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Sleeping is a comfort activity for many. There is no better relief compared to the one we get while we close our eyes and just relax.
However, it is also one of the most mysterious human activities - which explains why there are so many myths about it. Concepts like dreaming and the reason behind their occurrence make sleeping sound like a mysterious activity to many.
Fortunately, today science has developed quite a lot. This is why we have an accurate answer to several questions, like how our bodies behave while sleeping.
But there was a time when humankind didn’t have access to such studies and research. As a result, people started believing myths. In this article, we will be debunking 16 such common sleep myths. Let us begin!
Reality: The need for sleep does not alter with age.
Your body’s requirement for a specific number of hours of sleep does not necessarily change when you grow up. While it is true that babies sleep more than adults, it has less to do with how much sleep one needs and more with their change in lifestyle habits.
As a result, issues like waking up way too early in the morning and fragmented sleep are very common in older adults. This happens due to alteration in an individual’s brain chemistry, and not in their sleep schedule.
Reality: Your ideal sleep time depends on your body clock.
It is one of the most common myths that everyone’s body requires exactly 8 hours of sleep every night. Whereas, the reality is that it depends on how much rest your body requires to function efficiently.
While one may benefit from 8 hours of sleep, another person may feel tired right after waking up even after sleeping for the specified duration. It is important to note that sleep quality is just as important as sleep duration.
The ideal range of sleep time lies between 6.5 hours and 9 hours. This is a fairly wide range, which means that people who lie in the lower limit of this duration work as efficiently as the ones in the upper limit.
However, it is advised not to sleep less than 5 hours or more than 9 hours, since it can cause conditions like depression and metabolic syndrome respectively.
Reality: Alcohol worsens your sleep schedule.
Many people consider consuming alcohol when they can’t fall asleep. However, it is a common myth that alcoholic beverages cause us to fall asleep quicker.
In fact, numerous studies imply that drinking alcohol contributes to worsening insomnia and it depletes your sleep quality. Hence, it is strongly advised that you avoid drinking right before going to bed.
Reality: It can cause some serious health issues.
It is common for people to cut down on the number of hours they sleep to be more productive. They believe that not sleeping enough might be uncomfortable, but it is not harmful to health. Unfortunately, that is not true.
Sleep deprivation takes away the chance for your body to recover after being worn out. Human bodies are not capable of making it even a few weeks without sleep. The worst way that being sleep deprived for long periods can affect you is by hitting you with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, or depression.
Reality: Not every sleep medicine is addictive.
Movies and series have made up the belief that consuming medications like sleeping pills has the capability of turning one into a drug addict. However, it is a huge myth that every sleeping pill is addictive. Some of them may be habit-forming and your doctors know that too. Hence, they prescribe such medicines for only a short period.
Reality: Cooler rooms are better for sleep.
Since being warm is directly linked to being cozy, it is a common myth that a warm environment will help you sleep better. However, this is not true; in fact, a cooler core body temperature leads to a better sleep quality.
Doctors suggest sleeping in a room with a temperature lying within the range of 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. A cold space gives your body the signal that it is now time to sleep.
Reality: Sleeping on your back is the worst position to rest in.
It is commonly believed that sleeping on your stomach is a cause of a variety of issues that you might be facing. For instance, it can lead to problems like neck aches and poor sleep quality. However, it is still not the worst position for you to sleep in.
Sleeping on your back is the worst way to allow your body to rest. This position leads to loud snoring and it also makes you more prone to sleep apnea.
Reality: It is not as common as you might think it is.
Sleep paralysis seems like a scary experience to many, which is understandable, since people can’t move, talk, or wake up while it happens. Many people also suffer from hallucinations during such episodes. Fortunately, you will most probably not experience it.
According to studies, only about 8% of the general population is affected by sleep paralysis. Additionally, people with mental health conditions like anxiety, BPD, and so on are more prone to this sleep disorder.
Reality: Lying in bed even when you are not sleepy does more harm than good.
