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Sleep Myths & Facts

Debunking Sleep Myths: Should You Wake a Sleepwalker?

Conventional wisdom says no, but sometimes it’s the only way to handle a dangerous situation. Learn how to negotiate this tricky scenario. Between one and 15 percent of the population experiences occasional sleepwalking. It usually occurs during the first part of the night during NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, when the muscles are not paralyzed like they during REM sleep, allowing people to move about while not being conscious of their actions. If you live with someone who sleepwalks, you know how surreal it can be and you may be unsure how best to handle it. After all, urban legend suggests that waking a sleepwalker could cause a heart attack, coma, or even brain damage….

Debunking Sleep Myths: Do People Swallow Spiders In Their Sleep?

Urban legend says human ingest eight spiders each year while sleeping. Here’s what really happens. Maybe you know someone with arachnophobia, a textbook case of spider fear. For those who are afflicted, just thinking about the eight-legged creatures is the stuff nightmares are made of. Even people with more benign views of spiders are less than thrilled to find one crawling around their home. Scarier still is the longstanding urban legend that the average person swallows eight arachnids each year while sleeping. Could that really be true? A Case of Avoidance The short answer is: Probably not. No one has hard data on how many spiders we accidentally swallow while we’re sound asleep, but there’s no…

Debunking Sleep Myths: Can Counting Sheep Really Help You Fall Asleep?

Despite the popularity of this folk advice, sometimes counting sheep may do more to keep you awake than lull you to sleep. Learn the better way to think yourself to sleep. A warm bath, a glass of milk. a good book, and counting sheep: These are the classic recommendations for fixing a case of nighttime tossing and turning, passed down from one generation to the next. But the question is, do they really work? When it comes to tallying up barnyard animals, there’s room for debate. Sleep-Deprived Nation Of course, people will try just about anything if they’re having trouble falling asleep—and that’s a lot of people. Roughly 30 percent of adults experience interrupted sleep. What’s more,…

Debunking Sleep Myths: Does Alcohol Help or Hurt Your Sleep?

You may look forward to your nightcap, but a bedtime drink could backfire. Discover the link between alcohol and sleep disruptions. Whether with a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or whiskey on the rocks, many adults often wind down after a busy day with an alcoholic beverage. It may feel like it’s relaxing you, but is that drink actually helping you sleep better at night? Not exactly. Alcohol’s effect on the body is more complicated than you might think. It knocks you out… It’s true that alcohol is a depressant and has a sedative effect on your body, so indulging in an evening nightcap may raise your level of drowsiness and help you fall…

Debunking Sleep Myths: Do You Need Less Sleep As You Age?

You may be surprised by how many hours of shut-eye older adults should be getting. It’s a fact of life: The joys of grandchildren and retirement come with some less-welcome events. Along with changes to vision, hearing, and hairline, older adults may also notice a shift in sleeping patterns. Falling and staying asleep can be more difficult, and even people who once loved to spend mornings in bed may find that they wake up much earlier than they used to. Despite the shift in sleep schedules, however, people’s total sleep needs don’t change much as they get older. The recommended amount for those ages 65 and up is seven to eight hours a night while…

Debunking Sleep Myths: Can You Catch up on Sleep?

Whether you pulled an all-nighter or had an early-morning flight, making up for lost shut-eye is harder to than you think. These tips can help. Losing out on an hour of sleep here, another hour there, may seem like no big deal. But getting insufficient shut-eye for a few nights in a row takes its toll, causing people to feel groggy and off their game—a situation experts call sleep debt. Unfortunately, catching up on missed sleep can be an arduous task. With smart strategies, though, it’s possible to get your body back on a health sleep schedule.Losing out on an hour of sleep here, another hour there, may seem like no big deal. But getting…

Can You Really Sleep With Your Eyes Open?

Sleeping with your eyes open sounds like something from a horror film, but it’s a real condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos. It occurs when the eyelids can’t close enough to cover the eye—either partially or fully. Surprisingly, the condition is quite common. As much as 20 percent of people experience it, and it even occurs in babies. It can be hereditary, so if you sleep with your eyes open, your infant might, too (but most children grow out of it). However, if you still experience nocturnal lagophthalmos as an adult, it’s important to check in with a doctor. First, sleeping with your eyes open robs your peepers of important moisture. When your eyes are closed…

Is Your Smartphone Ruining Your Sleep?

Smartphones make it easier than ever to be connected to the Internet at every waking moment. While that might make you feel like you’re always on top of things, that 24/7 connection to technology is actually unhealthy when you’re trying to fall asleep. The problem starts with the fact that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. So many people use their smartphones as their alarm clocks, it makes sense that many would want their phones within an arm’s reach. But when your cell is that close to you, the temptation to check social media sites, work email, and/or the…

“Top Off” with Milk or Formula to Help Your Baby Sleep?

A MythBusters-style investigation into the idea that a large meal before bed helps baby sleep better. As every parent knows, waking at night to feed a baby—whether by breast or bottle—can be incredibly hard. High on the list of tricks to eek out more precious minutes of sleep is the advice to feed the baby extra milk, to “top off” or “fill the tank” before bed. A bigger meal, or even the addition of formula or rice cereal, will make her sleep longer. So the reasoning goes. This turns out to be a widespread myth. Newborn babies eat frequently and sleep in short stretches because their nervous and digestive…

Why Do We "Spring Forward" But "Fall Back" With Daylight Saving Time?

Myths, truths, and debates about switching the clocks The terms “spring forward” and “fall back” are used to describe a practice of changing standard time with the intention of  “saving” (as in, making better use of) natural light. During daylight savings time (DST), clocks are turned ahead one hour, so that the sun rises later in the morning and sets later in the evening. The change is reversed in autumn. Originally enacted in the United States as a wartime conservation effort, observance of DST became federal law in 1918. (To dispel a common myth: It was not enacted for farmers—in fact, most farmers fought for its repeal.) While it was quickly repealed after the war ended,…