(See “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Heart, Lung, and
Top Ten Sleep Myths:
1: Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for relaxation. There is no evidence that any major organ (including the brain) or regulatory system shuts down during sleep.
2: Getting just 1 hour less sleep per night will not affect your daytime functioning. Even if you are not noticeably sleepy during the day, even slightly less sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly. It can also impair your cardiovascular and immune health.
3: Your body adjusts to different sleep schedules quickly. Normally your biological clock makes you most alert during the day and sleepy at night, but most people can only adjust their biological clock by about 1-2 hours per night.
4: People need less sleep as they get older. Older people may get less sleep or find it less refreshing as the quality of sleep changes with age. However, there is little evidence that elderly people need less sleep.
5: Extra sleep for one night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue. One night of increased sleep won’t correct multiple nights of inadequate sleep. Also, both quantity and quality are important; you may not feel well-rested if the quality of your sleep is poor.
6: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on weekends. Although this sleeping pattern may make you feel more rested, this will not make up for a chronic lack of sleep or sleep debt. Also, sleeping more on weekends can alter your biological clock, making it harder to go to bed on Sunday and wake up on Monday.
7: Naps are a waste of time. Naps can help counter some effects of not getting enough sleep at night, but avoid them after about 3 p.m. to avoid sleeplessness at night. Also, limit them to 20 minutes as longer naps can make it harder for you to wake.
8: Snoring is a normal part of sleep. Snoring during sleep is common, especially as people age. However, growing evidence suggests that regular snoring can make you sleepy during the day and even increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Loud, frequent snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder.
9: Children who don’t get enough sleep will show signs of sleepiness during the day. Unlike adults, children who get inadequate sleep usually become hyperactive, irritable, and inattentive. Sleep debt is common in children and may be misdiagnosed as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
10: The main cause of insomnia is worry. Although stress can cause a short bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall or stay asleep can be caused by many factors, including certain medications, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, asthma, arthritis, and other chronic conditions that are particularly problematic at night.