14 Sleep Myths That Need to Be Put to Bed

Think you’re some kind of superhero who can manage to be active and alert on just a few hours of sleep per night? Spoiler alert: You’re not. Getting enough quality sleep is essential for everyone’s health and well-being, and there are several misconceptions about sleep that can lead to unhealthy consequences. Here are 14 common sleep myths that need to be put to bed.

1. You can function on 5 hours of sleep

According to a new study on sleep myths published in the journal Sleep Health, many people believe they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep per night. But that’s just not the case. Everyone has slightly different sleep needs, but on average most adults require about seven to nine hours to function at their best. This helps to prevent short-term consequences of undersleeping, such as brain fog and moodiness — as well as long-term issues, including high blood pressure and an increased risk of early death.

Businesswoman sleeping in office chair

2. Naps help you catch up on sleep

There’s a little bit of truth to this. Naps can help you avoid sleep deprivation, but you should only nap if it’s absolutely necessary. “Napping an hour or two at the peak of sleepiness in the afternoon can help to supplement hours missed at night,” according to Harvard Medical School. “But naps can also interfere with your ability to sleep at night and throw your sleep schedule into disarray.” It’s better to make sure you’re getting quality nighttime sleep to stay on track.

3. Sleeping in on weekends is a treat for your body

You might think it’s no big deal to sleep in on weekends — either to make up for lost sleep or simply because you can. But like naps, this can actually wreck your sleep schedule and cause you to miss even more sleep. “Although one long night of sleep may help you feel refreshed for a short while, the benefits of that additional sleep generally last only six hours or less after waking,” according to Sleep.org. Instead, stick to your normal sleep routine as much as possible.

4. Snoring is no cause for concern

man sleeping in bed snoringCredit: tommaso79/Getty Images

Almost half of adults snore — and the causes range from harmless and temporary to potentially life-threatening. Snoring might stem from your sleep position, a stuffy nose or being overweight, among other issues. But it also might be a symptom of sleep apnea and has been associated with hypertension, according to the National Sleep Foundation. So it’s an issue that’s important to discuss with your doctor, regardless of how common it is.

5. Stay in bed if you wake up in the middle of the night

If you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night — a potential symptom of insomnia — you might think it’s best to toss and turn until you fall back asleep. Sometimes relaxing thoughts can lull you back to sleep, but that’s often easier said than done. “Most experts agree that if you do not fall back asleep within 15-20 minutes, you should get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading,” the National Sleep Foundation says. Go back to bed when you feel tired, and try to avoid watching the clock.

6. It takes a while to fall asleep

If you often find yourself lying awake waiting for sleep to come, don’t just accept it as normal. This might be a sign of insomnia. “Difficulty falling asleep is but one of four symptoms generally associated with insomnia,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. “The others include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, frequent awakenings, and waking up feeling unrefreshed.” Difficulty falling asleep also might be due to your caffeine intake, exercising or eating a large meal too close to bedtime, stress or even too much sleep. Regardless, pinpoint the cause, so you don’t waste time trying to fall asleep.

7. Falling asleep quickly is a good thing

Just like taking a long time to fall asleep might be cause for concern, zonking out as soon as you hit the pillow isn’t ideal either. “If you barely make it to the bed before nodding off, you’re probably not sleeping enough,” Sleep.org says. For the average person, it should take roughly 15 to 20 minutes after you lie down to fall asleep. That means you’re neither exhausted nor have an issue that’s impairing your ability to fall asleep.

8. A drink can help you sleep

An alcoholic drink before bed might help you fall asleep, but it’s not going to give you a good night’s sleep. “The problem is, in a single night, as the alcohol is metabolized during the second half of the night, it creates more fragmented sleep,” neurologist and sleep expert Jessica Vensel-Rundo tells Cleveland Clinic. “… Deep sleep decreases during the second half, and REM, or dreaming, sleep increases.” Alcohol also can lead to more vivid dreams and breathing issues as you sleep.

9. Watching TV in bed allows you to unwind

couple using their phones in bedCredit: OcusFocus/Getty Images

Watching TV or reading on your phone might seem relaxing at bedtime, but those screens are actually keeping your body more alert. “The ‘blue light’ from your television and smartphone are actually distracting your brain from calming itself before falling asleep,” Sleep.org says. Blue light suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. And consequently it’s more difficult to have a restful night of sleep. So cut your screen time a few hours before bed to truly let your body wind down.

10. Cool air or the radio keep you alert while driving

“Neither one of these methods is effective when it comes to combating fatigue, and continuing to drive while tired is reckless,” Sleep.org says. Likewise, drinking caffeine can cut some of your drowsiness, but if you’re already tired while driving it likely won’t work fast enough. If you’re starting to feel tired on the road, your best option is to pull over and nap somewhere safe until you’re alert again.

11. Daytime drowsiness means you need more sleep

If you’re always feeling sluggish during the day, you might assume it means you need more sleep. But it might actually be a sign of a health problem, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea, rather than how much time you spend in bed. Plus, an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity (or too much exercise), several diseases and certain medications are among the many causes of fatigue. So if you’re already hitting the target amount of hours in bed, you might want to look at outside causes of drowsiness.

12. Your brain sleeps when you sleep

Many people in the sleep myth study believed the brain is not active when a person sleeps. In reality, it’s a good thing our brains don’t shut down because they’re still managing some pretty vital functions, such as breathing. And they’re working to clear out waste and preserve memories. “Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain while you sleep,” according to Sleep.org. “It acts like a vacuum cleaner, whisking away waste products, such as molecular detritus that brain cells make and toxic proteins that can lead to dementia over time. So you wake up with, quite literally, a clean slate.”

13. Good dreams mean quality sleep

Everybody dreams, regardless of whether you remember yours. But there’s no evidence that a happy dream means you slept better — or that a scary dream impaired your sleep. “Despite how it may feel, though, disturbing dreams don’t always have a significant effect on your sleep architecture, meaning they won’t necessarily change how much time you spend in the different stages of sleep or the number of times you awaken,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. However, a nightmare can make it difficult to fall back asleep, eating up some of your shut-eye time. Because dreams usually reflect our waking lives, try to eliminate some stress during the day for a happier sleep.

14. You need less sleep as you age

Senior couple sleeping in a hammockCredit: CandyBoxImages/Getty Images

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults ages 18 to 64 — and seven to eight hours for adults age 65 and older. So really what that says is a 65-year-old still should be sleeping about as much as they did when they were 18. “While sleep patterns change as we age, the amount of sleep we need generally does not,” the National Sleep Foundation says. “Older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less nighttime sleep, but their sleep need is no less than younger adults.” Because of that, many older adults make naps part of their daily routine to be sure they get enough sleep overall.

Main image credit: andresr/Getty Images

55 comments

Lara A
Lara A11 days ago

Thanks

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O11 days ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O11 days ago

some good and bad

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Lara A
Lara A14 days ago

thanks

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Tania N
Tania N17 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Tania N
Tania N17 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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lynda leigh
lynda leigh18 days ago

Getting enough quality sleep is essential for everyone’s health and well-being

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heather g
heather g19 days ago

Sometimes there's a delay in getting into a comfortable position before I sleep, but then even if I'm up twice, I go straight back to sleep



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Kathy K
Kathy K19 days ago

Thanks

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lori Gearhart
lori Gearhart20 days ago

interesting, thank you

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