14 Myths About Sleep Finally Debunked

Myth about sleep debunked
Sleep is a phenomenon that has been in discussion for more than 20 centuries now. As with every topic, there are facts and there are misconceptions, the latter mainly arising due to the lack of scientific scrutiny. Despite sufficient evidence as of today, numerous myths about sleep have been ingrained in our minds, though many of them have been debunked in recent times.
The 8-hour Cycle
The optimal 8-hour sleep requirement is one of the common myths about sleep. In general, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, but everyone has different sleep requirements. There's no iron-clad rule that we all need to sleep for 8 hours.
More Sleep, Better Health
Science has it on paper that people who slept lesser had better health than people who slept more. In fact, in many cases, people who slept longer were at risk of contracting heart disease and other ailments. Of course, it doesn't mean that you can sleep for less time and be perfectly healthy. There is lack of strong evidence to prove the relationship between sleep and perfect health, since other factors play a major role regarding health, apart from sleep.
Snoring is Harmless
No, not at all. Snoring may be an early sign of sleep apnea, which, if left untreated, may block the person's airways and result in severe health problems. Breathing pauses between snores leads to reduced blood oxygen levels and heart problems. Frequent snoring affects sleep quality, which in turn affects the secretion of the growth hormone, leading to obesity.
Substitute for Lack of Sleep on Weekends
This is one of the most annoying misconceptions about sleep deprivation. You cannot sleep for four hours every night and compensate the remaining time sleeping more on weekends. It's not going to restore your lost sleep, energy, or performance level. The body is a machine which functions in a particular way, and not the way you want it to. There's no fixed rule stating that more/less sleep is healthier.
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watch TV to sleep
There is no guarantee that any food or activity will get you to sleep. Milk, warm baths, cozy bedrooms, exercise, energy drinks, alcohol, watching TV, etc., are in fact associations related to sleep, which is why one feels that one is getting sleepy if he does any of the above. You may fall asleep quicker, but the activity takes a toll on your brain, and eventually results in wakefulness.
teens are lazy
Adolescents undergo a change in their internal cycles post puberty, and require 9 - 10 hours of sleep. Hence, teens are often mistaken to be lazy if they sleep longer. It's just a myth; the fact is, teens go through a biological change and a phenomenon called 'delayed sleep phase disorder', which explains why they sleep longer.
Difficulty in Falling Asleep means You Have Insomnia
Difficulty in falling asleep may not necessarily indicate insomnia, though it just one of the many indications, like sudden wakefulness, inability to go back to sleep, waking up tired, etc. Insomnia can happen to anyone, not just to people who have depression or anxiety, contrary to popular belief. It could be a symptom of a sleep disorder, psychological problems, or any other health problem, and is very much treatable. And, this doesn't mean that insomniacs need drugs every night.
Any Medication can be Taken for Sleeping
Any sleeping medication, from prescribed over-the-counter sleeping pills to herbal sleep aids, if over-consumed, leads to dizziness, fluctuating moods, and irregular sleeping patterns.
naps are unhealthy
Recent research proves this belief to be complete poppycock. If anything, a nap is said to refresh the mind. Daytime naps have no effect on nighttime sleep. Nor does it mean that the person is lazy. Also, sleeping during the day does not mean that the person cannot sleep at night; you could sleep peacefully all night and still nap during the day. Only if the nap exceeds 30 minutes and is done frequently, should it be considered a sign of sleep disorder.
sleep and health issues
Scientific studies indicate that major health issues like heart disorders, hypertension, diabetes, etc., are related to the amount and quality of sleep. Blood pressures varies when you sleep. Interrupted sleep interferes with your metabolism and impairs the body's ability to burn calories. Insufficient sleep (as per individual requirement of course) causes the immune system to use less insulin, and may lead to diabetes.
old people need less sleep
Sleep patterns among the elderly may be affected due to sleep disorders and other health issues, and there is no theory which states that older people need less sleep. As we age, the internal circadian rhythms undergo changes. This may be the reason why some older people sleep less. But everyone has different sleep patterns that are likely to change with age. It doesn't indicate that we sleep less as we age.
brain active while sleeping
The reality couldn't be further from this myth. When you sleep, your body rests, but your brain is highly active and controls all the body functions. Especially during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, the brain analyzes and consolidates facts, events, etc., and stores them in long-term memory. Learning before sleeping further stimulates brain activity and aids cognitive functioning.
counting sheep to sleep
Counting sheep, staring at the ceiling, tossing or turning - none of these will help you fall sleep if you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night. You cannot train your mind to sleep this way; it is believed to increase wakefulness by stimulating thoughts through the mind. If you cannot get sound sleep after 15 minutes of staying awake, do not go back to bed. Engage in some other activity, and sleep only when you are too tired to continue further.
dreaming occurs during REM only
While the REM stage of sleeping is the most conscious and active phase, dreaming occurs in the NREM stage as well. Only, you may not be able to recall dreams as well as you may in the REM state. Contrary to the myth that dreaming serves no purpose, research shows that dreams have a significant part to play in our day-to-day functioning, and may impact our psychological health as well.
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