What misconceptions and myths about sleep do you hold?
This may come as a startle, but there are some things you were likely told, even overheard about sleep that are just not true.
Some of these ‘misconceptions about sleep’ you might shrug off as harmless, but the thing about disinformation is, it may diminish one’s quality of life. And, let’s be honest, those who can discern myths and facts about sleep, might see you as just another uninformed person.
You also run the risk of jeopardizing your own health and askew your sleep pattern.
Jeopardizing your own health? This might seem like a stretch and even a gross elaboration to you but, make no mistake, poor-quality sleep can affect your health negatively.
Cleveland Clinic reports that chronic sleep deprivation can cause heart failure, high blood pressure, depression, low sex drive, and the list continues.
To put things in perspective, how you view and treat misconceptions about sleep could kill you. That sounds harsh but has always been true.
So, what are those myths about sleep you might have been programmed to believe? Consider these 10 myths about sleep debunked.
10 Misconceptions and Myths About Sleep Debunked
1. Your Brain and Other Organs Shut Down while You Sleep.
This misconception about sleep has been making the rounds. To date, it’s one of the biggest myths about sleep out there, where most people see snooze time as a means to “shut off” the brain, as if it miraculously stops working and then springs back into action after they’ve awakened.
But, consider the implication of this myth about sleep for a moment.
What really happens if your brain did shut down while asleep? Would you be able to wake up from that? Hardly!
Sure, science does reveal that your metabolic rate slows down to a moderate degree but sleep still remains an active process. So, no, your brain doesn’t take a hiatus, as if it were on a mini vacation from work.
What makes this misconception about sleep so far-fetched is that the complete opposite happens when you rest.
Some activities, such as delta waves, in the brain light up like fireworks while you sleep. Their activities increase, not flatline. During REM sleep, the brain is as active as if you were awake and gliding down a banister.
Activities happening in the endocrine system is also worth bringing to the fore. This major powerhouse of a system up its game and discharges more prolactin and growth hormones while you sleep.
Your brain also goes into processing mode. Think of it as a computer. Whatever activities are performed on a device is later processed. When you’re asleep, your brain uses this time to sort and process the information captured during the day.
So no, by no means does your brain shuts down while you snooze.
Shall we debunk some other myths about sleep? Let’s tackle them.
2. An Hour Less of Quality Snooze Time Doesn’t Affect How You Function During Daytime Periods
At least that’s what some people say to console themselves.
To debunk this sleep misconception, let’s consider an illustration using money. It’s often easy for some of us to relate to finances, and how things add up.
If an employer deducts a dollar from your salary for a month, or year, how much would you have lost?
A dollar a day might not seem like much to begin with, but over a period of time, it adds up.
The same can be said of quality sleep time. With so many activities happening from day to day, you need sufficient rest to keep your body functioning how it ought to.
The more hours skimmed off your sleep time, the more you’ll lose when you look at the bigger picture. Once this happens, you’ll encounter what is called a sleep debt, which could lead to problem sleepiness.
You might not notice, but this sleep debt could affect memory, your level of alertness during the day, and even impair your judgement. You might also feel groggy and easily agitated when dealing with others.
3. Your Biological Clock Adjusts Easily to Different Sleep Schedules
This might shock you, but your biological clock doesn’t operate on your time, or function how you believe it should.
Our bodies were made with an internal clock with the capacity to differentiate day from night. Naturally, we get extremely sleepy at night because that’s the status quo, or how our inherent timing mechanism works.
When you change your sleep schedule, don’t expect your biological clock to shift just like that. Retraining of said clock is possible but can only happen at a rate of 1-2 hours each day. But, be warned. As you’ll be pushing against your body’s natural reaction, you might not be able to tackle some mental and physical activities with optimal performance.
If you work a shift system, your biological clock will need to be adjusted or retrained, but this often happens over a period of time, and using light cues.
Like this misconception and other myths about sleep, you’re setting up your body for adverse reactions in the future.
4. The Older You Get, the Less Sleep You Need
As you move toward physical maturity, and your age moves a number up—or off—the calendar, you’ll be able to run on less sleep.
As you age, sufficient rest is necessary for optimal body function. While it’s true that older folks tend to have trouble sleeping for various reasons, for the most part, they do get sufficient rest. This implies elderly ones are more likely to sleep earlier and wake up earlier.
They almost always follow a normal healthy sleep pattern.
However, with growing medical conditions, older folks might get up at nights. As one ages, there’s a decrease in their ability to sleep for long periods and fall into a deep slumber.
Sensitivity to light, sounds, and pain increase as the body ages, which all could make an older person sleep fragile. Older folks do require sufficient rest at nights, not an hour chopped off.
5. Sufficient Rest Gets Rid of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
When you get sufficient rest at night, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be dozing off during daytime period.
However, this isn’t always the case.
Individuals with hypersomnia will have challenges staying awake during the day. This is a sleep disorder that’s often referred to as excessive daytime sleepiness.
As soon as the day draws closer to noon, hypersomniacs tend to get overwhelmingly tired. No amount of sleep will leave individuals suffering from this sleep disorder refreshed when it’s caused by a medical condition.
Many people find this myth about sleep easy to believe, but you don’t have to fall for the trap.
6. Food Doesn’t Affect Your Sleep
Have you ever had the urge to curl up on a couch and nap the day away after eating?
We’ve all likely had that experience.
It’s true. Eating in large quantities can make you sleepy, and so is eating certain types of foods. The reverse is the same, some foods will keep you awake.
Drinking alcohol might calm you down in the interim, but that’s short-lived. When consumed in excessive amounts, you’ll suffer from poor sleep quality.
Start watching the things you eat, and you’ll begin the step of developing a healthy sleep pattern.
7. Weekend Rest Gives You Ample Time to Catch Up
Do the math, if you’re sleep deprived, no amount of weekend rest will suffice for the deficit you’ve incurred throughout the week.
Getting sufficient rest daily is the only thing that counts.
8. Adults Need 5 Hours or Less Snooze Time
This misconception about sleep is costly and life-threatening.
It is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society that adults get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep.
Shorter sleep duration and sleep period could lead to chronic health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, depression, and others.
9. You’re a Great Sleeper When You Can Recall Your Dreams
This myth about sleep is quite hilarious.
So, you can easily roll the details of your dreams off of the tongue?
But that doesn’t mean you’re a great sleeper. At least research shows otherwise.
Individuals labelled as “high dream recallers” are more inclined to wakefulness during nocturnal periods; which converts to more interrupted sleep.
So, your sleep quality might actually be poor, poorer than you think.
10. A Lack of Sleep is Unrelated to Chronic Health Conditions
Sleep loss has no adverse effect on one’s health, right?
At least that’s the lie you tell yourself for consolation.
This is about to come as a rude awakening, but slimming down on how many hours of sleep you get each night, may have various short term consequences, such as a lapse in judgement or confusion in speech.
But, chronic sleep situations may develop over a period of time.
Diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular complications, for example, are just a few chronic diseases associated with poor sleep.
So, if you’ve held this misconception about sleep for years, it’s never too late to change course, and start enjoying healthy nap times at home.
Quality sleep time will reduce how frequently you take a trip to the doctor’s office. You’ll be a less irritable person, and be in a better position to handle anxiety and the pressures of life when they do come.
If you can identify with any of the aforementioned myths about sleep mentioned on this page, don’t despair.
Learning is a continuous process. As you learn something new, wisdom dictates that you make adjustments.
Instead of reducing your sleep time, enjoy it. It’ll have an overall impact on your life. Don’t let these misconceptions about sleep cause you to miss out.
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