If you’re trying to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep then you’re not alone. With more and more studies being published every day about how important it is to get high quality rest, people are turning in earlier and turning to high-tech devices to give them a leg up. But sometimes adding new behaviors isn’t as important as doing away with old ones, or getting your head straight on mistaken beliefs that you’ve been carrying around with you. In the interest of helping you get a better night’s sleep, here are several sleep myths that you need to be on the right side of.
You Can Make Up for Lost SleepHow many times have you told yourself that it doesn’t matter that you stayed up late every night this week because you’ll make up for it on the weekend? The idea sounds great in theory, and there’s no doubt that it feels great to sleep in an extra hour or two on Saturday or Sunday (or both), but the truth is that if you’ve shorted yourself more than an hour or two of sleep, then you’re simply not likely to be able to make up for your sleep debt. Not only that, before you ever get to the weekend you’re likely going to be seeing the impact of your sleep deprivation. Though your extra sleep on the weekend may make you feel a bit more refreshed, it will not be enough to restore your attention, memory and cognitive performance to where it should be.
The Older You Get, the Less Sleep You NeedIf you are a senior or have an elderly person in your life, then no doubt you’re familiar with the fact that they seem to sleep less than they did when they were middle-aged. Though many believe that this is a result of our sleep need decreasing as we age, the truth is that elderly people’s sleep is simply more fragmented. Though they may not sleep for as many hours each night, the time that they spend napping during the day makes up for that lack and the quantity of sleep evens out. Some older adults do have shorter sleep that accompanies health problems, including degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s. Others’ short sleep may be a symptom of an underlying health problem that requires medical diagnosis.
Rolling a Snorer Over Takes Care of the ProblemIf you are a snorer, or if you share a bed with somebody who snores, you probably struggle with getting a good night of sleep. Though many people swear that if you simply poke a snorer in order to make them roll from their back to their side, the problem has been addressed, the truth is that nearly half of those who snore do so regardless of what position they are in. Snoring is a sign that airflow is being interrupted, and though it may be for benign reasons such as a cold or allergies, in other cases it is a symptom of a serious medical disorder such as sleep apnea. Those who snore and awaken feeling unrefreshed or fatigued should take the time to see their physician to ensure that their health is not being compromised.
A Glass of Wine Before Bed Helps you get to SleepMany people are firm believers in having a nightcap before they go to sleep, claiming that it makes them feel drowsy and fall asleep more easily, but the truth is that though alcohol may in fact do that, it also makes it far more likely that you will awaken in the middle of the night and severely impacts the quality of the restorative sleep that the body needs.
Baa, Baa, Black SheepSince we’ve been small children we’ve been told that when we can’t sleep we should count sheep. Though there is something to be said for engaging in a monotonous or boring activity in order to lull the brain, studies have shown that there are other methods that are much more effective. People actually find it difficult and distracting to try to count when they’re trying to go to sleep – the activity requires too much concentration. It’s far better to dedicate your imaginings to calming scenes that can be easily evoked. By visualizing a peaceful scene you allow your brain to fall asleep more quickly – combining the imagining with deep, slow breathing increases the effectiveness.
Reading or Watching TV is a Good Pre-Sleep ActivityIt has been well established that electronic devices work against our ability to sleep, so watching television or reading on an electronic tablet is an activity that should be kept out of the bedroom and bed. Even reading a traditional book is something that sleep specialists frown upon, as they say that the bed should be reserved for nothing but sexual activity and sleep. They suggest that television watching and reading should be reserved for another room, and that television should be shut down for an hour or two prior to bedtime.
Sleep Apnea Only Happens to Old, Overweight PeopleObstructive sleep apnea can appear in children, athletes, and people of all genders and ages. Over 22 million people in the United States likely have the disease, and though weight is a risk factor, it is not a requirement. A recent study of people who were tested for sleep apnea found that nearly 20% were of normal weight, and over half tested positive. The symptoms of sleep apnea are clear and they’re dangerous, so if you suspect that you have the condition you should seek medical diagnosis immediately.
To Avoid Insomnia, Eliminate StressThough many cases of insomnia are attributable to stress, it is by no means the only thing that causes sleep problems. Poor sleep hygiene, medical problems, prescription medications and an assortment of sleep disorders all account for insomnia. If you are finding yourself consistently having trouble getting to sleep, it is suggested that you try to address sleep hygiene issues, and if that doesn’t work you should seek help from your physician.