A good night's sleep is as beneficial to your overall health as maintaining a well-balanced diet and getting enough exercise, and the internet can be a great place to get tips on sustaining a healthy lifestyle. However, it can also be a gateway to misinformation, especially when it comes to
myths about sleep. Recently a team of researchers at New York University Langone Health's School of Medicine set out to dispel these inaccuracies by evaluating over 8,000 websites to determine the 20 most common sleep myths.
Published in medical journal
Sleep Health, the study presented these myths "to a hand-picked team of sleep medicine experts" who then "determined which were myths and then ranked them by degree of falsehood and importance to health," as CNN reports. "Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being," lead researcher Rebecca Robbins, PhD, said in the study. "Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health."
And while researchers of the study do acknowledge that there are some discrepancies among these myths (an example being the consequences of having a lie-in at the weekend), it suggests that more research needs to be done to understand healthy sleep habits fully. In the meantime, here are
six sleep myths that you need to be aware of.
Watching TV In Bed Will Help You Relax
Relaxing in bed with your favourite TV show may seem like a heavenly idea, but it can be detrimental to your sleep thanks to artificial light that television, computer, and phone screens emit.
As Radford College explains,
exposing yourself to blue light at night "confuses the body-clock by stopping the body from producing melatonin [the sleep hormone]" which can "result in disrupted sleep patterns, including difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep, and shortened sleep duration."
By turning off your devices an hour or two before bed, your body will produce melatonin without any distractions. By substituting your telly watching time with reading or listening to music, you'll initiate a much better night's sleep.
As much as I'd love to stick to getting up when my alarm tells me to, some mornings my brain decides that's a no-go and hits the snooze button. While that 10 minutes of extra shut-eye might seem like a good idea at the time, it can make you
feel more tired when you inevitably get up.
The trick is to "realise you will be a bit groggy — all of us are — but resist the temptation to snooze," as Dr Robbins explained. "Your body will go back to sleep, but it will be very light low-quality sleep."
So as soon as your alarm goes off get straight out of bed, open the curtains and expose yourself to natural light to initiate your brain to wake up. My trick is to put my alarm as far from my bed as I can before I go to sleep so that my only option to turn it off in the morning is to get out of bed.
You Can Get By On Five Hours Of Sleep
I used to believe that I could totally survive on just five hours sleep, but since I've stuck to a schedule where I get at least seven hours I feel so much better. In the study researchers dispelled the five-hours-of-sleep-is-fine myth through scientific evidence, and also found that "this myth poses the most serious risk to long-term sleep deficits."
As Dr Robbins pointed out, "[w]e have extensive evidence to show sleeping five hours or less consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences." This can result in feeling fatigued and having a lack of focus but can also lead to
conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes according to the NHS.
Drinking Alcohol Helps With Sleep
There's a reason why you end up sleeping in substantially more when you have a hangover. As stated in the study, having alcohol in your system dramatically reduces your ability to achieve deep sleep and the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, and can lead to you feeling even worse the morning after.
And as the BBC reports, your sleep may be disrupted even more by trips to the loo as alcohol is also a diuretic. So if you know you
need to have a decent night sleep before you go on a night out, make sure you limit yourself to the amount of alcohol you drink, avoiding drinking too close to when you actually fall asleep, and stay hydrated as suggested by charity Drinkaware.
Snoring Is Never A Sign Of Something Bad
Snoring may seem harmless (and slightly annoying for your partner), but it can also be a sign of other health issues like sleep apnea as the study suggests. According to the NHS,
sleep apnoea is a condition "where the muscles and soft tissues in your throat relax and collapse sufficiently to cause a total blockage of the airway." The symptoms are often spotted by "a partner, friend or family member who notices problems while you sleep" which can include "loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing, and repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting."
This can lead to extreme fatigue the following day, as an episode of sleep apnoea "triggers your brain to pull you out of deep sleep" due to a lack of oxygen. Study researchers "encourage patients not to dismiss loud snoring, but rather to see a doctor since this sleep behaviour may lead to heart stoppages and other illnesses."
If You StruggleTo Sleep, Stay In Bed
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and struggling to get back to sleep, you could be dealing with
a symptom of insomnia according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you can't "fall back asleep within 15 to 20 minutes," it's recommended that you actually move to another room and "engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading" rather than staying in bed and forcing yourself to sleep.
"We start to associate our bed with insomnia," Dr Robbins explained. "It does take the healthy sleeper about 15 minutes to fall asleep, but much longer than that... make sure you get out of bed, change the environment and do something that's mindless."