Bust 6 sleep myths & make sleep a priority
March 14, 2022

Bust 6 sleep myths & make sleep a priority

Rachel Wadsley, PhD

Even though we spend one-third of our lives sleeping (or trying to sleep), there are still so many myths about sleep. In this article, we’ll explore 6 sleep myths that are actually harmful. 

We begin to feel the effects of sleep deprivation quickly:

  • After 24 hours, judgment, memory, coordination, and emotions are impaired
  • After 48 hours, physical health issues start to surface
  • After 72 hours, the mind begins to hallucinate, and any mental work is hard

Hopefully, you aren’t experiencing any of those long periods of sleep deprivation regularly. Even so, chronic sleep disruptions on a smaller scale, over time, can increase your risk for serious physical and emotional health issues. 

Myth 1: You only need 5 hours of sleep per night

A tiny percentage of people have the short sleep gene and can get by on four to six hours of sleep per night. Their bodies naturally want less sleep, and their mental functions are protected making them ready to rock and roll all day long. 

The rest of us need more downtime. Teenagers require 8-11 hours of sleep, while adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to feel rested and healthy. Sleeping too long can also have a negative impact. Aim for the sweet spot of 7-9 hours a night. 

Myth 2: Your body gets used to less sleep

Our bodies are capable of incredible things. We can condition our muscles to get stronger with exercise, but unfortunately, you can’t train your brain to adjust to less sleep. Catching z’s is too crucial for health.  

Daytime drowsiness, trouble focusing or thinking, and even mood changes like frustration, depression, or anxiety can happen after one night of poor sleep. While it might seem like your body is adjusting to those symptoms over the span of weeks or months, it’s more likely you’re getting used to functioning at a sub-optimal level. 

Chronic poor sleep can have severe implications on your health:

  • Metabolism slows down
  • Risk of serious health conditions increases
  • Performance decreases (physical and mental)
  • Cortisol levels increase (stress hormone)
  • Immune system function decreases
  • A variety of emotional challenges
  • Mental health suffers

Myth 3: Laying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping

It seems logical to think “resting your eyes” would have a similar benefit to sleep because the brain is just as active during dreaming as when you’re awake. Things are a little more complicated, though. 

The brain is active in different ways during sleep than when awake. We do a lot of mental processing, learning, and memory creation during sleep. The body slows down, as seen in our lower core body temperatures. This provides a rest state for the body and mind.  

When you can’t sleep, staying in bed is training your brain to associate being awake with being in bed. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity (no screen allowed) until you’re drowsy.  

Myth 4: Drinking alcohol before bed helps you sleep

Having a nightcap is a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to sleep. Part of the myth does have some validation. A small drink before bed can make you feel temporarily relaxed and fall asleep quicker. But as the night goes on, this drink (or drinks) will come back to haunt you. 

Drinking at night decreases sleep quality in several ways:

  • Need to get up and urinate 
  • Increases snoring
  • Increases sleep apnea
  • Delays REM sleep

Myth 5: Exercising within 4 hours of bedtime hurts your sleep

Feel free to get in some movement at night. Mild to moderate exercise at night can improve sleep! You will be releasing those feel-good endorphins and zapping away stress and tension from the day. This can help you fall asleep quicker and have more deep sleep. To maximize your sleep, avoid exercising one hour before bed or doing intense workouts. 

Myth 6: Hitting snooze is better than waking up with your alarm

Oh, the snooze button. Are you a fan of the snooze button or someone who's ready to jump out of bed at the first alarm? I know this is a hot debate in my house. 

While it might be satisfying to smack the snooze button multiple times and feel like you’re laying in bed longer, this can be harmful. The additional 5 (okay, maybe 15) minutes of “rest” time is fracturing your sleep time and jolting you awake multiple times. Allowing yourself to get that extra sleep uninterrupted has way more benefits. 

Consider getting a fitness trainer if you’re struggling to dip into dreamland more often and want to create better nighttime routines. They can help you with three areas that impact sleep - exercise, nutrition, and establishing better sleep habits. You can learn more in our article on the 3 key factors that influence sleep

Start working towards your sweet dreams by trying trainwell (formerly CoPilot) for free. Sign up today for your 14-day trial. 

Written by Rachel Wadsley, PhD

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