Sleep Myths Exposed: What You Need to Know

Adjustable Beds' sleep experts wanted to know how true common beliefs about sleep are. Based on their findings, they debunk five false myths about sleep that may even be preventing you from getting good sleep.

1. Count Sheep Makes You Fall Asleep Quicker

Counting sheep has been a popular notion since medieval shepherds started it. It's a mental exercise used by some to put oneself to sleep. Oxford University researchers put this theory to the test. They discovered that relaxing visuals like waterfalls or beaches helped people fall asleep 20 minutes faster than counting sheep.

Carlie Gasia, a certified sleep Science coach and sleep health content specialist at Sleepopolis, says that the effectiveness of using mental imagery versus counting sheep to fall asleep is subjective and may vary from person to person. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to sleep problems.

According to Gasia, incorporating relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress levels and prepare the body for sleep. Finding the best method to help you fall asleep faster requires experimentation and personal preference.

2. Less Sleep, More Efficiency

Does the amount of sleep you receive affect how productive you are? Well, that's the implication of this myth. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health makes it clear that this is only true if the person in question has a rare, mutated gene supporting this idea.

Gasia adds that if you want to be more productive, you shouldn't try to do so by getting less sleep. Cutting back on sleep to gain extra hours in the day may seem like a good idea at the time.

Still, research has shown that chronic sleep loss harms your health. Studies have indicated that humans need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for their health and well-being to remain at a peak. Lack of sleep can negatively affect our memory, mood, and productivity.

3. Sleep Less, Wake Up Earlier To Be Slimmer

At face value, this may appear to be the case. When you wake up early, you are more active and have more time to expend calories. Contrary to this belief, new findings from Harvard Medical School suggest otherwise.

Many hormones are influenced by sleep duration. Appetite-regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin regulate emotions of hunger and fullness in humans. Capable of making you hungrier and more interested in consuming sugary, salty, and fatty foods.

Gasia notes that lack of sleep can also impact metabolism, causing the body to burn fewer calories and store more fat. Several studies have demonstrated that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who sleep between seven and nine hours per night.

4. Waking up a Sleepwalker May Kill Them

While it may be challenging to wake a sleepwalker, there is no risk of death or shock if you do so, according to a study published in Scientific American. To prevent the sleepwalker from getting into harmful situations, Gasia explains, it is generally recommended to guide them back to bed gently.

However, unless sleepwalking is regular, disruptive, or dangerous, it is not usually a cause for alarm and does not necessitate medical care.

5. Napping Is Lazy

The American Heart Association conducted studies showing that naps have several positive effects, including a boost to cognition, recall, and productivity. A specialist on sleep hygiene and certified sleep science coach, Jill Zwarensteyn, agrees that naps are still beneficial as a means to refresh during the day.

“However,” she admonishes, “naps should not be much longer than 20 minutes as this could affect a person's ability to fall asleep later at night. Naps should also happen before 3 pm for the same reason.”

6. Quality Matters More Than Quantity

To tell oneself, “it doesn't matter how little I sleep, but how well,” might be reassuring. On the other hand, Jeff Kahn, CEO and Co-Founder of Rise Science, producers of the sleep and energy tracker app RISE, argues that it is the quantity of quality sleep that is most important.

According to the CEO, knowing is helpful because when you're uncertain about which matters more, it can be easy not to prioritize either. It's always best to try and get sufficient and sound sleep when you should.

7. You Can't Make Up for Lost Sleep

What's lost really is gone forever. Not so much when it comes to sleeping, though. Kahn claims that lack of sleep can be either acute or chronic. You can repay Acute sleep debt by adjusting sleep schedules (going to bed earlier, sleeping in later, or napping) for a day or two (or longer, if necessary).

“If you think making up for lost sleep isn't possible, it's easy not to try,” Kahn says. “Even chipping away at an hour or two of sleep debt can make you feel and function noticeably better and have positive implications for your health.”

8. Alcohol Helps You Sleep Better

Dr. Nicholas Dragolea of Noble Medical dispels this misconception by saying that while alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it hinders your ability to enter the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. This may result in less restful sleep and increased sleep disruptions.

9. Snoring Is Harmless

According to Dragolea, while this is generally the case, obstructive sleep apnea, a more severe sleep problem, has been linked to snoring (OSA). If left untreated, this illness, which causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, can have severe consequences for one's health.

10. Staying In Bed Resting Is Okay if I Can't Fall Asleep –

Zwarensteyn advises getting out of bed and doing something calming if you are having trouble falling asleep while lying in bed. Like reading a book or taking a stroll. The inability to fall asleep while lying awake in bed can cause anxiety and negative emotions around bedtime.

Should People Stop Believing These Myths?

Does knowing the truth about these beliefs make a difference, especially when some claim to have benefited from them?

Dragolea offers his opinion on the matter, noting that if a sleep myth works for an individual, they may not feel the need to alter their sleep routines if they are experiencing restful sleep despite the myth's lack of scientific support.

The doctor thinks this is a case where the placebo effect can work. “In some cases,” Dragolea says, “the belief in the effectiveness of a sleep myth may act as a placebo, leading the individual to feel like they are benefiting from the practice even if it is not scientifically supported.”

However, Dragolea acknowledges that the placebo effect may not be permanent and may not help with underlying sleep problems or changes in sleep quality over the long term. But, “this will vary on a case-by-case basis.”

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like Buttonwood Tree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for Wealth of Geeks.