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Let’s put some common sleep myths to bed

Myth 1: Sleeping in or catching up on sleep over the weekend can prevent sleep loss effects next week

Some people believe you can catch up on sleep over the weekend. Unfortunately, you can’t “bank” sleep in advance. The effects of sleep loss will always be felt when it occurs. Catching up on sleep isn’t quite the same as getting the sleep you needed in the first place.

Myth 2: The more sleep, the better

Seven to nine hours is the recommend healthy amount of sleep for most adults between 18 and 65 years of age, but the “right” amount of sleep is dependent on the individual. If you find yourself oversleeping often, it could be because the sleep you are getting is poor quality. Like insufficient sleep, oversleeping is a sign of disordered sleep and too much sleep on a regular basis can increase the risk of many health problems like diabetes, obesity, headaches, back pain, depression and heart disease.

Myth 3: Sleep is a passive activity

For many years sleep was considered the body’s “downtime” but with further research and understanding of sleep, we now know sleep is an active state within the body and brain. When we sleep our body uses this time to restore and repair.

Myth 4: Older people need less sleep

Although as you age you might find yourself sleeping less that doesn’t mean it is any less important. Sleep is just as important to your physical and emotional health when you age as it was when you were younger and should be a priority through all stages of life.

Myth 5: Yawning means you’re tired

Research shows yawning can be caused by other factors other than tiredness e.g. boredom, stress/anxiety. Yawning can be your body’s way of keeping you awake/alert. Research also shows that we yawn to protect our brains from overheating as the brain is sensitive to changes in temperature and functions best when it is cool. Yawning is your body’s way of bringing cool air in.

Myth 6: Hitting the snooze button is harmless

By hitting the snooze button, you’re interfering with your body’s natural wake mechanisms, which sets you up to be more exhausted during the day. If you are guilty of hitting the snooze button regularly, you are conditioning your brain to think “just a few more minutes” rather than “wake up”, leaving your body and brain confused.

Myth 7: I don’t dream

People who don’t remember their dreams often draw the conclusion that they don’t dream, which is incorrect. Everyone dreams, but not everyone remembers their dreams. Most people will have 4 to 6 dreams a night, but studies show 95% of dreams are usually forgotten shortly after waking.

Myth 8: Drinking alcohol will result in a better night’s sleep

While alcohol might help you fall asleep faster due to its sedative properties, it will lead to lighter, more restless and disrupted sleep cycles.

Myth 9: You are tired due to your quantity of sleep

You may find yourself waking up tired even after getting 7-9 hours of sleep, this could have something to do with the quality. Both the quantity and quality of sleep are important in achieving healthy sleep. Fragmented sleep can interfere with the ability to properly move through the sleep cycles, decreasing the time spent in restorative sleep stages.

Myth 10:  Insomnia only occurs when people are depressed or anxious

Stress and anxiety can often result in loss of sleep but are not the sole causes of insomnia. Causes of insomnia can be things like; poor sleep habits, substances (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine), stress, medical issues, shift work and other sleep disorders.

Myth 11: Sleeping pills are an effective long-term sleeping tool

Although sleeping pills can help aid rest, they are not suitable for long term use. Like any drug/medication sleeping pills have side effects and studies have shown that long-term use can interfere with sleep. Sleeping pills can also reduce the amount of time spent in the REM sleep stage.

It might be time to rethink some of your sleeping habits!

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