8 myths about sleep that interfere with your rest, according to experts

June 23, 2023 0 Comments

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote, a.btn, ao-button”} }”>

Going out the door? Read this article about the new Outside+ app, now available on member iOS devices! >”,”name”:”in-content-cta”,”type”:”link”}}”>Download the app.

While advice on how to sleep better is everywhere, finding reliable information is becoming increasingly difficult—not to mention frustrating.

Social media, exaggerated product brand claims, even uneducated doctors can perpetuate sleep myths, says Pedram Nawab, M.D., MD, neurologist, sleep medicine specialist, and author of Dream Reimagined: A Fast Track to a Renewed Life.

An alternative to succumbing to false claims is to seek advice from experts who understand the science of sleep. The following information will help you not lose a good night’s rest.

8 myths about sleep (and the science that debunks them)

1. You shouldn’t exercise before going to bed

Research has long supported the fact that exercise can improve sleep quality. While a single workout can bring positive results, the more regularly you exercise, the more likely you are to sleep better.

Until recently, experts cautioned against exercising nearby when you turn in for the night. Not anymore. “For most people, exercise at night won’t disrupt sleep,” says Michael Grandner, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and lead scientific advisor for Sleep Reset, a personalized sleep program.

Evidence is provided by a 2019 review of sleep studies, which concluded that evening exercise did not negatively affect subjects’ sleep quality. In fact, it seems to have improved him. The only exception was those who engaged in high-intensity exercise, such as running or cycling, within an hour of trying to fall asleep. Many of these subjects reported difficulty falling asleep and poor sleep quality.

If you work out late and suspect that exercise is interfering with your rest, try exercising earlier or reduce the intensity of nighttime activities. You can even try restorative yoga or yoga nidra, or a hybrid yoga class that starts with a quick sequence and slowly builds into longer stretches known as Yin yoga.

2. The only thing that matters is what you do at night

Yes, everyone knows that caffeine consumption and a long nap can suppress sleepiness hours after the fact. But there are less obvious daytime behaviors that can affect your ability to fall asleep. In particular, stress. Scientific research shows us time and time again that stress and sleep are in a complex relationship.

“We think I’m going to sit around all day working and then unplug from my life,” Harris says. “But as the dream determines the day, the day determines the dream.” Harris suggests that you take 24 hours of uninterrupted sleep as a reminder to “pay attention to all the ways you manage your physical and emotional health throughout the day, which in turn affects your ability to sleep.”

She suggests going outside to get enough exposure to natural light, which can reset your circadian rhythm. Also, Harris says, taking brain breaks as needed or whatever helps you be at a better baseline. One thing she regularly recommends is meditation.

“When you meditate throughout the day, you develop awareness and notice when your brain is saying so much and learn to dial it back,” says Harris. “It makes it easier for them to use meditation at night when the stakes seem higher. You might say, “No, not now, on the way again.”

A woman lies in bed with a pillow on her face because she cannot sleep
(Photo: Getty Images)

3. Lying in bed with closed eyes is taken into account

Technically yes, lying in bed with your eyes closed means resting. But it will not replace sleep. Ironically, this well-intentioned behavior can set you up for continued sleep disruption.

According to Grandner, staying in bed when you can’t fall asleep is the most common behavior that can turn short-term sleep problems into long-term insomnia. “You associate waking up with the bed,” Grandner says. This means your body and mind get used to staying awake in bed, which can make falling asleep more difficult and keep you awake.

If you’re lying awake for more than 20 minutes or feeling frustrated, get out of bed and do something relaxing, Grandner says. For example, meditate or read a non-stimulating book in a dimly lit room. As soon as you start to feel tired, go back to bed. Resist the urge to look at any digital device until you’re asleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, the device can overstimulate your mind to get back to sleep, and blue light can disrupt the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.

4. You need 8 hours of sleep

For years we’ve been told we need eight hours of sleep. Maybe eight hours is what you need, not everyone needs that amount. Some may need a little more, some may need a little less, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, a behavioral sleep medicine provider and sleep expert with Calm, a sleep and meditation app and mental health brand.

According to Harris, the confusion arose when the National Sleep Foundation recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep. But somehow it was misunderstood as a one-digit average that applies to everyone.

In fact, in terms of cognitive performance, less may be acceptable. Research in the journal brain somewhere between 5.5 and 7.5 hours has been found to work, with the sweet spot being 6.5 hours, Nawab says.