Our body is designed in a way that makes it identify places with the emotions that we feel. Hence, if you are sleep deprived on your bed almost every night and keep turning and tossing constantly - your body might identify your bed to be a place to stay awake. This will further lead to poor sleep quality in the long run.
This worsens underlying sleep disorders like insomnia. Hence, it is best to get up from your bed when you can’t fall asleep and do something else that might tire your body enough to seek rest. For instance, you can read for a while away from bed if you can’t sleep.
Reality: You can’t simply “catch up” on your missed sleep with extra sleep.
Some people have this unrealistic expectation from their bodies that they should sleep for 5 hours during the working week and then catch up by sleeping for 10 hours on weekends. However, that is not how the human body works.
Fluctuating your sleep schedule for more than about an hour for a long period can directly affect your overall health. Hence, doctors advise sticking to your normal bedtime throughout the week. Not doing so can impact your circadian rhythm for the worse, which can further lead to conditions such as obesity.
Reality: You can dream at any stage while you are asleep.
One of the popular sleep myths is that you can only dream when you are in deep sleep. People dream in different stages, and they may occur in light sleep as well as the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage.
However, deep sleep is the least associated stage with dreaming. While someone is in light sleep, their dreams occur for a shorter duration. However, when REM sleep begins people start experiencing clearer and more vivid dreams.
Reality: Power naps boost productivity and act as a short-term recovery sleep.
Sleep experts suggest that naps between your work can potentially increase your productivity levels. It is not a long-term solution for insufficient sleep, though. And the nap duration plays an important role in ensuring positive effects.
Doctors suggest taking a small nap that can range anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes as per your body clock. You should also do so during the afternoon so that your night sleep health is not affected in any way.
Reality: This condition does not depend on gender.
One of the most common myths surrounding the condition of obstructive sleep apnea is that it only affects men. While the rate of having this issue is higher among males, women are not 100% safe either.
Recently, the rate of women having this condition has gone up. Researchers believe that due to the rise in conditions like obesity, more women are now experiencing the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. It includes fatigue, frequent snoring, headaches, and so on.
Reality: It is normal to wake up during the night.
While it is fairly common to regard sleeping without breaks as sound sleep, it is a myth. Most people wake up at night for a brief period and then sleep again. There is nothing wrong with this occurrence.
It is believed that before the rapid development in the field of technology, people used to have polyphasic sleep patterns. This means that they would wake up during the night, perform a few tasks like reading and socializing, and then sleep again. Their sleep health was as good as ours, if not better.
Reality: Both phenomena differ in many ways.
It is common for people to use the terms nightmares and night terrors interchangeably. However, the two differ a lot in several ways. For instance, nightmares usually occur during the REM sleep phase. On the other hand, night terrors occur during the first half of the night itself.
You may also remember what you saw and felt in a nightmare, but in most cases, people forget what they dreamt about while getting night terrors. The latter phenomenon is also more commonly observed in children of age 3 to 8 years.
Reality: You won’t cause any harm by waking up a sleepwalker.
Sleepwalking is a strange and mysterious phenomenon and there are several myths surrounding it. One of the most common ones is that you should never wake a sleepwalker up or you will end up harming their health.
In reality, there is no potential of causing any harm if you wake up a sleepwalker. In fact, not waking them up can lead to the person harming others. For instance, if the sleepwalkers walk to the kitchen and hold a sharp object, such as a knife, they might hurt themselves or their family member.
Since a good night’s sleep is essential for us to function properly, we should start by educating ourselves more about sleep. And for this, we need the most common sleep myths debunked.
It is commonly believed that adults need less sleep, only 8 hours of rest is considered an adequate sleep duration, and that alcohol helps us sleep faster. But none of this is true.
To sum up, sleeping on the stomach is not as bad as you think and you can’t really try getting more sleep during the weekends to make up for sleep loss. It is also crucial to maintain your circadian rhythm to ensure the health of your nervous system.
Now that you have gone through this article, you must be aware of the reality of the various aspects of sleep. Before concluding, here’s a last bit of advice - make sure you consult a sleep expert if you’re noticing signs of any underlying sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.