More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Ten Myths About Sleep
Compiled By the National Sleep Foundation

Faulty beliefs abound about sleep, so many in fact, that the National Sleep Foundation has compiled a list of the ten most common myths. In this article, we take a close look at each one and then discover the truth.

1. Snoring is a common problem, especially among men, but it isn’t harmful. Snoring, except for it's irritating noise that disturbs the sleep of everyone within hearing distance, isn't, in itself harmful. Sometimes it can be controlled by life style changes or devices available through your dentist.

However, snoring can be a symptom of a far worse disorder - sleep apnea. It's always safest, before seeking treatment of your snoring, to make sure you're not a victim of sleep apnea.

2. You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get. No matter what anyone tells you, skimping on your hours of sleep is dangerous to physical and mental health. Neither can a person 'catch up' on sleep. Once you miss those hours, they're gone forever.

Many people, in these days of long hours of work and endless rounds of entertainment and distractions, are suffering from sleep deprivation. This causes numerous problems, from daytime sleepiness and drowsy driving to mental and physical health deterioration.

3. Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving. These things may help you for a short time, but if you're sleepy, sooner or later your mind will block these things out and you'll fall asleep, doesn't matter if you're operating a car, a moving van or a jumbo jet.

Driving when you're sleep deprived could get you or other drivers seriously injured or killed. It does, in fact, cause of as many as 567,000 vehicle crashes that cause 980 deaths and over $11 billion dollars a year.

4. Teens who fall asleep in class have bad habits or are lazy. Teens need lots of sleep - even more than adults. Sleep experts suggest 8.5 to 9.25 hours every night. However, with early classes, social and extracurricular activities and part-time jobs, many teens are getting far less sleep than they need.

Teens aren't lazy and usually, the reason they fall asleep in class has nothing to do with bad habits. Most of them are suffering from sleep deprivation.

5. Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep. This is, actually true. But difficulty in falling asleep is just one of the symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia has several systems and numerous causes. In fact, insomnia is usually a symptom of some other disease or disorder.

6. Daytime sleepiness always means a person isn’t getting enough sleep. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by a simple lack of sleep - last night's office party, the late late movie, laying awake worrying about tomorrow's exam or presentation. But this isn't always the cause.

Often this sleepiness is the result of a sleep disorder including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and delayed sleep phase syndrome. Another culprit could be restless legs syndrome.

(Admin Note: in a recent radio doumentary, a physician stated that the number one cause of daytime fatigue was insufficient water intake the day before - ans she emphasized that water means water, not the water in tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer, etc.)

7. Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression are unrelated to the amount and quality of a person’s sleep. All these things can, and do, disturb sleep.

Obesity makes it difficult to find a comfortable position in which to sleep. It also aggravates sleep disorders including snoring and sleep apnea.

Any physical or mental disorder or illness can make sleeping difficult. Others things that can prevent a good night's sleep include chronic fatigue syndrome and the common cold.

8. The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need. This is entirely false. the elderly need just as much sleep as any adult, although they may have trouble getting it. Many factors make sleep difficult for older folks, from the loss of those near and dear to the need to move from all that's familiar into nursing or retirement homes.

9. During sleep, your brain rests. Your brain, rather than resting, is very active during sleep. It keeps your heart beating, ensures you continue to breathe, and digest food that's in your stomach.

The brain, and, in particular, the subconscious, is what produces all your dreams and nightmares. Dreams, in fact, may be the brain's way of getting rid of the day's accumulation of garbage.

10. If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed, count sheep, or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep. This is a very bad idea. The more you lie there fighting to get yourself back to sleep, the more difficult it becomes. Far better to get up and do something - read a boring book, scrub a floor, or take a warm bath.
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