While we all remember the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, understanding how and why we sleep can’t be explained by a fairy tale character simply finding a bed that’s “just right.” (Although, of course, an amazing bed can’t hurt…)
The study of sleep is a science. This improved, modern day understanding of sleep can assist us in making changes to redesign our sleep environment, improve the quality of our sleep, and establish healthy habits. Today, we will explain the facts by breaking down some of the most common myths about sleep.
Myth: I sleep fine- maybe even better- with the television on all night.
Curling up in bed with your favorite Netflix series might seem like the perfect end to a long day, but, in reality, it could be posing a serious risk to your health. Not only will sleeping with the television on decrease your overall sleep quality, studies show a link between 24/7 exposure to light, depression, and weight gain.
Myth: I don’t need 8 hours of sleep of night- I can run on 5 hours and feel fine.
While our sleep requirements do change as we age, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep no less than seven hours each night. Even if you can make it through the day with limited sleep, you’re not allowing ample time for proper brain detoxification.
Recommended sleep durations by age:
- Newborns (0-3 months ): 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- (Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Myth: When I’m sick, the best solution is to take Nyquil and tuck in early.
According to Harvard Medical, medications containing alcohols result in suppressed REM sleep and sleep disruptions. Not only are these medications addictive, but they can also cause liver damage and dangerously increase your blood pressure and heart rate- even up to six hours after ingestion! If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, use may result in serious long-term health risks for your baby.
Myth: I know that I don’t get enough sleep on weeknights, so I always catch up on it by sleeping in on the weekends.
Sleep isn’t something that can be “caught up on”; in fact, sleeping in on the weekends is strongly discouraged. To avoid the health risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation, follow a consistent sleep schedule. The iPhone’s ios10 operating system launched a bedtime setting to encourage better sleep schedules, but you don’t need any fancy technology to make sleep a priority. Head to bed (and wake up) at the same time each day for a significant improvement in your sleep quality.
Myth: There’s no real proof that not getting enough sleep is bad for my health.
Sleep deprivation has some serious, proven side effects including obesity, diabetes, and depression. Taking care of yourself starts with a solid foundation of rest and relaxation so that you can allow your body and mind to fully recharge.
Myth: I’m just a light sleeper! It’s always been hard for me to fall (and stay!) asleep, and, unfortunately, it always will be.
While you might be feeling hopeless, there are things you can do immediately to improve the quality of your sleep. If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, try redesigning your sleep space, improving your diet, or avoiding these common bad habits.
Myth: If I can’t sleep, I can always just take a sleeping pill.
When you’re tired of being tired, relying on sleeping pills might seem like a hopeful alternative. Unfortunately, the long term health risks seem to outshine the short term reward. According to a recent JAMA Internal Medicine study:
“There is a strong and possibly irreversible link between Alzheimer’s disease and many commonly used medications for insomnia, allergies, and depression. Three years of taking either daily Benadryl, Advil PM, Tylenol PM, or Motrin PM, for example, is associated with about a ten percentage point increase in the probability of experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s compared to no use.”
Myth: When I’m asleep, my brain is, too.
When you’re asleep, your brain’s detoxification process kicks into overdrive. Skimping on sleep prevents your brain from cleaning out all the (literal) gunk that built up during the day. In fact, your body is nearly as active when you’re asleep as when you’re awake!