Sleep Myths – True or False?

Sleep Myths – True or False?

Author: Dr. James Maas, PhD 

  1. During sleep, your brain rests. F
  • Most people think of sleep as a passive, dormant part of our daily lives. Wakefulness contains only a single brain wave. To be physically, psychologically, and emotionally at your best, you have to experience 5 different types of brain waves every night during sleep. The sleeping brain regulates endocrine, immune, and hormonal functions essential for healthy living. It is also a critical period for memory consolidation.
  1. Sleeping longer makes you gain weight. F
  • By adding one extra hour of sleep every night, you can lose up to 1 lb. per week. Sleep deprivation causes leptin levels to decrease and ghrelin levels to increase leaving you craving for sugars and junk food. Contrary to popular belief, staying asleep in bed actually helps you lose weight.
  1. You can condition yourself to need less sleep. F
  • You can condition yourself to wake up after just a few hours of sleep, but it does not change your need for adequate sleep. Your sleep requirement is hard-wired! Determine the amount of sleep that will permit you to be energetic and alert all day long. You must condition yourself so that the hours in bed correspond to the sleeping phase of your circadian rhythm and the hours out of bed correspond to the waking phase. Therefore, establish a regular sleep/wake schedule Monday through Monday, including the weekends.
  1. A boring meeting, warm room, or low dose of alcohol makes you sleepy. F
  • A boring meeting, warm room, or low dose of alcohol will make you sleepy only if you are sleep deprived. These factors simply unmask the sleepiness that is already in your body. If you are not sleep deprived, you maybe restless and fidgety, but not sleepy.
  1. Snoring is not harmful as long as it doesn’t disturb others or wake you up. F
  • If left untreated, heavy snoring can lead to a higher risk of hypertension (heart attacks and strokes). Heavy snoring with repetitive pauses in your breathing followed by a gasping for air is indicative of sleep apnea. This life threatening breathing disorder is commonly treated non-surgically by wearing a mask at night that delivers continuous, positive airway pressure through the nasal cavity to keep the airway open. Without the mask these individuals may stop breathing up to 600 times a night and must wake up for a microsecond each time to resume normal breathing.
  1. Everyone dreams every night. T
  • All of us dream every night, although many do not remember having done so. Most dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that occurs every 90 minutes. If you sleep for 8 hours, approximately 2 hours will be spent dreaming.
  1. The older you get; the fewer hours of sleep you need. F
  • As you age the ability to maintain sleep becomes more difficult. This is due to hardening of the arteries or the result of taking medications for rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, or Type II diabetes that may interfere with sleep. We need almost as much sleep in our senior years as we needed when we were of middle age.
  1. Most people are poor judges of how sleepy they are. T
  • The majority of sleepers overestimate the amount they actually have slept by about 47 minutes.
  1. Raising the volume of your radio, air conditioning or drinking coffee will help
    you stay awake while driving. F
  • None of these “remedies” will help prevent drowsiness or falling asleep at the wheel for a person who is sleep deprived. Drowsiness is red alert, get off the road and take a 20-minute power nap in a safe area. At best you will have another 30 minutes of driving.
  1. Sleep disorders are mainly due to worry or psychological problems. F
  • There are 89 known sleep disorders whose causes range from neurological issues to biochemical imbalance and physiological problems. Examples are sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, nocturnal myoclonus, enuresis, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and REM sleep behavior.
  1. Most sleep disorders eventually go away even without treatment. F
  • Sleep disturbances that last for more than 3 weeks typically require professional treatment, ranging from learning good sleep hygiene practices to pharmacological agents and psychotherapy.
  1. Men need more sleep than women. F
  • Women tend to need more sleep than men, especially during premenstrual, pregnancy, and premenopausal stages. Women sleep lighter than men and are more susceptible to bouts of insomnia.
  1. By playing audiotapes during the night, you can learn while you sleep. F
  • If you are asleep you cannot acquire new knowledge. However, sleep enables you to process and retain information learned during wakefulness and recall it better the next day.
  1. If you have insomnia at night, you should take a long nap during the day. F
  • People who have nocturnal insomnia should never nap during the day.
  1. The best time to exercise is early in the morning when you are most alert. F
  • Exercise is good for promoting the quantity and quality of sleep whenever done during the day. However, early morning exercise is only suitable for people who have met their nocturnal sleep requirement. Furthermore, avoid heavy aerobic exercise within an hour of bedtime.
  1. Sex at night will arouse you and keep you up, delaying sleep onset. F
  • Satisfactory sex might help you to go to sleep fairly quickly. However, concerns about performance and unsatisfactory sex can delay sleep onset and make sleep more fitful.
  1. A sound sleeper rarely moves during the night. F
  • Most people move 40-60 times during the night although they might be unaware of having done so.
  1. A glass of wine before bed will help you sleep. F

A nightcap might put you to sleep but any alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime is likely to disrupt ensuing REM sleep. Alcohol in large amounts is a stimulant not a sedative.

  1. Sleeping in late on the weekends is a good way to catch up on lost sleep. F
  • You have one biological clock, not one for the work week and one for the weekends. You must go to bed and get up at the same time Monday through Monday. To do otherwise would have the same effect of dieting or exercising only on the weekends – it doesn’t work.
  1. It is normal to awaken several times a night. T
  • It is rare that people can sleep uninterrupted for long periods of time. However, if you wake up during the night and cannot get back to sleep within 20-minutes this is indicative of insomnia. Often such awakenings will last for an entire 90-minute wake period before you will be able to resume sleep.
  1. Cozying up under heavy blankets will make you go to sleep faster. F
  • An ideal sleeping room temperature is between 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Being too warm may lead to awakenings and emotionally laden dreams.
  1. You are a good sleeper if you can fall asleep within 5 minutes. F
  • The well-rested sleeper will take about 20-minutes to fall asleep. Going to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow is a sure sign of sleep deprivation.
  1. Sleeping pills are hazardous to your health and can kill you. T
  • Many sleeping medications can be harmful, causing memory loss, daytime grogginess, depression, cancer and even death. Cognitive behavior therapy for solving sleep problems is a much better long-term treatment for insomnia.
  1. You can improve your athletic skills overnight by sleeping 8 hours. T
  • In the last quartile in an 8-hour night the brain secretes calcium into your motor cortex. This permits well-rehearsed good athletic moves to be consolidated into motor muscle memory, improving athleticism, reaction time, and situational awareness.

© Dr. James B. Maas, 2016 All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.



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