20 Sleep Myths Debunked

Could sleep myths be affecting people’s sleep quality? New research from Villanova University suggests that they might. In a study involving 1,120 adults, participants were surveyed to assess their belief in false statements about sleep. Surprisingly, the study found that many people endorsed these sleep myths, with 10 out of 20 false statements being endorsed by at least 50 percent of the participants.

The consequences of believing in these sleep myths were significant. Those with higher scores for sleep myth beliefs demonstrated inconsistent bedtimes, more frequent napping, engaged in activities in bed that are incompatible with good sleep hygiene, and perceived few negative consequences of insufficient sleep.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these myths and why they are misleading:

Myth #1: Being able to fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” is a sign of a healthy sleep system.

Reality: It can indicate sleep deprivation or sleep apnea.

Myth #2: Most adults need only 5 or fewer hours of sleep for general health.

Reality: Getting less than 5 hours of sleep is linked to various health problems.

Myth #3: Your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep.

Reality: Continued sleep deprivation leads to decreased performance.

Myth #4: Adults sleep more as they get older.

Reality: Older adults often get less sleep than younger individuals.

Myth #5: If you can get it, more sleep is always better.

Reality: Oversleeping, usually defined as consistently sleeping more than 9 hours a night, can lead to issues like increased inflammation, obesity risk, and cognitive decline if done as a habit. These negative effects can also be amplified by a sedentary lifestyle. However, it must be emphasised that optimal sleep duration varies from person to person. 

Myth #6: One night of sleep deprivation will have lasting negative health consequences.

Reality: While short-term sleep deprivation can often be fixed with a good night’s rest, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to lasting health issues like heart disease and obesity. Prioritising regular, healthy sleep patterns is crucial to avoiding these long-term health problems.

Myth #7: In terms of your health, it doesn’t matter what time of day you sleep.

Reality: Disrupted circadian rhythms from nighttime work can lead to health issues.

Myth #8: Lying in bed with your eyes shut is almost as good as sleeping.

Reality: Wakefulness and deep sleep have distinct physiological differences.

Myth #9: If you have difficulty falling asleep, it’s best to stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep.

Reality: Stimulus control therapy, such as leaving the bed until tired, can help with insomnia.

Myth #10: Although annoying for bed partners, loud snoring is mostly harmless.

Reality: Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.

Myth #11: A sound sleeper rarely moves at night.

Reality: Occasional movement is normal during sleep, but chronic movement could indicate a sleep problem.

Myth #12: Hitting snooze when you wake up is better than getting up when the alarm first goes off.

Reality: Fragmented sleep from snoozing can lead to decreased mental flexibility and mood.

Myth #13: If you’re having difficulties sleeping at night, taking a nap in the afternoon is a good way to get adequate sleep.

Reality: Napping can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and exacerbate insomnia.

Myth #14: Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep.

Reality: Alcohol before bed may aid initial sleep, but it can disrupt the second half of the night, causing more awakenings and affecting overall sleep quality. You can read more about this in this blog post. 

Myth #15: For sleeping, it’s better to have a warmer bedroom than a cooler bedroom.

Reality: Warm environments are associated with worse sleep; cooler bedrooms are generally better.

Myth #16: Boredom can make you sleepy even if you got adequate sleep beforehand.

Reality: Boredom may reveal underlying sleepiness and inadequate sleep.

Myth #17: Watching television in bed is a good way to relax before sleep.

Reality: Watching TV before bedtime can increase arousal and hinder sleep.

Myth #18: Exercising within 4 hours of bedtime will disturb your sleep.

Reality: Late-night exercise (1-2 hours before bedtime) can make falling asleep harder for some as adrenaline and heart rate become elevated. However, it is no secret that regular exercise improves overall sleep quality. Hence, find a routine that works for you; if late workouts affect sleep, consider exercising earlier in the day to balance fitness and restful sleep.

Myth #19: During sleep, the brain is not active.

Reality: Based on brain wave activity, there seems to be plenty going on inside our heads.

Myth #20: Remembering your dreams is a sign of a good night’s sleep.

Reality: Longer sleep duration, not dream recall, is associated with better sleep.

These are just a few of the sleep myths that people commonly believe. It’s essential to address these misconceptions as they can influence individuals’ sleep behaviours and habits. While some of these myths might have a grain of truth for specific individuals, the key is to tailor sleep practices to what works best for you. Remember, sleep is a vital component of overall well-being, and dispelling these myths can lead to healthier sleep habits and, consequently, improved health.