Sleep is a topic full of myths and misconceptions and it can often be difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong.
Here are 7 of the most common sleep myths debunked:
Myth #1: You Can Trick Your Body Into Functioning On Less Sleep
Sleep experts claim that adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to function at their best and without adequate sleep, we accumulate what is known as ‘sleep debt.’
Long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to health conditions including obesity, high blood pressure and even depression.
Whilst some people may be an exception to the rule and are able to fully function on less, the majority of us need at least seven hours sleep each night and tricking our bodies to accept less isn’t possible in the way many claim it is.
Myth #2: The Older You Get, The Less Sleep You Need
As a general rule, it is recommended by sleep experts that adults sleep for between seven and nine hours each night and this guidance doesn’t really change as adults get older, despite what many say.
Older people may find that they wake more often during the night than younger adults, resulting in lower quality sleep and can often result in an individual thinking that this is because they need less sleep at night.
A planned nap, say after lunch, as part of a routine can do a great job of helping older individuals to repay the ‘sleep debt’ accumulated after a poor night’s sleep.
Myth #3: You Can Catch Up On Sleep At The Weekend
Despite a common misconception held by many that you can catch up on a lack of sleep during the week by sleeping longer at the weekend, this is largely nothing other than a myth.
A recent study by Harvard Medical School suggested that those who sleep an extra ten hours at the weekend to compensate for a week of poor sleep see the benefit only for a few hours after waking up and that after this, reaction times are actually worse than after pulling an all-nighter.
The bottom line is that there is no real way to repay sleep debt.
Myth #4: Drinking Alcohol Will Help You To Sleep Better
With alcohol being a natural sedative, it’s no surprise that so many turn to the bottle to try and get a good night’s sleep but whilst this may help to fall asleep faster, sleep becomes progressively lighter throughout the night and the likelihood of waking up increases.
Whilst alcohol might make it easier to fall asleep, it’s likely to do the exact opposite to helping you to sleep better and, as such, is best avoided by those who struggle to sleep well.
Myth #5: Taking An Afternoon Nap Will Leave You Feeling More Tired Than Before
Despite many swearing by an afternoon nap, many claim that doing so leaves them feeling far more tired than before they dozed off.
A daytime nap should only be for between 10 and 20 minutes and anything longer than this will indeed leave behind a groggy feeling and a disoriented state once awake. This is due to the fact that after around 20 minutes, the brain goes into the deepest phase of sleep.
Napping for the right length won’t result in feeling more tired than before but nap for too long and it’s perhaps a better idea not to bother at all!
Myth #6: Never Wake A Sleepwalker
Many an urban legend suggests that you should never wake a sleepwalker, with many believing that if you do, they’ll be given such a shock that it could cause them to have a heart attack.
Whilst there’s no denying the fact that waking someone whilst they are sleepwalking can often cause a little distress and leave them feeling a little confused and disoriented, there’s no evidence to suggest it can be fatal or trigger a heart attack.
On the contrary, waking a sleepwalker may well help them avoid injury by preventing them from having an accident.
Myth #7: Counting Sheep Helps You To Fall Asleep
There’s an age old theory that counting sheep is a great way to fall asleep, however, a study carried out at Oxford University‘s Department of Experimental Psychology found that this could actually result in the opposite. Those counting sheep took on average 20 minutes longer to fall asleep.
Counting sheep is simply too repetitive and boring to occupy enough cognitive space in the brain which could lead to more distracting thoughts entering the mind and preventing being able to fall asleep.
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