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Its World Sleep Day, so we decided to debunk 10 myths about sleep
Today is World Sleep Day – and it’s more than just an excuse to stay in bed for an extra 10 minutes. World sleep day is intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and identifying sleep-based disorders. It is organized by the World Sleep Day Committee of World Sleep Society and aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders. So today we wanted to separate the myths from the facts about sleep.
All sleep is the same
There are different stages of sleep that we go through – Light, REM and SWS. We cycle through these stages throughout our sleep, and different things happen to our body in each stage. During REM sleep, our dreams are the most vivid, our body is relaxed, and our muscles are switched off, allowing them to enter recovery. Our temperature drops and memories are processed. SWS (slow-wave sleep) is the deepest sleep stage, where your organs start to relax and repair, blood pressure drops, hormones are released, and your body basically goes into repair and restore mode. If you get woken up in either REM or SWS, you will feel the most groggy and tired as your body hasn’t come out of this restorative state.
Alcohol can help you sleep
Alcohol, the original nightcap, is thought to help most people fall asleep. However, it is more of a sedative, and can actually cause your body to have to work harder, and not sleep as deep. This will also cause you to wake up more during the night, wrecking your sleep quality. And marijuana can make you drowsy, but if you don’t partake consistently, you might have trouble falling asleep and experience strange dreams.
You can’t have too much sleep
There is such a thing as too much sleep. The amount of sleep we need varies by person and also changes as we age. Harvard researchers found that a lot of sleep (9 hours or more) is linked with poor sleep quality. So, don’t aim for more sleep—even on the weekends. Aim for better sleep, by having consistent bedtime and wake up time, and practice good sleep hygiene.
Sleeping in on weekends is a great way to catch up on sleep
When we lose sleep during the week, we accumulate a kind of sleep “debt.” Think you can pay that debt back by sleeping in on Saturday and/or Sunday? Not so fast. This might actually make you sleepier the next week. Instead of waking up later on the weekends, you’re better off going to sleep earlier or perhaps taking a nap in the afternoon through the week to balance out your sleep debt.
Snoozing = bonus sleep
As an avid napper, and snoozer, this is painful to admit, but snoozing your alarm will only make you feel worse. It doesn’t give you more time to finish sleeping but instead jolts you out of an even deeper part of your sleep cycle after you’ve dozed off between snoozes. And then you’re a zombie for the rest of the day. So stop snoozing and drag yourself out of bed. You’ll have a better day and perhaps sleep better at night.
If you wake up in the middle of the night you should lie in bed until you fall back to sleep
Waking up in the middle of the night is the worst, but it happens to all of us. We all hope to quickly fall back asleep, and so we tend to stay in bed hoping it’ll happen any minute now. If that doesn’t happen, though, within 15 minutes, most experts recommend getting out of bed to do something that occupies our bodies and brains without overstimulating us. Try not to check the clock either.
You are either a morning person or a night owl
Most people think of themselves as either morning “larks” or night owls, but there’s more to sleep cycles than that. People have different energetic times during the day that aren’t necessarily tied to our preference for sleeping late or getting up early. And you know that saying “the early bird gets the worm”? While our society—the workplace and school systems—seem to reward morning people, night owls can be just as productive and creative as their counterparts. In fact, doctors say schools should start later in the day for the health of students, who aren’t getting enough sleep. (I’d be up for later workday start times too.)
Naps will help you to feel refreshed
Naps are awesome, I love a nap, but its important to consider that they’re not all equally restorative. Depending on how long you nap, you might end up feeling groggy when you wake up. Aim for about 20 minutes if you want a boost in energy and mental alertness, any longer than an hour isn’t really a nap, it’s just asleep, and it could make you feel worse as your body thinks it’s going to get more and then you wake up suddenly, forcing it out of deep sleep.
Everyone should get 8 hours sleep a night
Everyone’s sleep needs are different, and the quality of your sleep matters more than how much time you spend asleep. That said, the National Sleep Foundation offers recommendations based on age group, from newborns who need 14-17 hours of sleep each day to adults 18-64 who should get 7-9 hours each day, and older adults who should get 7-8 hours each day. Children generally need more sleep. A study by Fitbit found that people who sleep 8-9.5 hours each night report happier moods the next day.
You feel sleepy in the day because you didn’t have enough sleep
One night of bad sleep—or no sleep—can definitely make you feel awful the next day, but if you’re consistently tired or feel sleepy during the day, sleep might not be the issue. Your diet, stress, or an underlying medical problem could be the cause. Even allergies or the medications you’re taking could zap your energy. Consider your sleep quality, of course, but also look into other possible causes.