5 Myths About Sleep
You’d think sleeping would be the easiest thing in the world, but the number of Americans diagnosed with sleep problems in the last few years suggests otherwise. Part of the reason is that so many myths have been passed around and become common knowledge. Here are some things you may have heard about sleep–and need to unlearn.
Myth #1: Older people need less sleep
Babies sleep a lot longer than the recommended 6-8 hours, but that progression doesn’t continue into late adulthood. Once you hit your teens, you’re going to need the same amount of sleep until you’re 60. You may have problems sleeping as you grow older, and that’s why many grandparents are up at dawn. Chances are they take lengthy naps around midday to make up for it.
Myth #2: Alcohol is a sleeping aid
That last glass of wine may make you feel drowsy, but you don’t get the same kind of sleep. Alcohol-induced sleep tends to be shallow and restless, which explains why you often wake up the morning after feeling more tired than last night. You’re also more likely to snore and have dreams that wake you up in the middle of the night.
Myth #3: Snoring is okay
Most of the time, snoring is just an annoying habit, but sometimes it points to a deeper problem. A common cause is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that blocks your airways as you sleep. Some people simply snore, while others stop breathing for long periods. In any case, sleep apnea can make you extremely tired in the morning and heightens your risk of heart disease–and therefore needs medical attention.
Myth #4: You can train yourself to sleep less
Some people think they can get used to sleeping just four to five hours a day. And they do get by, but not without a price. Studies show that doing this results in even more sleepiness during the day, getting worse as the weeks go by. So the occasional all-nighter may be fine, but making a habit of it is never a good idea.
Myth #5: Napping is bad for you
It’s mostly a matter of how the nap affects your nighttime sleep–and it varies from person to person. If you already have sleep problems, napping can make you less sleepy at night and perpetuate the cycle. For most people, a 20-minute nap when you’re really drained can be helpful; any longer than that and you risk waking up with a headache.