Most Popular Sleeping Myths from Most Popular Sleeping Myths

Most Popular Sleeping Myths

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Most Popular Sleeping Myths

There are a lot of misconceptions about sleep. Thankfully, researchers have worked hard to debunk false information.

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Snoring isn’t a big deal.

While snoring can be common, for some people it can be a symptom of a life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways.” People suffering from sleep apnea awaken frequently gasping for breath. In turn, this disorder can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Counting sheep helps you fall asleep faster.

This idea has been circulating for years. Decades even. But researchers at Oxford University found that people took longer to fall asleep when instructed to count sheep. It is simply too boring to do for a long time. They fared better when distracting themselves with a relaxing scene such as a quiet beach, a walk in the woods.

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The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need.

According to Mayo Clinic, “Older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less nighttime sleep, but their need for sleep is no less than that of younger adults.” The recommended amount of total sleep time for the average adult is seven to nine hours.

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If you’re tired all day, you’re not getting enough sleep.

Being tired doesn’t always mean you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. People can experience exhaustion even if they get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Symptoms should be discussed with a physician.

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Blasting the radio will keep you awake while driving.

Drowsy driving is dangerous, and no amount of loud noise is guaranteed to keep you awake while you’re behind the wheel. Being sleep-deprived and turning up the tunes both distract from one’s ability to concentrate and remain alert while driving.

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When you’re resting, so is your brain.

During sleep, the body rests but the brain remains active. After all, the brain controls many body functions such as breathing. And when we sleep, we drift between two states: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute cycles.

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You can always “catch up on sleep” on the weekends.

Between work and social engagements, Monday through Friday is typically a busy time for most people. Sleep tends to take a back seat when we have a busy calendar. Getting one long night of sleep can help you feel refreshed, but studies have shown that constant sleep deprivation leads to chronic sleep debt. And that means slower reaction times and weaker performances in all endeavors.

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Alcohol helps you sleep.

A nightcap might seem like a relaxing way to end the day, but several studies show that booze actually disrupts sleep patterns and contributes to restlessness and poor-quality sleep. Furthermore, researchers have found that people can develop a tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol.

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You swallow 10 spiders a year while you sleep.

You may have woken up to see an eight-legged friend crawling across your pillow, but thankfully this anecdote is untrue. Arachnologists, aka scientists who study spiders, say that common house spiders are not interested in sleeping humans. If you’re sleeping with your mouth open wide enough for a spider to crawl in and get cozy, you’re probably snoring; and that can point to bigger problems.

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Naps are a waste of time.

Almost no one wants to take a nap as a kid, but most adults crave them during busy workweeks. While your boss might not think a nap is a productive use of your time, a 1989 NASA study showed that pilots without a rest nodded off 5 times as much as those who took a 25-minute nap during their shift. If astronauts are prepared to go to infinity and beyond when they’re napping, who are we to judge?

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Don’t ever try to wake a sleepwalker.

Some people advise against waking a sleepwalker because you could put yourself in danger. But because sleepwalkers might put themselves in harm’s way (think stairs, mirrors, kitchen appliances, household furniture), waking them might be necessary. Experts advise gently guiding a sleepwalker back to bed.

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Eating turkey makes you sleepy.

So you’re uncle pops in for Thanksgiving, loads up his plate, and later promptly falls asleep during the big football game. Must be all that turkey he had, right? All that tryptophan sent him into a “turkey coma.” In reality, The New York Times says “there is no more tryptophan in turkey than in other common meats like chicken and beef” and “while tryptophan could make you drowsy on its own, its effects are limited in the presence of other amino acids, of which turkey has many.”

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Energy drinks perk you up for the day.

Popping open a can of instant energy may seem like a good idea when you’re tired but, the stimulant effect these drinks produce is largely due to two ingredients that will not produce the long-term energy you’re looking for. Caffeine and sugar cause a stimulating “high” that is often followed by a hard “crash.” And the last thing you want to do when coming back down to earth is consume more sugar.

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Sleeping pills cure insomnia.

A doctor may prescribe medication to help a patient get a restful night’s sleep, but sleeping pills do not cure insomnia. Researchers are constantly studying the effects of sleeping pills, including the possibility of addiction. And there are other ways to treat insomnia including relaxation training, guided meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

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Watching TV helps you fall asleep faster.

The flickering light of the television is often a distraction for our minds. Plus, much like a computer or smartphone, a TV emits a light with a blue hue. Blue light specifically is what regulates the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and when we are exposed to this blue light our bodies stop producing melatonin leaving us wide awake.

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Morning people are more productive.

Many people classify themselves as a “morning person” or a “night owl.” Many also believe “the early bird catches the worm.” The truth is that people have different energetic times during the day, but that isn’t necessarily tied to our preferences for sleeping late or getting up early. What matters is that people simply get the recommended amount of sleep so they are rested and ready to go.

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Eating cheese causes nightmares.

It’s a little cheesy to believe that certain foods or drinks can induce bad dreams, but some people are convinced that eating cheese before bed causes nightmares. While there is no evidence to support this idea, experts do recommend finishing meals two to three hours before bed if you want to sleep well and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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If the box spring is OK, replacing just the mattress is fine.

When you’ve had your bed for quite some time, you may be tempted to try and save money by keeping an old box spring and replacing only the mattress. The Better Sleep Council says, “You should always replace both since they are designed to work best together as a set, and the warranty may not apply if you do not.”

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A warm glass of milk before bed will help you sleep.

Some people believe that a glass of warm milk, just like a heaping helping of Thanksgiving turkey, will put you to sleep because it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid responsible for producing serotonin. However, the idea of having a glass of milk before bed may be more of a psychological comfort. The New York Times writes that scientists say “the routine of drinking a glass of milk before bed can be as soothing as a favorite old blanket.”

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Yawning is only contagious among humans.

Scientists have discovered that yawns can spread among many animals, including chimps, baboons, wolves, and rats. There is even evidence of dogs catching yawns from their owners.