Common Sleep Myths, Part I
For something we spend about a third of our lives actively doing, we know surprisingly little about sleep. So, it is not surprising that the online space is full of all kinds of misleading information about how much sleep we need, how to sleep effectively, and how certain choices, such as diet, affect the quality of our sleep. But don't worry - we're here to clarify these issues. Let’s start!
1. Our brains "shut down" during sleep.
When we have healthy sleep, we go through four or five cycles of brain activity at night - from slow rates of activity during deep sleep, to high activity when we are dreaming (then brain activity is comparable to being fully awake).
And while it may be obvious that we need to stay away from stimulants before bedtime that will keep our brain active, it is also good to avoid depressants that interfere with the necessary cycles of our brain activity.
2. Insomnia is a physical, not a mental problem.
We often think that the inability to sleep is the result of only physical problems - too much caffeine, or sugar, for example. But that way of thinking is very naive. The reality is that our inability to sleep is usually the result of not being able to calm our minds down.
In reality, sleep is about calming our brains, which means that for most of us anxiety is the number one enemy of good sleep. While applying natural ways to slow your brain down and improve your sleep by changing your environment, you need to be patient in finding the right combination of room darkness, temperature, and comfort that work specifically for you.
3. Snoring is normal, and you don't have to worry
Snoring may be annoying to your partner, but it can be much more serious. Frequent and loud snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can cause daytime sleepiness and impaired productivity.
4. Narcolepsy means you fall asleep accidentally during the day
Although there are many things we do not understand about insomnia, narcolepsy may be one of the deeply misunderstood ones. We get confused by the perceptions we get from movies and series where the character makes a presentation or is in a conversation and falls asleep in the middle of the sentence. This is completely not the case when it comes to narcolepsy and it has nothing to do with reality.
In fact, it is the result of poor-quality sleep, where the boundary between being asleep and awake is blurred. Although this may mean that you fall asleep during the day, it also shows as daytime sleepiness, or in other ways, such as cataplexy (loss of muscle control) or sleep-paralysis (inability to speak while waking up or falling asleep).
6. You don't need a regimen
You want to live an exciting life and the idea of "routine" probably scares you - whether it is traveling, working, or something else. But when it comes to sleep, a routine has huge importance.
You should create a routine of relaxation at least one hour before bedtime so that your body understands that it is time to sleep. Your body needs balance, which means you go to bed at the same time every night and stick to it. The problem is that we tend to stick to this mode during the week, and over the weekend we ignore it and then it's hard to go back again. It is motivating to know that sticking to a particular regimen is one of the ways that successful people manage to work on weekends.
7. Alcohol helps you with sleeping
We have all felt the drowsiness that cames over us after a few beers or glasses of wine. But while it may be tempting to think that alcohol is a solution for sleeping, such a statement is far from true. Alcohol can help a person fall asleep, but it also interferes with what is considered good quality sleep.
Alcohol causes fragmentation of REM sleep, which disrupts a person's overall sleep pattern. Marijuana is also known to affect REM sleep, causing a decrease in the duration of this phase, making it unlikely that we have dreams.
8. Your sleep patterns stay the same for most of your life
The amount of sleep you need varies at different stages of your life. While you are pregnant or struggling with an illness, more sleep is helpful. Some people are ok with 6 hours of sleep. It is important to do what makes you feel good and well-rested.
9. With aging, you don't need much sleep
Of course, your grandmother was up at 4:30 in the morning every day, but that doesn't necessarily mean she didn't need a full night's sleep.
While your body needs less sleep as you get older, that doesn't mean you only need to sleep four or five hours a night.
According to studies, it is recommended that newborns receive between 14 and 17 hours of sleep each night, while adults between at the age of 18 -64 should receive seven to nine hours each night. In fact, more sleep is one of the 7 secrets to staying young!
Expect the second portion of myths and truths, very soon in Part II of this article.