You've tried many different things over the years to get more sleep, adjust the sleep you're getting, and figure out what really works for you. Should you get 8 hours of sleep? 9? Or can you get by on 6?
People have all sorts of different home remedies and tricks they use to get their own good sleep. But what's just hopeful thinking and what's reality?
Let's take a look at some of the top myths and what you can do about them.
Myth: Your Body Gets Used To Getting Less Sleep
Your body needs a certain amount of sleep, but that amount varies from person to person. One or two nights of insufficient sleep is not going to hurt you in the long term but trying to survive on less sleep than you need causes persistent sleep deprivation and that hurts your health.
Missing sleep regularly leads to weight gain, heart disease, a depressed immune system, and mental health problems.
Myth: It Doesn't Matter When You Sleep as Long as You Sleep Enough Hours
And it's not just how many hours of sleep you get, it's when you get those hours of sleep. Our bodies want to wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when the sun goes down. Many people find they sleep more in the winter and less in the summer because of the longer nights.
But, if your work schedule dictates you get up too early, go to bed too late, or even work third-shift, you're placing additional stress on your body. And, in the long run, it's going to cause health problems.
And don't think napping makes up for it. Short naps can help re-energize your brain, but using a longer nap in the middle of the day can throw off your sleep cycle and health at night (more on that below).
Myth: A Good Sleeper Doesn't Move at Night
Most people move in their sleep, it's normal and natural. But, certain movements cause problems: jerky movements, non-stop movement, sleepwalking, violent thrashing, and apnea.
Our bodies should move and that includes in our sleep. Normal readjusting is healthy, but if it becomes dangerous to a partner or to yourself, you might want to get checked out.
Myth: Taking Melatonin Right Before Bed Helps You Sleep
Melatonin is the hormone that helps you get to sleep and works in the couple of hours before you go to bed. Ideally, take a melatonin supplement approximately 2 hours before you want to sleep. If you take it right before bed, it doesn't help you get to sleep.
Myth: Your Brain Shuts Down During Sleep
You may stop actively thinking, but the subconscious and unconscious parts of your brain ramp up. Your mind goes through your memories of the day, shifting them from short-term to long-term memory. It's prime time for detoxification and renewal. Your hormones refresh and you get additional blood flow to your brain.
Myth: Dreaming Only Happens During REM Sleep
The most vivid dreams happen during REM, but dreaming can happen during any stage of the sleep cycle. Dreams can even occur when you are awake. However, you just might not be able to remember them unless they're part of the REM cycle.
Myth: Kicking The Cat And Dog Out Lets You Sleep Better
Your cats and dogs bring comfort at night to most people. But, when they start running around or nudging you out of bed, it's a problem. However, even with the movement, more people find they sleep better with their companion in the bed than they do without. The emotional comfort is worth it.
Myth: More Sleep Is Always Better
Too much sleep can be as damaging as not enough. Once you go beyond your normal, healthy rested stage, more sleep encourages your metabolism to slow down and it could encourage weight gain, depression, and hormonal changes.
Myth: Snoring Isn't Harmful and You Can't Do Anything About It Anyway
Snoring and sleep apnea are complicated issues. However, they are far from harmless. Oxygen deprivation that comes with it can cause brain damage and make you feel exhausted no matter how much you sleep. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. Certain ways of sleeping, tools such as a CPAP machine, and even surgery can reduce or eliminate snoring and apnea.
Myth: Falling Asleep Anywhere and Anytime Means You Sleep Good
For some people, they can sleep anywhere if they choose to. But, if you're falling asleep and you really don't mean to, it could be the sign of too little sleep, physical health problems, or even sleeping disorders. Additionally, sleeping too soundly can be a sign of physical health problems.
Myth: Napping Makes up for Lack of Sleep at Night
Napping is wonderful to refresh your mind and give you a little mental boost. But, it's not a substitute for sleeping well at night. You might feel a little better after taking a long nap during the day, but it's going to throw off your sleep schedule the next night. And, if you do it often enough, it can adjust your hormones, particularly melatonin, making it much more difficult to sleep at night.
Myth: Watching TV or Playing On Your Computer/Tablet Makes You Sleepy
Many people fall asleep in front of the TV or other electronic device. But, it's not a restful sleep. The blue light stimulates our brain into thinking it's in the middle of the day. It tricks us into thinking we don't need to sleep.
Myth: Turning up the Radio, Opening the Window, or Turning on the Air Conditioner Are Effective Ways To Stay Awake When Driving
A blast of sound or cold air is good for stimulating adrenaline but not for actually waking us up. Once the adrenaline wears off, which is only in about 15 minutes, your body reverts to its previous stage of tiredness. You didn't eliminate the fatigue, just covered it over with stress. A better way to wake yourself up while you're driving is to pull over and take a quick nap.
Myth: If You Can't Sleep, It's Best To Stay in Bed Until You Fall Back Asleep
Tossing and turning is awful. If you can't get to sleep, or you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep, you're better off getting up. At the 20-minute mark, your mind shifts into being awake. Getting up and reading a book or doing other activities in the low light can help get you back to sleep fastest. But, don't use any electronic devices, as they could keep you awake longer.
Myth: Alcohol Before Bed Improves Sleep
Alcohol is a depressant and does make you tired. You probably can get to sleep faster after having something to drink. But, after about an hour and the alcohol is metabolized in your system, your mind will start racing again as it struggles to adjust the dopamine and serotonin in your brain. That can wake you up or give you a very restless night's sleep. Plus, it can make snoring and apnea worse.
Myth: A Warmer Bedroom Is Best For Sleeping
A cooler bedroom helps stimulate your body's natural response to falling asleep. Naturally, our body drops two to three degrees as we prepare for sleep. A cooler bedroom simulates this. If you want to read more about it, check out this article.
Myth: Exercising at Night Disturbs Sleep
For a lot of people, the only time you have to exercise is in the evening. For morning people, exercising at night wakes you up and gives you energy for hours. But, you may also sleep better those nights. Once the adrenaline and activity wear off, you may start feeling the fatigue and help you sleep better.
Myth: Hitting Snooze Provides Meaningful Extra Rest
Once your alarm goes off, you're awake, at least your mind is. The illusion is you're getting a few extra minutes of sleep, but fragmented sleep is not a healthy or restful sleep. So, if you regularly hit the snooze button, set your alarm later and get those extra couple minutes of sleep without interruption.
Myth: Sleeping With a Light on Is Harmless
The dark of night triggers the production of melatonin. Artificially brightening the room triggers our body into producing our daytime hormones, which wakes us up. Occasionally falling asleep with the lamp on isn't going to harm your health or your sleep, but habitually sleeping with the light on may eventually depress melatonin and change your sleep patterns.
Do you have other myths you'd like us to answer? Let us know and we can add it to our list!