5 Popular Myths about Sleep

woman asleepThere are few things in life more satisfying than a good night’s sleep. Not only is sleep restful, it also gives our body the needed time to perform routine maintenance, repair itself and form long term memories. But how much do we really know about sleep? Better yet, how much do we THINK we know? Check out these 5 popular myths about sleep that we might once have accepted as scientific facts.


5. Staying up late on Saturday night can easily be offset by sleeping late on Sunday morning.

[showmyads] Think you can party your tail off on Saturday night, sleep through Sunday and be as fresh as a daisy when you go back to the office on Monday? Think again. The body loves consistency and takes time to adjust to any major changes. Staying up late and then sleeping in, can completely throw off your sleep cycle. The same is true if you starve yourself of sleep during the week, and then binge on the weekend. Harvard sleep expert Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., refers to such practices as examples of “sleep bulimia” and it can have disastrous effects on your circadian rhythms (Lambert, 2005). In fact, after dozing till Sunday afternoon you might find yourself unable to sleep Sunday night, and quite possibly, find yourself late for work (and maybe even fired) come Monday morning.


4. Alcohol makes me sleep. Sleeping pills make me sleep. Having wine with my sleeping pills will make me sleep faster.

Stop right there. Alcohol should never be taken with sleep medication or any other drugs. Rather than relying on hearsay, always follow the advice of your doctor on how to, when to and how long to take sleeping aids. And while most people know that alcohol quickens the onset of sleep, far fewer people are aware that it also contributes to your waking up more frequently during the night (National Sleep Foundation, 2012).


3. Exercising right before bed will make you tired and help you sleep.

Au contraire: It will likely keep you up for hours. Strenuous exercise keeps you alert and raises your body temperature. This increase results in a corresponding decrease in temperature 5 to 6 hours later, which makes it easier to sleep at that time. It should be noted that exercise can be helpful for good restful sleep, but only if it is done earlier in the day (National Sleep Foundation, 2012).


2. Watching TV or surfing the net in bed will help me to relax and fall asleep


If this was true, late night movies would likely cease to exist. Some experts claim that the 24-hour availability of the internet is a major sleep distraction. Persons who watch TV or use the internet heavily before going to bed are more likely to complain of insufficient sleep, even though they sleep for the same number of house as light users. Violent shows and news have an agitating effect and can hinder the quality of sleep, even though sleep duration might remain unaffected (National Sleep Foundation, 2012).


1. Everyone needs 8 hours of sleep to function at their optimal level

That’s the “reason” parents usually hurl at their tireless offspring as they drag them away from the internet and/or television and herd them off to bed. The reality however, is very different. Individuals have unique daily experiences, live in different conditions and each person has his/her own sleep needs. Rather than being magical, the number 8 is only an average (Brownstein, 2010).  Children often insist that they don’t need to go to bed so early and they might be perfectly right. To all the oppressed kids out there, the next time your mom tries to pull that “8 hour” stunt, look her right in the eye and tell her that what she said is absolute nonsense. Be careful though, she just might decide to put you to sleep permanently.


Browstein, J. (2010, May 11). Exploring 10 popular sleep myths. ABC News. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Sleep/10-sleep-myths-dream/story?id=10602717

Lambert, C. (2005). Deep into sleep. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://harvardmagazine.com/2005/07/deep-into-sleep.html

Zee, P. C., Emsellem, H. A. & Moore, D. (2012). Myths and facts. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-facts-information/myths-and-facts

Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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