A Time to Look at Some Myths and Facts About Sleep

There are many common myths about sleep.  As National Sleep Awareness Week approaches, the National Sleep Foundation takes a look at six common myths and the facts that dispel them. 

Myth #1: Sleep is not important. I can just get by on a few hours.
Fact: Sleep is vital to our health and well-being, and is just as important as diet and exercise. Although individual needs may vary, adults typically need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.  Getting enough sleep may also be a critical factor in a person’s weight as well as energy and productivity levels.

Each time you don't get enough sleep, you add to your “sleep debt,” or accumulated sleep loss. You may not be able to catch up on lost sleep.  As a result, your sleep debt may make you feel sleepier and less alert at times.

Myth #2:  People who don’t  have the usual 9-5  work schedule shouldn’t have too much trouble falling asleep when their work shift ends.
Fact:  An estimated 15 percent of the nation’s work force are shift workers, who are often at work when their internal body clocks tell them its time to sleep.  Sleep producing hormones such as melatonin are produced at night, when shift workers must be fully awake and alert.

But when its time for them to sleep, their irregular schedule works against their body clock, and they may find it difficult to get a full 7-9 hours of sleep.  Despite the challenges, shift workers need just as much sleep as those who work traditional hours, though they are at an increased risk for sleepiness as well as the common health risks that come with insufficient sleep such as high blood pressure and heart problems.

Myth #3: Insomnia is not a serious medical condition and has no consequences.
Fact: Insomnia can be a serious medical condition characterized by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep (waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep), waking up too early in the morning or feeling tired upon waking. Several consequences of insomnia are decreased work performance, depression or mood changes and increased risk of automotive crashes.

Myth #4: Watching TV in my bedroom and working on my laptop in bed helps me wind down and fall asleep.
Fact: Doing work, watching TV and using the computer, both close to bedtime and especially in the bedroom, hinders quality sleep. Violent shows, news reports and stories before bedtime can be agitating. The sleep environment should be used only for sleep and sex

Myth #5:  Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner in the car are effective ways to stay awake when driving.
Fact:  These “aids” don’t work.  They are ineffective and can be dangerous to anyone who is driving while feeling drowsy or sleepy, as well as their passengers and others on the road.  If you’re feeling tired while driving, pull off the road in a safe rest area and take a nap for l5-45 minutes.  Caffeinated beverages can help overcome drowsiness for a short period of time, however, it takes about 30 minutes before the effects are felt.  The best prevention for drowsy driving is a good night’s sleep before your trip.

Myth #6:  Alcohol or wine will help me fall asleep faster.
Fact:  Some people feel that alcohol is a sleep aid. However, while alcohol may calm you and speed the onset of sleep, it actually increases the number of times you awaken during the night.  If you are taking a sleep medication, it should not be used with alcohol or other drugs.

Sleep Foundation
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