During the last couple of decades, sleep science has developed remarkably, providing significant findings about the importance of sleep, how it is disrupted, and the biological mechanisms controlling sleep. However, although scientific knowledge and evidence have increased, many people still have some misconceptions about sleep mainly read online or heard by word-of-mouth.
Unfortunately, many of these sleep myths get so widely spread that people consider them as sleep facts. Usually, the belief in such sleep myths leads to poor sleep habits and lack of sleep. For that reason, experts have identified the most common sleep myths and provided the true sleep facts to help people get informed. So now, let’s get these sleep myths debunked!
The hours of sleep needed decrease with age
One of the major sleep myths people believe in is that the older you get, the less sleep you need. However, sleep experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep each night for an average adult. This also applies to older people. Although they experience a change in their sleep patterns with less slow wave or deep sleep and less REM sleep with increased sleep fragmentation, they still need the same amount of sleep as younger adults. That’s why they typically nap during the day to compensate for the lack of sleep during the night.
The brain rests during sleep
Another popular sleep myth is that the brain rests during sleep. But, one of the mind-blowing facts about sleep is that the brain remains pretty active while the body rests during sleep. The brain indeed recharges during sleep but it still keeps control of many vital body functions, like breathing for example. Indeed, the brain remains active and is able to process information even in the deepest non-REM sleep stages when awakenings are difficult and the most restorative sleep occurs.
Daytime sleepiness means a lack of sleep
Next on the list of our sleep myths debunked is the one that says that daytime sleepiness always, with no exceptions, means that a person lacks sleep. In reality, excessive daytime sleepiness may be a medical condition or point to a sleep disorder like Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome and associated Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep. Yes, these might be one of the mind-blowing facts about sleep, but the truth is that daytime sleepiness is one of the major symptoms of these sleep disorders.
In case of nighttime awakenings, just lie in bed
Here’s yet another of the sleep myths debunked – if you wake up in the middle of the night, you should lie in bed, toss and turn, and try to fall back asleep forcefully. Yet, this isn’t really a solution and may result in a lack of sleep and negative associations to their actual bed. Instead, you should try some relaxation or breathing techniques to induce sleep. If you are still unable to fall back asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in another relaxing activity, like reading in dim light (do not use an electronic device or watch TV), in another room. Return to bed only when you feel sleepy.
Sleep apnea is just snoring
Last but not least, one of the clear facts is that sleep apnea isn’t just snoring. Mistakenly, people think of them as interchangeable. Snoring is a sign of airway resistance and is not always associated with sleep apnea. Statistics show that nearly half of the population snores from time to time, whereas one in four adults snores chronically (J Davey MSc). Plus, about 20-40 million Americans suffer from OSA. So yes, they are connected, but not interchangeable.
- J Davey MSc, M. (n.d.). Epidemiological study of snoring from a random survey of 1075 participants. https://britishsnoring.co.uk/pdf/epidem.pdf