Many myths exist about sleep, how it happens, and why we need it. In this article, we cover the most common myths and misinformation.
Surprisingly, we also find that new research has verified some things that were thought to be myths, but which are true, and so myth became fact!
It’s important for the sleep deprived that we understand why most of the things listed below are not true, because if we don’t we try to adopt sleep patterns that are unnatural to us and can damage our capacity for healthy, natural sleep in the process.
Sleep Myth 1: Eight Hours Is Optimal For Everyone
This is poor advice for many of us. Here is a table showing how much sleep we need typically, according to our age and other circumstances:
|Amount of Sleep Needed
|Infants (less than one year old) need Approx. 16 hours per day sleep – be thankful!
1 to 3 years Old
|Toddlers we define as 1 to 3 years old and they need 12 to 14 hours per day, including all long sleep period and daytime naps
(3 to 10 years)
|Young children we define as being 3 to ten years old and they typically need 10 to 13 hours of sleep at night.
|Pre-teens and Teenagers (10 to 18 years)
|There is an overlap here with young children and young adults. At 10 to 18 years old, this age group needs about 9 hours sleep per night.
|For the majority of us, , 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night is adequate – very rarely do we need more.
|Older adults (50+) need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night but their sleep may be less deep and interrupted by waking periods – this is generally okay.
During pregnancy, women usually need a few more hours of sleep per night as well as short naps during the day, so 9 to 13 hours would not be considered unusual. The heart of a pregnant woman works 4 or 5 times as hard to keep blood flowing through your body and your baby’s. and your heart rate will often soar by the 3rd trimester. your kidneys are also under stress.<.p>
Your heart is working four or five times harder during pregnancy just to keep enough blood flowing through your body and your baby’s body. (That’s why your resting heart rate may soar by your third trimester.) Your kidneys are working harder to expel waste products from your body, and a surge in the level of the hormone progesterone add to your fatigue.
Sleep Myth 2: Get as Much Sleep As You Can
This is more bad advice; a disposition to sleep more than eight hours per night is possibly an indication of poor health. Scientists do not yet understand whether sleeping too much is a consequence of poor health or whether poor health causes us to sleep too long. Either way, 6 to 8 hours is what we need unless we have built up a sleep-debt, and are in a state of sleep deprivation. Again,
Sleep Myth 3: Some people do well on four hours sleep per night or less
This is a fascinating subject, and a belief that turned from myth to fact very recently. The press has given much prominence over the years to people who have enormously demanding, tiring jobs and yet need only four hours or less sleep per night – most of us have heard how little sleep US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher needed.
For many years, this was thought to be a myth, but recent research has shown that there is a genetic factor at work, and that people with the gene variant p.Tyr362His do indeed need less sleep.
“Researchers who studied 100 twin pairs have identified a gene mutation that may allow the carrier to function normally on less than six hours of sleep per night. The genetic variant also appears to provide greater resistance to the effects of sleep deprivation.”
This is a major breakthrough in sleep research and this myth has been ‘un-busted’! However, for the vast majority of us, many studies have shown that too little sleep is bad for your health: It weakens your immune system, attacks your ability to focus and concentrate, makes you more likely to become obese and can cause problems with your heart. Stary awake for eighteen hours and your general performance will be that of someone who is drunk.
Sleep Myth 4: If You Wake At Night You’ll be Sleep Deprived and Tired All Day
This is probably the most common sleep myth of all. We all have individual sleep cycles and for some of us, waking a few times in the night may be normal.
Of course, this does not apply to extreme cases such as for people suffering with sleep apnea, who can wake hundreds of times per night and truly be exhausted in the morning – often, they don’t even remember waking!
Our ancestors would sleep, wake and talk for an hour or two (or for sex as we still do), and then sleep again. This has been confirmed with experiments on people who lived without artificial light for several weeks (Ref: national Institute of Mental Health).
Sleep Myth 5: You must have prescription drugs if you suffer from Insomnia
Sleep medications tend to treat the symptoms of insomnia, not the causes, and as such they are a temporary solution. Insomnia may arise from many causes such as stress, anxiety, too much caffeine and artificial (blue) light from electronic devices.
The long term solution to insomnia is not drugs, and even when a short term solution is needed, a natural sleep aid such as melatonin (which your body produces naturally and which is reduced by some behaviours and environments) is a safer and more effective answer.When combined with an altered lifestyle, melatonin products (such as melatrol) can make a huge difference and often solve the problem.
Sleep Myth 6: A Sleep Deficit Can Be Cleared At Weekends
Your body simply doesn’t work like this. If you stay in bed late over the weekend, your body adapts and moves into a new adjusted sleep/wake cycle, which will make it much harder for you sleep properly during the week. It’s better to be consistent and get to sleep at the same time each night.
Sleep Myth 7: Anti-Hystamine Based Sleep Meds are Superior Insomnia Solutions:
The jury is out on this. Antihistamines make you drowsy as a side-effect, but no one is really sure whether they let you go through all stages of the sleep cycle. This is partly because antihistamines are usually combined with other substances such as Melatonin. Antihistamines are used in such solutions as Tylenol.
Sleep Myth 8: Dreaming isn’t important
Some people maintain that dreamless sleep is as good as sleep filled with vivid dreams; this really isn’t true. Dreams integrate the experiences of your day and allow you to deal with the stress and worry that your conscious mind often rejects and buries. Dreaming is so important to your well-being that we’ve included a whole section on this site to deal with it!