Since every person on the planet sleeps, you’d think there would be widespread agreement about something so common to human experience.
The fact is, however, that our society is rife with myths about how to get a good night’s sleep. Indeed, there is wide disagreement among the general population about just what the proverbial “good night’s sleep” truly is.
For example, how many times has someone told you:
“Five hours is enough to function well the next day.”
“Smoking weed is a great way to relax and nod off into a restful sleep.”
“Don’t eat anything two hours before bedtime, or it will ruin your sleep!
What do you think? Are these myths or just good common sense? Take a look at some of the most common sleep myths that have been debunked by top sleep experts.
Let’s start with the three listed above.
Five Hours is Enough Sleep
The answer is no. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a leading sleep expert, getting too little sleep can lead to an array of problems. Dr. Breus said that five hours (or four, or three) is not a problem once in a while, but you can’t function well that way all the time.
Getting too little sleep can contribute to weight gain, a “foggy mind,” and forgetfulness. It makes you prone to accidents and almost certainly will make you less productive at your job. That’s just for starters. Losing a lot of sleep can reduce your libido and raise your risk for heart disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
Marijuana is a Great Sleep Aide
Mostly false. More research needs to be done, but it seems that certain strains of cannabis can aid sleep, but many others do just the opposite. One of the most common varieties of cannabis – Sativa – is a stimulant and will disrupt sleep. Indica strains, on the other hand, have been used by professionals to treat sleeping problems.
The bottom line is that you should consult with an expert. Also, a good rule of thumb is that no marijuana is a safer bet. Since there is not enough research in this area, cannabis as a sleep aid should be considered a myth for now.
Eating Before Bedtime
Eating up to one hour before bedtime is bad. It could disrupt your sleep. That’s according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Eating before bedtime is especially problematic if you include a beverage with caffeine, such as Diet Coke, wine or any carbonated drink.
More Sleep is Always Better
It’s a myth! Sleep specialists call sleeping more than nine hours on a regular basis “hypersomnia.” It’s sort of the opposite of insomnia. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, too much sleep leads to:
- Cognitive impairment
- Cardiovascular disease
The Older You Get, the Less Sleep You Need
This is false and a myth. Normal sleep patterns indeed change from childhood to adulthood. Children need slightly more sleep, but once you settle into adulthood, say by age 21, the usual recommended eight hours a night is optimal no matter how old you get thereafter.
Older adults indeed tend to get a lot less sleep, but that’s because they often develop other conditions associated with aging that interfere with sleep. Other causes are the medications older people take and the circadian rhythm weakening with age. But older people still do their best if they can get eight hours.
Loud Snoring is Normal
A myth! It’s true that everyone snores occasionally, but frequent and especially loud snoring can lead to major problems. Loud snoring is often caused by a condition called sleep apnea. Doctors have long identified this disorder to cause major health problems.
If you snore loudly or have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, medical science has developed significant sleep technology and/or devices to treat the problem.
Here are some of the most common myths about sleep, but there are many more. In general, common sense and the “get eight hours” rule are the ways to go to ensure you feel fresh, mentally alert and ready to get the most out of your day.