When it comes to sleep, understanding the truth about how much you need, how to overcome sleep deprivation, and more is integral to staying happy and healthy—but that can be hard to do when so many myths abound on the topic. Rest easy: This article debunks five of the most common myths about slumber.
Myth #1: It’s okay to get by on only a few hours of sleep.
The Truth: Getting an adequate amount of sleep improves both your physical and mental health. For instance, it repairs muscles, boosts your immunity, and improves your brain’s decision-making skills. While the amount of sleep that each person needs varies, adults usually need seven to nine hours every night to receive optimal health benefits. If you constantly skimp on sleep, both your body and mind will suffer.
Myth #2: It’s no big deal to often have trouble falling asleep.
The Truth: Insomnia is a serious sleep disorder that disturbs a person’s ability to sleep at night and function during the day. While insomnia can take more than one form, the chronic version occurs when a person’s sleep is disrupted at least three nights per week for at least three months. Decreased work performance, daytime drowsiness, and a sour mood can all be symptoms. If you think that you are experiencing this sort of sleep problem, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Myth #3: Lowering the car windows or turning up the air conditioner will help you stay awake when driving.
The Truth: Neither one of these methods is effective when it comes to combatting fatigue, and continuing to drive while tired is reckless. While caffeine can help alleviate some of your drowsiness for a short time, the full effects from the stimulant won’t be felt until 30 minutes after consumption. The best thing to do when feeling tired while driving is to pull over to a safe area and take a nap.
Myth #4: It’s possible to catch up on missed sleep over the weekend.
The Truth: When a person misses out on a full night’s sleep many nights in a row, something called sleep debt will accumulate. Most people believe that they can catch up on missed hours of sleep during the week by sleeping in on the weekend, but, unfortunately, sleep debt simply doesn’t work this way. Although one long night of sleep may help you feel refreshed for a short while, the benefits of that additional sleep generally last only six hours or less after waking. Instead, if your sleep debt is short-term (generally if you’ve missed 10 or so hours of sleep over the course of a week), try adding three to four extra hours of sleep to each weekend night, as well as an extra hour or two each night the following week. If the debt is more long-term, though, try finding an extended period of time (like a vacation) where you can focus sleeping every night until you naturally wake up. Eventually, this will get you back on track.
Myth #5: Watching television or playing on your smartphone will help you fall asleep at night.
The Truth: The “blue light” from your television and smartphone are actually distracting your brain from calming itself before falling asleep. Instead, establish healthy sleep hygiene habits—a routine that helps relax and soothe your body before going to sleep at night—to get the best slumber possible. These habits might include reading a book, taking a warm bath, or doing a calming yoga pose.