The human body needs to get enough sleep every night to heal and recover. Many people know this, and some take steps to ensure they get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, most of them believe certain sleep myths, like drinking alcohol at night promotes better sleep, which researchers say do more harm than good.
Tired and sleep-deprivedThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one-third of adults in America are sleep-deprived. At least 35 percent of adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.
Several studies have found that not getting enough sleep may cause various health conditions, such as:
- Heart problems (e.g., heart attack and stroke)
- Psychological risks (e.g., anxiety, depression, impulsive behavior, mania in people with bipolar disorder, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.)
Sleep deprivation also has adverse effects on your mental abilities and emotional state. For example, it can make you more impatient in the mornings, or it may cause mood swings.
The science behind sleep mythsA study in the journal Sleep Health debunked some common sleep myths that prevent people from getting enough rest. The researchers hope that their findings could be used to educate the public about the health problems related to sleep deprivation. The study implied that common misconceptions about proper sleep hygiene could be the reason behind the ongoing sleep deprivation crisis affecting American adults. Rebecca Robbins, a postdoctoral researcher at NYU Langone Health and the lead investigator of the study, explained that she and her fellow researchers reviewed more than 8,000 websites to identify the most common sleep myths.
Exercise can also help you sleep better at night. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality but please avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime.
The scientists then tried to determine if they could disprove these beliefs as myths or if the myths were backed by scientific studies. They also determined if these beliefs were linked to specific health problems.
After scouring many websites, the researchers settled on three of the most common sleep myths.
- You can function well on five hours of sleep or less. The researchers warn that this is the most harmful myth about sleep. Sleep deprivation may even cause long-term damage to your overall health. While taking naps during the day can make up for sleep deprivation at night, it is not the best solution. The researchers advised that it is better to create and stick to a regular sleep schedule. (: BUSTED: 8 sleep myths that actually make you more tired.)
- Loud snoring is normal. If you or a loved one snores, you may be suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that affects a whopping 18 million individuals in America. The scientists noted that if sleep apnea is left untreated, it can cause problems like depression, heart attacks, or stroke. Before you dismiss snoring as harmless, consult a physician to determine if you are suffering from these health conditions.
- Alcohol consumption before bedtime promotes better sleep quality.The researchers explained that several studies have repeatedly confirmed that drinking alcohol actually prevents you from reaching the deep, restful phase of sleep.
Robbins shared that sleep is an important factor that affects your mood, productivity, and well-being. This inspired the researchers to conduct the study to debunk sleep myths. They hoped that the results will promote better sleep habits, which can then improve overall health. Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis, the study’s senior investigator, added that quality sleep is essential for your well-being. Jean-Louis emphasized the importance of teaching the public about this crucial public health issue. For instance, physicians can discuss sleep habits with their patients to educate them about the dangers of sleep myths and associated health problems, like heart disease and obesity.
The study, which was conducted at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found that developing type 2 diabetes before the age of 40 may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization for both physical and mental illness later in life.1 These results are based on an investigation that included more than 400,000 men and women with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Eat more plants. If you just make one major change in your diet for optimal health and weight management, switch the emphasis of your food choices to mostly whole plant foods, such as whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their whole form. By making this major change, you will increase your fiber, vitamin, mineral, phytochemical and healthy fat intake, which helps defend the body from disease.
Always take health and sleep myths with a grain of salt, and follow a regular sleep schedule. Get enough sleep every night to improve your overall well-being.