Unfortunately, much of what we “know” about sleep amounts to “old wives’ tales” and myths. Some of this misinformation is dangerous. Though the science of sleep is relatively new, it is rapidly developing. On its website, the National Sleep Foundation examines these common myths and the facts that dispel them.

Sleep Myths

  1. Snoring is a common problem, especially among men, but it isn’t harmful. Actually, snoring may be a symptom of a life-threatening disorder known as sleep apnea.
  2. You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get. No. Inadequate sleep can lead to sleep deprivation and associated health problems.
  3. Turning up the radio, opening the window or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving. No. This is dangerous thinking.
  4. Teens who fall asleep in class have bad habits and/or are lazy. The real problem is that teens need more sleep – 8.5 to 9.25 hours a night – than adults while their biological clocks also keep them awake later at night. Thus, they’re sleepy in early classes through no fault of their own.
  5. Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep. That’s one kind of insomnia, but so is waking up too early, frequent awakenings during the night and waking up feeling unrefreshed.
  6. Daytime sleepiness always means a person isn’t getting enough sleep. Not necessarily. It can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder and should be discussed with a physician.
  7. Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression are unrelated to the amount and quality of a person’s sleep. Actually, research is showing relationships between sleep and these, as well as other, health concerns.
  8. The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each day. While older people may sleep less at night, they often make up the difference with naps during the day.
  9. During sleep, your brain rests. The body rests, but the brain remains active, performing a variety of critical functions.
  10. If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed, count sheep or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep. Most experts say, if you don’t fall back asleep within 15-20 minutes, you should get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading until you feel sleepy. Avoid watching the clock.