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While we still don’t know everything that is possible to know about sleep, research and sleep science have rapidly advanced since the days when we first posed the question of why we sleep.
Since sleep is still a mysterious subject in some ways, misinformation and myths can easily be perpetuated, and these myths can give us the wrong impression about our sleep habits and cause bad habits to form.
Today, we’ll be debunking some of these myths. It never hurts to ask questions about sleep and how to form better sleep habits, but if you act on the information in these sleep myths, it can definitely cause you to get lower-quality sleep.
Good sleeping habits are essential to our health. You should always try to get enough hours of sleep every night, but you also want to make sure you’re getting good quality sleep. This means that you fall asleep easily, stay asleep through the night, and wake up feeling rested.
Healthy sleeping habits help us train our bodies to get this high-quality sleep on a consistent basis. When you’re neglecting your sleep, you may end up dealing with sleep deprivation or other sleep issues. A lack of sleep can cause various concerns with your mental and physical health in the long term. While we don’t know the full extent of what sleep does for our body and mind, it’s clear that it’s incredibly important. Now, let’s start debunking some of those problematic sleep myths.
Everyone has probably heard at least one or two sleep myths. You may have even assumed these myths were true. Here are some of the most common myths that you should be aware of.
Although recommendations around sleep hours can vary, generally six to nine hours is a good amount of sleep, depending on the individual. Everyone will have slightly different sleep needs, based on factors like age, activity levels, and sleep patterns.
The eight-hour rule does land right in the middle of that range, but it’s not necessarily the “perfect amount” of sleep. In fact, trying to make yourself sleep an exact number of hours can cause sleep anxiety, leading to lower quality sleep.
There’s actually a factor that is more important than the hours you get — the number of times you’re able to go through a sleep cycle and experience different stages of sleep. When you sleep, you experience four different stages of sleep. These are being awake, light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A full cycle can typically take around 90 minutes to complete, and getting four to five cycles is usually recommended for most people. So instead of worrying about the hours you sleep, focus instead on making sure you’re giving yourself enough time to have efficient sleep.
In rare cases, some individuals can sleep less than six and a half hours in a night and wake up feeling refreshed. It all depends on the length of your sleep patterns, and everyone will vary slightly in their needs. The most important thing is that you wake up feeling well-rested and that feeling lasts until it’s time for bed.
This myth has some truth to it, but it’s still inaccurate. While we don’t necessarily need less sleep when we age, our sleep patterns can change. This is a normal, natural process that happens to nearly everyone.
As we get older, certain changes happen in our hormones and our circadian rhythm, both of which affect our sleep patterns. This may cause older adults to experience sleeplessness at night and wake up more often, which means you may spend more time awake when you age. This is normal, and as long as you’re getting the proper amount of quality sleep, there’s nothing to worry about.
This is an incredibly common myth for those feeling burnt out or exhausted from the week. Maybe work, school, nights out, or losing track of the time in the evenings have led you to go to sleep too late and wake up feeling groggy. Many people think that they can just make up for this lack of sleep on the weekends when they don’t have to wake up as early.
While it might feel good to sleep in, this can actually throw off your sleep schedule even more. It’s a good idea to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. If you’re having trouble getting out of bed, try doing something enjoyable outside to wake up your body and mind.
While you technically can’t make up for lost sleep on weekends, that doesn’t mean you have to live life like a robot, never letting yourself enjoy a weekend. If you have a poor night’s sleep or you accidentally sleep in every once in a while, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just try your best to get back on your same sleep schedule the next day. Remember, you never want your sleep habits to cause you anxiety. They should be a way for you to get better sleep, not obsess over it.
When you or someone you know doesn’t get enough sleep, you may feel irritable or cranky. You might even blame your bad mood on your lack of sleep. While irritability is definitely a symptom of sleep deprivation, that doesn’t automatically mean a bad mood is a result of missing out on sleep. There are plenty of other factors that can cause a person stress. Maybe it was a fight with a loved one, a stressful assignment at work, or a frustrating traffic jam. Or maybe someone is dealing with a mood disorder and having an off day.
If you’re feeling irritable, one night of bad sleep isn’t always to blame. Our bodies are equipped to deal with sleeplessness to a point, so it’s a good idea to make sure there aren’t other factors at play when someone is moody.