5. There’s nothing wrong with hitting snooze.

You know the script. You hear your alarm go off in the morning and you hit the snooze button… not once, but twice, three times, sometimes more. While some of us may think that waking up gradually is beneficial, science suggests that hitting the snooze button can mess up your sleep patterns in several ways.

First, using the snooze feature interrupts your sleep cycle and then starts a new one, which is interrupted again. “This can lead to sleep fragmentation, which can leave you feeling tired and less alert when you wake up,” says Nawab. This is known as sleep inertia, a state of dizziness and cognitive impairment that may persist after awakening. Translation? Less productivity.

Also, if you don’t stick to your wake-up time, you can disrupt your body’s internal clock. As a result, you may have trouble falling asleep at night, says Nawab. It can even lead to long-term sleep disorders.

Instead, set your alarm for the time you want to get out of bed. Then, it takes some discipline to resist the urge to snooze. If necessary, place the alarm a few feet away from the bed so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.

6. You can make up for lost sleep

Everyone knows someone who insists that if they don’t get enough sleep during the week, they can easily make up for it on the weekend. If only that were true.

Sleep consists of different stages. Each plays a critical role. This is a deep, or restorative, stage that often sacrifices less sleep. During this stage, your body literally repairs itself at the cellular level, repairing tissue damage, strengthening the immune system, and participating in neural reorganization.

“When you’re chronically sleep-deprived, your body and brain are deficient in the amount of restorative sleep they need to function optimally,” says Nawab. These deficits accumulate over time and cannot be compensated.

What’s more, when you try to catch up on that sleep, you can make things worse. Your internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, is regulated by the sequence in your sleep patterns. “Trying to catch up on lost sleep can disrupt that rhythm and make it harder to reap the benefits,” Nawab says.

So what do you do after a bad night or two of throwing up? Take a nap Navab considers daytime naps to be productive and useful if you follow two rules: schedule it no later than 1:00 p.m. and don’t keep your nap longer than 30 minutes. Otherwise, you may disturb your sleep later that night. If you’re a shift worker, take a nap before you go to work.

7. You can train your body to get by on (much) less sleep

You can train your body to do incredible things. Climb a fourteener in Colorado. Make a PR for 10 thousand. Crow pose for nails in a yoga class. But teach him to sleep less? In your dreams

When researchers study sleep deprivation, they find that people feel they adapt to less sleep and report having fewer disturbances, Grandner says. However, in reality, they do not function well both physically and psychologically.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being awake for 17 hours has the same consequences as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent (0.08 percent BAC is when you’re legally impaired). This figure rises to 0.10 percent if you have not slept for 24 hours.

“Brain function and other effects of sleep loss continue to worsen over time,” Grandner says. “However, people may no longer notice this as they become accustomed to being harmed.”

Also, without adequate sleep, you’re more likely to gain weight, lose energy, develop high blood pressure and diabetes, be more prone to colds or flu, and take longer to recover. And this is a short list.

There is no way around it: you have to give your body the sleep it needs.

Human legs and a dog peeking out from under the blanket on the bed
(Photo: ipolonina | Getty)

8. Sleeping with a four-legged friend is bad

According to the Center for Sleep Medicine, 56 percent of pet owners allow their cats or dogs to sleep with them at night. Despite the fact that experts have been warning against such behavior for years, there may be no justification for it. In fact, recent studies show that co-sleeping with a pet can be less disruptive than sleeping next to another person.

Nawab says that for many of us, allowing a furry companion to sleep in bed can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. “Pets can potentially reduce insomnia,” he says, explaining that the nighttime routine you create for your pet can help you establish a consistent sleep routine for yourself that promotes a “robust homeostatic urge to sleep.”

So permission is granted…supposedly. Results are highly individualized, cautions Nawab. If allergies (yours) or noisy and obnoxious behavior (theirs) become a problem, you may have to try keeping them out of the sleeping area and see if your sleeping pattern changes. As with people, not everyone seems to make the perfect nighttime companion.

About our contributor

Karen Asp is a well-known journalist who specializes in health, fitness, food, travel and animals. It was widely published in many leading publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, O, Real Simple, Eating Well, Women’s Health, Prevention, and more. She is also an author Anti aging hacksa certified personal trainer and Nordic walking world record holder who spends her free time rescuing and fostering dogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *