Most myths are relatively harmless. The fact that George Washington never actually chopped down a cherry tree probably doesn’t impact you. However, health myths are very dangerous.
Sleep seems to be one area that is full of myths and misconceptions. Everyone seems to think they know what their body needs, but most people have it dead wrong.
So, to set the record straight, here are the seven most popular sleep myths.
1. You Can Undo a Week of Bad Sleep on the Weekend
How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s Ok, I can sleep in this weekend” to erase a sleep deficit?
No, you cannot get six hours of sleep during the workweek and then make up for it with two 10-hour sleep nights on the weekend. It simply doesn’t work that way. Those big nights of sleep may feel fantastic and restorative. However, the damage and the potential health risks from those five poor nights of sleep won’t be erased.
2. Quality Mattresses are Expensive
This may have been true a few years ago. However, today you can buy a mattress online directly from the manufacturer at a fraction of the price that you’re used to paying in retail stores.
These are affordable mattresses, but they’re certainly not cheap. You can pick out a memory foam mattress you’ll love and have it delivered right to your door for a few hundred dollars, instead of a few thousand.
Upgrading your mattress can lead to more restful sleep. So don’t let this myth get in your way!
3. Alcohol Helps You Sleep
Alcohol is a depressant and helps you feel sleepy. The act of enjoying a drink in the evening can also be very relaxing for a lot of people.
However, alcohol is in no way a sleep aid. In fact, it can prevent your body from entering the REM stage of sleep.
Even if having a few drinks after work causes you to turn in early, you won’t be getting high-quality sleep—and quality is just as important as quantity.
4. Insomnia Simply Means You Can’t Fall Asleep
Insomniacs are typically characterized as lying in bed with their eyes wide open, unable to sleep. That is actually just one of four symptoms of insomnia.
The other three are:
- Frequent awakenings throughout the night
- Waking up and not being able to fall back asleep
- Waking up feeling unrefreshed
We all struggle with these things from time to time. However, if you experience them a few times a week, you should speak to your doctor.
5. Sleep Apnea is a Form of Snoring
Yes, snoring is a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). However, OSA is far more serious.
People who suffer from OSA will actually choke or stop breathing while they sleep— sometimes for up to 30 seconds in a row.
Normal snoring is relatively harmless. However, OSA will greatly increase your odds of:
- Hypertension and heart disease.
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack or heart failure
How can you tell which is which? OSA sounds like loud snoring, accompanied by gasps for air or choking. If this is what you’re experiencing, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
6. The Snooze Alarm is Your Friend
Did you know that 50% of surveyed people said they hit the snooze button at least once in the morning? Another 15% hit it three times or more.
This can feel like you’re clawing back as much rest as you can. However, you’re actually doing more harm than good. Experts say that sleep fragmentations like that can cause reduced mental flexibility and decreased subjective mood. Simply put, you will feel lethargic and grumpy.
7. You Can Condition Your Body to Require Less Sleep
Some people have a notion that you can condition your body to run on less sleep, the same way that pushing your body to the limit can enhance athletic performance.
You may fool yourself into thinking that this is all that your body needs, with the help of a little caffeine. However, the reality is you’re punishing your body and opening the door to serious health problems.
As you can imagine, these myths are all rather popular and they’re costing millions of people the rest they should be getting. That’s what makes them so dangerous.
We hope reading this piece has opened your eyes (no pun regretted) to the realities of what your body needs, and what a healthy sleep pattern actually looks like.