Whether because of medical TV shows or old wives’ tales, there’s a lot of misinformation about sleep floating around. This misinformation has spread around so much that we’re comfortable calling them myths. Even with the advancements in sleep science, these misconceptions are still circulating.
The issue is, believing these myths may lead to some pretty unhealthy sleep behavior. So let’s put that to an end right now! Here are some of the common sleep misconceptions you might have heard.
1. You Only Need Five or Fewer Hours of Sleep
Seven to nine hours. That’s how much sleep adults need each night. Sure, you can function on less sleep, just not to your full potential. Regardless of how “normal” you feel. Okay, there is an extremely rare genetic mutation that allows a person to sleep for shorter bursts and wake up rested. But that’s one in four million people, so stick to the seven to nine-hour rule.
2. You’re Doomed to Snore Forever
Occasional snoring isn’t an issue. However, very loud and frequent snoring is concerning. Snoring is often a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a severe sleep disorder that involves breathing interruptions and fragmented sleep.
There are things you can do for occasional snoring that’s not sleep apnea. Losing weight, quitting smoking and exercising have been proven to reduce snoring. One study even suggests that singing helps reduce snoring. Sleep apnea is treated with a CPAP machine or other airway devices.
3. More Sleep Is Always Better
There is such a thing as sleeping too much. To be clear, sleeping in on the weekend isn’t going to end your quality of sleep. But oversleeping does have some side effects –– weight gain, pain and inflammation, depression or risk of heart disease. It’s important to remember that we need more sleep at different stages of our lives.
- Newborns –– Newborns need a lot of sleep. It’s recommended that they get 14 to 17 hours of sleep each day. Not all at once, of course; it’s broken up by feeding and diaper changes.
- Infants –– Once a baby is up to 4 months, they will only need 12 to 15 hours of sleep.
- Children –– School-age children need nine to 11 hours of sleep a day.
- Teens –– Being a teen is a strange time. While teens could get away with just 8 hours a night, 10 hours is best.
- Adults and Seniors –– Seven to nine hours is a goal for adults.
4. Older People Don’t Need As Much Sleep
Experts recommend that seniors get the same amount of sleep as younger adults –– around eight hours a night. An older person’s need for sleep doesn’t change. It’s their sleeping patterns that start to morph. Older people tend to wake up more frequently when they are sleeping, meaning that they get less sleep during the night. They often need more rest during the day to compensate.
5. Your Body Adapts To Getting Less Sleep
People who hardly ever get enough sleep will often tell themselves that “they are used to it.” But research shows that’s not actually true. A lack of sleep has both short-term and long-term effects on your body, even if you don’t notice it. Serious health issues may be compiling down the line because you’re not giving your body the sleep it needs.
You might think you’re performing your best, but chronic insufficient sleep means you’re not. Sleep deprivation impacts your:
- Immune system
- Hormone production
- Heart health
6. The Only Thing That Matters Is Sleeping for Eight Hours
We mentioned the seven to nine-hour rule for sleep, but that’s not the only thing that matters for sleep quality. If you sleep for nine hours but wake up every hour, you interrupt your circadian rhythm and likely won’t achieve deep restorative sleep. The ultimate goal is uninterrupted sleep for seven to nine hours.
7. You Only Dream During REM Sleep
Okay, this one is pretty nitpicky, but we wanted to clear things about dreaming. You have the clearest and vivid dreams during REM sleep, but you can dream during any sleep stage. It does primarily happen during the REM stage sleep. In general, you spend about two hours total each night dreaming.
8. Napping Can Make Up For Not Sleeping
Everyone loves a good nap. In fact, you can boost your energy and improve your mood with a well-placed nap. But they do not make up for the lack of quality sleep at night. Napping for too long or too late in the evening will make it harder for you to fall asleep at night and only amplify your sleeping troubles.
We’re not here to nap shame. Sometimes we all just need a nap. Our advice is to keep it short and set the alarm so you don’t accidentally oversleep and ruin your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
9. A Few Drinks Can Help You Sleep Better
This is one of those most widely circulated sleep myths out there. It’s true, during the first few hours after drinking, you’ll experience suppression of the excitatory cells in the brain. This is why it’s easy to fall asleep after a few drinks. But that doesn’t last. After the alcohol metabolizes, the cells re-enter their hyperactive state and wake you up. So a night of college binge-drinking results in fragmented sleep that doesn’t give your body what it needs.
TL;DR: alcohol might help you fall asleep, but you’ll have a more restless night’s sleep because of it.
10. Teens Are Just Lazy. That’s Why They Sleep In
Teens are recommended to get eight to ten hours of sleep. However, 72% of high school students don’t get enough sleep. During puberty, there are biological changes that alter a teenager’s circadian rhythm. It essentially pushes it back an hour or two, so they stay up later and have a harder time getting up in the morning. Plus, puberty does come with staying up late and not listening to their parents about going to sleep beyond the two-hour change. So it’s half teenage rebellion and half biology.
11. If You Take Care Of Your Mattress, It Will Last Forever
The average lifespan of a mattress is five to ten years –– this number increases to 15 years if it is memory foam or 20 years if it is latex. You might stretch this out if you don’t always sleep on it or rotate it. But your mattress will wear out over time and will stop giving you what you need anymore.
You’ll know when to replace your mattress when it starts to impact how you are sleeping. Your bed will lose the support it once had and the pressure points will return. If you’re waking up congested or with allergy-like symptoms, that also might be your bed. Your mattress collects dust and skin over the years, which might make it hard to sleep.
12. Lying In Bed Will Help You Fall Back Asleep
Having a nighttime routine is essential –– regardless if you read, watch tv or do yoga. Contrary to what you might have heard, you shouldn’t get into bed until you’re actually ready to go to sleep. So if reading is part of your routine, it’s best not to do it in bed. You should only associate your bed with sleep and sex. Keep everything else out of your bed.
Similarly, staying in bed when you wake up during the night may not be the best choice. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something relaxing. That generally does not include turning on the tv or scrolling through social media. Reading a book or listening to music can help you relax enough to go back to bed.
13. A Warm Bedroom Will Help You Sleep Better
Most people want to be warm when they sleep –– but we get that from the blankets we use. Your circadian rhythm is highly dependent on body temperature. Your body temperature is low in the mornings but increases during the day and then begins to drop again as you get ready for sleep. Research suggests that bedroom temperatures within 60 and 68 degrees also stimulate melatonin production. The bottom line is, colder temperatures are proven to help you fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed.