Sleep is essential to our survival and should be as easy as counting sheep. After all, humans have been conquering sleep for thousands of years. So why is it that some of us have such a hard time hitting the sheets? From snoring to napping, we tackle some common sleep myths and uncover the truth behind them.
Fact: Eight hours may be the magic number for some, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to sleep. Some adults feel their best after seven hours while others insist on nine. Rest requirements also vary by age—16 hours of sleep is normal for a newborn, but is not for a healthy adult.
While most adults rely on an average of seven to nine hours of sleep to stay fit, healthy, and alert, one to three percent of the world’s population is biologically programmed to thrive on as few as four. But be warned: If you are not naturally a short sleeper, getting less sleep than recommended can result in sleep deprivation, which is linked to heart disease, depression, and weight gain. For most sleepers, it’s best to play it safe and awake after eight.
Fact: This is one myth that a lot of us desperately wish were true. Unfortunately, you can’t bank sleep over the weekend to recover from a hectic week. Sleeping in until noon on a Saturday will upset your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at a decent hour the following night. Instead, doctors recommend keeping a consistent sleep schedule every day, even on the weekends.
Fact: Students, beware! Pulling an all-nighter the night before a big exam may seem like a good idea, but research suggests the opposite is true. Researchers at UCLA found that getting a good night’s sleep may be just as important to your academic success as regular study sessions. During REM sleep, your brain processes and stores information from the day before, which means an all-nighter can majorly impact your ability to remember important facts, dates and ideas. Cutting it short on sleep also means cutting it short on the amount of new information your brain will retain. Experts recommend spreading your study time out over the week and sticking to your normal bed time the night before a big test.
Source: UCLA Newsroom
Fact: This is somewhat true, since the average adult needs seven to nine hours a night while the average older adult needs seven to eight. But research suggests that it is our sleep patterns, and not necessarily our sleep needs, that change over time. Older adults tend to wake more frequently throughout the night due to aches and pains, and their sleep can be less efficient than that of a younger adult. Shorter sleep among older adults has been linked to an increased buildup of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer disease as well as increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, and arteriosclerosis.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
Fact: Your loved one’s habit of snoring the night away is not only disruptive—it can also be harmful to their health. Occasional snoring is likely not very serious, but habitual snorers may be at risk for serious health problems including sleep apnea, which can result in high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Fact: You may think napping is best left to the kids, but a power nap done right can benefit sleepers of any age. Adults won’t typically need a nap if they have slept well the night before, but a nap can be useful if there has been a sleep loss. That being said, it’s not recommended to consistently count on a nap to pay back a sleep debt. If you do decide to nap, doctors recommend doing so after about 3 PM and setting an alarm for no more than 15 minutes—any longer than that may cause grogginess and nighttime sleep delay.
Source: The Sleep Foundation
Fact: Your body may be resting while you sleep, but your brain is very much awake and active! If your brain were to drift off when you do, it would not be able to control vital body functions like breathing and heart rate. Ever wonder why you have those weird dreams about your dog as the captain of an eighteenth-century ship? During the REM portion of sleep, the mind is hard at work processing complex information and emotions from the day. The brain then cements this information into your long term memory, which is vital for learning and memory.
Source: The Sleep Foundation