If you’re familiar with REM sleep, you may know it as the stage of sleep where you usually have vivid dreams. While this is true, REM sleep isn’t the only stage of sleep where you can dream. REM sleep does tend to have the most intense dreams, however.
REM stands for rapid eye movement, named for the way our eyes erratically move behind our eyelids during this sleep stage. In this stage of sleep, brain activity is similar to when you’re awake, which may explain why vivid dreams occur. REM is the final stage of sleep; the other three stages of sleep are classified as non-REM stages.
Some people may like to have a nightcap before bed. While alcohol might make it a little easier to fall asleep, drinking it too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep later in the night. It may cause periods of awakening that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can never have a sip of alcohol in the evening again. It’s important to just make sure that you’re not drinking too close to your scheduled bedtime. Generally, if you stop drinking four hours before bed, you can avoid the disruptions that it might cause.
Keep in mind that for most people, somewhere between six to nine hours of sleep is the ideal number. More sleep isn’t always the solution to your sleep troubles. For some people, seven hours might be exactly what they need to feel perfectly rested. And if you’re sleeping more than nine hours, you may have other health concerns causing you to sleep longer than normal.
While it’s occasionally acceptable to sleep excessive amounts, like if you’re sick or recovering from an injury, generally you want to try to sleep the same amount every night. Finding your ideal amount of sleep is key to making sure you’re not sleeping too much or too little.
If you have sleep problems, know that you’re definitely not alone. Many people will encounter sleep issues at some point in their lives, and they’re much more common than you might think.
In fact, it’s safe to say that sleep problems are very common! Research shows that about 30% of the adult American population suffers from insomnia. About 10% feel like their insomnia is bad enough to negatively impact their daily lives. And that’s just one sleep disorder. There are numerous sleep disorders and health conditions that affect your sleep quality. If you’re having sleep problems, there is help out there for you. Don’t be afraid to seek it out!
It’s easy to underestimate how important it is to have an optimal sleep environment. Having a light on while you sleep can disrupt your sleep cycle, causing you to wake during the night and get lower-quality sleep. It’s important to make sure your sleep environment is dark, quiet, and cool. Controlling all of your environmental stimuli can ensure you get better sleep and that you sleep more deeply throughout the night.
Our bodies have a natural 24-hour clock that makes us feel sleepy at night and alert during the day. However, modern habits and lives have made it so we don’t always follow our natural circadian rhythm. While shifting your sleep schedule every once in a while doesn’t do any lasting damage, it’s not a habit that you want to fall into.
Nighttime is the best time to sleep, and sleeping at night can help you stay on a sleep schedule and get better quality sleep. Those who have night shifts or other obligations that cause an irregular sleep schedule may be at a higher risk for sleep problems and the health concerns that can arise from chronic sleep deprivation, like depression, obesity, and diabetes.
If possible, you should try to align your sleep schedule to when the sun is down.
Lack of sleep can have short- and long-term effects on your health. You may have noticed this yourself if you’ve had a bad night of sleep, when you likely felt groggy, drowsy, and irritable the next day. When you miss out on sleep consistently, these effects can compound and cause more worrisome health issues.
In short, your body and mind don’t perform optimally when you’re missing out on sleep. It also can increase your risk for several health conditions. Conversely, when you’re getting enough sleep and you’re getting quality sleep, you’ll feel healthier and rested during the day. Sleep affects your mental health, metabolism, immune system, and more.
It’s important to get your sleep on track so your mind and body can get the rest that they need.
As common as sleep problems are, you likely know someone who is struggling with sleeplessness. You might even be dealing with sleeplessness yourself. Fortunately, there are solutions to guide you to better sleep and to waking up feeling well-rested. Sleep Reset can help.
If you’re dealing with sleep problems, you don’t have to figure out a solution on your own! Sleep Reset is a science-backed program designed to help you fall asleep and sleep more deeply.
Sleep Reset equips you with a personalized sleep program designed to address your sleep concerns with a dedicated sleep coach. Combined with tools for sleeping tracking and our sleep app, you’ll have everything you need to optimize your sleep hygiene and get your sleep habits on track. Our program has no harmful pills, melatonin, or other supplements, which means no daytime grogginess, dependency, or side effects — and no more waking up feeling exhausted.
Take our sleep quiz today to see how Sleep Reset can help you!