sleep becomes gradually lighter and your possibility of being wakeful increases.
9. Teenagers love to laze and lie in bed
Most teenagers are unwilling to tear themselves from their bed. Teenagers are considered to be lethargic, temperamental, and unenthusiastic to spring out of bed every morning. Studies indicate that when they are adolescents, they undergo a shift in their body clock. In puberty, less than 3 hours delay occurs in their metabolic rhythm known as delayed sleep phase disorder. According to studies, teenagers need 9-10 hours of sleep as compared to 7-8 hours for adults.
10. Napping during the day is a misuse of time
Among Westerners, napping is considered negative. If your colleagues find you napping at work they would regard you as being lazy. A strong-tasting cup of coffee could be considered to wake you up. However, napping should be encouraged as it helps you stay alert and efficient at work and may even help you save lives.