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Top 10 Sleep Myths

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Updated February 05, 2009

We sleep about one-third of the day, but we know very little about sleep. Understanding these 10 sleep myths will help you clear up misunderstandings and get more and better sleep each night.

1. Sleep is Just Rest

Sleep is more than simply a period of rest; it is an essential time for your body to perform routine maintenance, creating long-term memories and repair damage from your day. Sleep brings many health benefits. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night assures that your body and mind will function well the next day. Make sleep a priority for your health and energy.

2. Losing an Hour of Sleep is No Big Deal

If you get less sleep than you need, your ability to do certain cognitive and physical tasks is decreased. If that sleep loss builds over time, it can interfere with the hormones that monitor appetite, changing your mood and increasing your risk of some chronic illnesses. Get 7 to 9 hours every night for good health.

3. You Adjust to Sleep Changes Easily

Your body gets on schedule based on your activity and exposure to daylight. When you travel across many time zones or work night shifts, you confuse body's sense of time, making sleep difficult and inhibiting some necessary sleep functions. For every one- to two-hour time change, it takes your body 1 day to adjust. That means it could take your body 6 to 12 days to adjust to a trip from New York to China.

4. Older People Need Less Sleep

Older people need the same amount of sleep as everyone else, 7 to 9 hours per night. There is a cultural belief that as you age, you need less sleep. Unfortunately, because of this myth, many older people do not seek help for their sleep problems. Often, older people sleep less than they need to because of illness. Many of the medications older people may be using interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor to find out more.

5. Extra Sleep Helps Fatigue

Some people assume that if they feel tired during the day, then they should sleep longer at night. This is not necessarily true. If a person is getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, then he or she should seek another source for their fatigue. Some sleep disorders decrease sleep quality, even though the person is getting enough sleep. Many medical conditions can cause fatigue. If you are sleeping long enough but are still tired, try some exercise and daylight exposure during the day. If that doesn't help, see your doctor.

6. You Can 'Catch Up' During the Weekend

Many people sleep late on Saturday, hoping to compensate for sleep lost during the week. While sleeping late helps catch up on your sleep debt, it alters your sleep schedule. You sleep late one or two days and then wake up early again on Monday. Your body must adjust to these changes. During this adjustment, your quality of sleep is poor. It is much better to have a consistent daily sleep schedule that gives you 7 to 9 hours each night.

7. Naps are Wasteful

Naps can be a great way to catch up on lost sleep. After taking naps, people function better and do certain cognitive tasks quicker. Napping can also help you train yourself to fall asleep quicker. However, napping longer than an hour or after 3 p.m. may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep at night.

8. Snoring is Normal

While snoring is common during sleep, frequent snoring can indicate serious sleep disorders like sleep apnea. If you are a frequent, loud snorer, see your doctor about being assessed for sleep apnea. Treatments are available and you (and your partner) will have more energy during the day.

9. Children With a Sleep Deficit Will be Tired

Children are different from adults. When children are overtired, their adrenaline kicks in and they seem energetic, even hyper. Children with sleep deficits may have behavior and attention problems. So don't use daytime energy levels to assess your child's sleep; use the clock. Children need an incredible amount of sleep. Find out how much sleep your child needs and troubleshoot your family's schedule to make sure this happens.

10. Insomnia is Caused by Worry

While worry and stress can interfere temporarily with sleep, insomnia is often caused by other factors. Medications and medical conditions can keep a person from falling asleep. These conditions include depression, anxiety, asthma, arthritis and other conditions which worsen at night.

More on the Health Benefits of Sleep

Source:

National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. NIH Publication No. 06-5271.

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