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Sleep Science or Sleep Myth: Get the Facts on These Common Myths

graphic of cute sheep jumping a fence at night

graphic of cute sheep jumping a fence at night

While we have had centuries of old wives' tales instructing us about sleep (what to do, what not to do, what dreams mean, etc.), it has been hardly a hundred years since science has been studying and learning the real facts about sleep. 

It may seem that this sleep folklore is harmless or just plain silly, but sleep is a serious business. Employing ineffective sleep practices and habits, no matter how minor they appear to be, are detrimental to a healthy state of sleep.

Some of these myths have contributed to long term effects that have impacted humanity through the ages, all of which can be avoided by working with scientific facts and data. Let's get into it. 

Myth: Snoring is Only Annoying

While it is true that many partners of snorers find it difficult to sleep when their bedmate is hewing logs with a high powered chainsaw, it is not only the partner that suffers. A snorer is likely suffering from sleep apnea, known to be a life-threatening sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing, meaning the sufferer is prevented from air flowing in and out of their airways. It is not uncommon for the person suffering from sleep apnea to awaken often throughout the night, gasping for a lungful of air. Paused breathing also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing blood levels and straining the heart.

Finally, frequent snoring is related to hypertension. Snoring is more than annoying, but the good news is that sleep apnea is treatable. If you suspect that you or a loved one might suffer from sleep apnea, see your doctor and get it treated. 

Myth: Teens Are Lazy

Teens are excellent targets for complaints. They are often inattentive, careless, and disrespectful, but it isn't fair to tag all teenagers as lazy.

Sleep experts have concluded that teens do need more sleep than adults, between 8 to 10 hours versus the typical 7 to 9 hours that the average adult requires. On top of the need for a couple of extra hours of sleep, their internal biological clocks are set to keep them up later and then sleep longer in the morning. Ironically, most schools start in the early hours (perhaps accommodating the adult teacher's sleep needs and cycles?) when a teenager's body is screaming for more sleep.

If teenagers must attend school during their natural sleeping cycle, encourage them to sign up for less intense classes rather than facing mentally challenging subjects like mathematics, social sciences, or foreign languages.

Myth: Old People Don't Need as Much Sleep

All adults require between 7 to 9 hours of sleep in every 24-hour cycle — this includes seniors.

However, just as teenagers have a biological clock that differs from adults, seniors discover that their sleep patterns often change. They still need the 7 to 9 hours of adult sleep, but many seniors find themselves needing less nighttime sleep and make up for it through daytime naps.

Seniors who find themselves wanting to nap every day shouldn't worry but instead, enjoy the treat of a snooze in the afternoon. They also usually find themselves quite awake and alert afterward.

Myth: Insomnia Means You Can't Fall Asleep

This myth is partially correct: 25% correct to be accurate. Insomnia is characterized by four separate symptoms, of which not being able to fall asleep is one indication.

The other three conditions that mean a person is suffering from insomnia are frequently waking up during the night, waking up early and being unable to go back to sleep, and waking up feeling as if you are not refreshed from a good sleep. This means insomnia is more prevalent than you probably thought, and you have likely suffered your bout of insomnia without even realizing it.

In 2002 when the National Sleep Foundation took a poll (Sleep in America), an astonishing 58% of respondents reported experiencing at least one insomnia symptom in the previous year. Insomnia can also serve as an alarm indicating the presence of another sleep disorder or even physical or mental problems, most of which can be successfully treated.

Myth: Counting Sheep Will Put You Right to Sleep

The sheep counting fairytale serves to mask two real insomnia conditions: failure to fall asleep and being unable to fall back to sleep after awakening in the night.

The concept is if you perform a dreary and boring task, such as counting sheep leaping over a fence, it will put you right to sleep. If you have used this method in the past, you probably discovered that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. In other words, other factors keep you awake or put you asleep, not cute sheep, or counting consecutive numbers.

For some people, using relaxing thoughts or images does the trick; others will simply focus on their breathing. No matter what trick you want to use, if after 15 minutes you're still awake, get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing like listening to music, reading, or knitting. Don't watch the time — enjoy your activity. When you are sleepy, you'll know it and can head back to bed.

Myth: You Can Make Up Lost Sleep Hours

Some people fool themselves into believing they can shave off a few hours of sleep each night, and sooner or later, your body will force you to sleep to recover those lost sleep hours.

This is one of those very dangerous myths that can lead to other severe problems, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • negative attitudes and bad tempers
  • inability to concentrate
  • decreased productivity
  • safety concerns

This is because when you consistently miss your minimum required sleep time, you could experience sleep deprivation, which can be very debilitating in the long run.

Myth: Open Windows and Loud Music Keeps Sleepy Drivers Awake

This is not only wrong, but it is also incredibly dangerous to the sleepy driver as well as any other drivers unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. These are not real waking aids, and can even lull the drowsy driver into a false sense of confidence.

If you are driving and find yourself so sleepy that you start thinking of things to do to stay awake, you are too tired already. Find a safe spot to pull off the road and sleep for 15 minutes to an hour.

If you think a shot of caffeine will do the trick, remember that it takes up to 30 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, and then it typically only lasts for a short time. Best of all: if you have a long trip coming up, get a good solid sleep the night before.

FACT: Nest Bedding Will Help You Sleep

Now that we have exposed some dangerous myths that you thought might help you sleep, here is the good news. Nest Bedding thrives on delivering the most sleep-worthy mattresses and accessories to our deserving and sleepy customers. Contact us today and learn how you can get the full relaxed sleep you deserve instead of resorting to old wives' tales that don't help and could hurt!