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Debunking Sleep Myths that Harm your Health

May 19, 2020 | Posted by Julia Herni
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We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping (or at least trying to do so). It’s something that we do every night, yet a big part of it remains a mystery. Thankfully, leading sleep researchers like Sigrid Veasey and Matthew Walker are now able to answer some of our most common questions about sleep. But even though we know more about sleep than ever, there is still a good amount of sleep myths out there. These are some of the most common misconceptions of sleep - and the facts.

Sleep Myth #1 - You can catch up on missed sleep 

Fact: Sleep is often sacrificed during a busy workweek. When the weekend comes around, you want to pay back your sleep debt by sleeping in late on Saturday and Sunday. Although this may sound logical, it doesn’t actually work that way. 

Sleeping until noon on the weekends can throw off your internal body clock which will make it harder to get up early on Monday mornings. Losing even one hour of sleep can have that effect on you: according to a 2016 study, it takes four days to fully recover from one hour of lost sleep. Another research states that compensating two weeks of 6-hour sleep with an extra 10 hours of sleep will have no effect. In fact, your ability to focus and your reaction time is worse than if you had pulled an all-nighter.

Furthermore, research found that people who sleep extra during the weekends but cut their sleep down during the week put their health at risk. Sleep expert Katherine Dudley says that those health risks include “excess calorie intake after dinner, reduced energy expenditure, increased weight, and detrimental changes in how the body uses insulin.” 

Sleep Myth #2 - Loud snoring is harmless

Fact: Approximately 90 million American adults occasionally experience snoring - 37 million on a regular basis. You might think snoring is just annoying and no big deal. This is true in many cases. However, loud snoring may be a symptom of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. This chronic condition affects the quality of sleep. Breathing pauses can wake you up several times a night and disrupt your sleep, which can make you feel extra tired during the day. 

According to Sleep Education, men are more likely to be habitual snorers (40%) compared to women (24%). The University of Sydney researched how snoring is related to obstructive sleep apnea for men. They researched 294 Australian men aged 40 - 65. 81% of the participants snored for more than 10% of the night and 22% for more than half the night. 26% had sleep apnea. The researchers concluded that a high percentage of snoring is not essential for the occurrence of sleep apnea, nor does it necessarily indicate that apnea is present. 

But what is the combined risk of snoring and sleep apnea? A 2016 study shows that this combination was associated with cardiovascular risk. The reason is that snoring and sleep apnea may lead to intermittent hypoxia: a medical condition in which the tissues of the body don’t receive enough oxygen. This can lead to metabolic disorders.

Sleep Myth #3 - Using your phone or watching television helps you fall asleep 

Fact: Playing a game on your smartphone or watching television may take your mind off things, but it won’t help you fall asleep.

Blue light emitted by screens can drastically disrupt your sleep patterns and sleep-wake cycle, making you feel more tired and less alert. How? Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to another color with comparable brightness. They found that the blue light suppressed melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, for about twice as long as the other lights. The researchers also concluded that blue light shifted people’s circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours). 

A study by the University of Toronto found that wearing blue light blocking glasses produced more melatonin than those who didn't wear them. Use the Blue Wave Glasses to block out the harmful blue light waves for quality sleep.

Sleep Myth #4 - Drinking alcohol before bed will improve your sleep

Fact: 20 percent of Americans use alcohol to help them fall asleep. It will make you feel sleepy and it actually does help people fall asleep quicker. But drinking alcohol before bedtime won’t help you sleep better. 

Alcohol reduces REM sleep, which is the most restorative type of sleep. It can also interrupt your circadian rhythm, it can aggravate breathing problems (which leads to sleep apnea), interrupt your sleeping pattern due to bathroom trips, and reduce melatonin production by 19%.  This study shows that even one alcoholic drink is enough to impact your sleep: low alcohol intake decreases sleep recovery by 24%, and high alcohol intake decreases it by 39,2%.

Sleep Myth #5 - It’s okay to sleep less than seven hours per night

Fact: People often brag about how they’re getting by on only a few hours of sleep. They tend to think that sleeping 7 to 9 hours is not necessary for them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Research shows that sleep deprivation over a period of time can cause some serious health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. You might not feel sleepy during the day, but losing even an hour of sleep can lead to risks the next day. Car accidents in result of drowsy driving is a good, but unfortunate example of this. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers. Another example of risks after sleep deprivation is the increased risk of heart diseases. According to a 2011 study, short sleepers have a 48% increased risk of dying from heart disease and a 15% greater risk of dying from stroke.

Sleep Myth #6 - If you can’t sleep, you should just stay in bed

Fact: Many people try to force themselves to sleep. This doesn’t work: tossing and turning will only increase your anxiety and frustration. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity in another room till your sleepy. Another way to reduce your sleep anxiety is by using a Gravity Blanket. It lowers your stress levels and helps you fall asleep faster & deeper.

 

These are some of the most common sleep myths out there. Keep an eye on our blog to learn more about sleep and debunk more of your sleep misconceptions.