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10 Myths about sleep


Wake up, people: You're fooling yourself about sleep, study says

Robbins and her colleagues combed through 8,000 websites to discover what we thought we knew about healthy sleep habits and then presented those beliefs to a hand-picked team of sleep medicine experts. They determined which were myths and then ranked them by degree of falsehood and importance to health.
Here are 10 very wrong, unhealthy assumptions we often make about sleep, an act in which we spend an estimated third of our lives -- or, if we lived to 100,

1. Adults need five or fewer hours of sleep

"If you wanted to have the ability to function at your best during the day, not to be sick, to be mentally strong, to be able to have the lifestyle that you would enjoy, how many hours do you have to sleep?" asked senior study investigator Girardin Jean-Louis, a professor in the Department of Population Health.

2. It's healthy to be able to fall asleep 'anywhere, anytime'

Falling asleep as soon as the car/train/airplane starts moving is not a sign of a well-rested person, sleep experts say. In fact, it's just the opposite.
"Falling asleep instantly anywhere, anytime, is a sign that you are not getting enough sleep and you're falling into 'micro sleeps' or mini-sleep episodes," Robbins said. 'It means your body is so exhausted that whenever it has a moment, it's going to start to repay its sleep debt."

3. Your brain and body can adapt to less sleep
People also believed that the brain and body could adapt and learn to function optimally with less sleep. That too is a myth, experts say. That's because your body cycles through four distinct phases of sleep to fully restore itself.
In stage one, you start to lightly sleep, and you become disengaged from your environment in stage two, where you will spend most of your total sleep time. Stages three and four contain the deepest, most restorative sleep and the dreamy state of REM, or rapid eye movement sleep.

4. Snoring, although annoying, is mostly harmless
In your dreams, maybe. In fact, "loud, raucous snores interrupted by pauses in breathing" is a marker for sleep apnea, a dangerous sleep disorder that, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, increases risk for heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, asthma, high blood pressure, glaucoma, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and cognitive and behavior disorders.

5. Drinking alcohol before bed helps you fall sleep

Do you think a nightcap before bed will help you fall asleep and stay asleep? Dream on.

6. Not sleeping? Stay in bed with eyes closed and try and try

You have to admit, it makes sense: How can you fall asleep if you're not in the bed trying? Yet sleep experts say that continuing to count sheep for more than 15 minutes isn't the smartest move.
"If we stay in bed, we'll start to associate the bed with insomnia," Robbins said. She equates it to "going to the gym and standing on a treadmill and not doing anything."

7. It doesn't matter what time of day you sleep

Sleep experts say that's another myth that can negatively affect your health.
"We recommend that people have a regular sleep schedule because it controls what we call the biological clock, or circadian rhythm, of the body," Jean-Louis said. "That controls all the hormones of the body, body temperature, eating and digestion, and sleep-wake cycles."

8. Watching TV in bed helps you relax

Come on, we all do it -- or we check our laptop or smartphone before we power down for the night. Unfortunately, that sets us up for a bad night.
"These devices emit bright blue light, and that blue light is what tells our brain to become alive and alert in the morning," Robbins explained. "We want to avoid blue light before bed, from sources like a television or your smartphone, and do things that relax you."

9. Hitting snooze is great! No need to get up right away.

Raise your hand if you hit the snooze button. Why not, right?
"Resist the temptation to snooze, because unfortunately, your body will go back to sleep -- a very light, low-quality sleep," Robbins said.

10. Remembering your dreams is a sign of good sleep.

"That's a myth, because all of us do experience dreams four to five times a night," Jean-Louis said. "And we don't remember because we've not woken up and disrupted our sleep."

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