The Most Burning Questions About Popular Sleep Myths Answered

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Enter the mysterious realm of sleep. We do it, we need it, we always want more of it, and we tend to believe more than a few claims about what happens when we shut our eyes at night.

There are many questions, and even more misconceptions about sleep than quite possibly any other topic. Although there are tons of myths floating around from preferences to expectations to behaviours that all involve sleep, science can actually answer a lot of these burning questions that might be keeping you up at night.

Today, we’re diving deep into popular sleep myths and debunking them with cold hard facts. Here we go!

Snoring is annoying but harmless

Only partially true, snoring isn’t just an innocent irritation for everyone. In fact, it’s the most widespread sleep apnea symptom, with over half of all snorers suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing intermittently while you sleep (if it’s OSA, it’s because something keeps blocking your airway, causing you to suffocate intermittently throughout the night) and it’s a serious sleep disorder.

If you share snoring with other sleep apnea symptoms like daytime sleepiness, frequent night waking, waking up gasping or choking, morning headaches, depression, hypertension, obesity, or diabetes, it’s probably not a harmless problem that only deprives your partner of sleep and you need to get checked out.

Insomnia just means you have a tough time falling asleep

While trouble going to sleep is a symptom of insomnia, this sleep disorder is much more complex than people realize. Insomnia’s four primary symptoms are:

The older you get, the less sleep you need
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Waking up too early
  • Waking up tired and unrested

Sometimes insomnia is a standalone condition caused by stress or poor sleep hygiene, but chronic insomnia can be a symptom of another medical condition like PTSD, anxiety, depression, cancer, GERD, Parkinson’s, asthma, heart disease, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea. Since many of these conditions are linked or interrelated, it’s important to get checked out if you’re suffering from insomnia, because no matter the cause, insomnia causes sleep deprivation.

The older you get, the less sleep you need

A total myth, our need for sleep is relatively consistent throughout our lives.

While babies, kids, and teens require more sleep than your typical adult, your need for a certain amount and quality of sleep is a constant from your 20s through to your 80s. The issue isn’t whether you need less sleep, it’s that aging negatively impacts your quality of sleep. Since most elderly people sleep poorly through the nights, they tend to nap more during the day and then it creates a cycle of daytime and intermittent night time sleeping.

Think of it this way: if you need 7-9 hours a day and you sleep for 5 hours at night, you’ll take anywhere from 2-4 hours in naps during the day. So, as you age, try to keep your daytime naps short to ensure you’re sleeping more at night. Plus, many sleep issues older adults face are the consequence of medications prescribed for other health conditions and poor sleep hygiene.

You’re only sleepy during the day because you didn’t get enough sleep at night

Only true sometimes, daytime sleepiness (characterized by drowsiness when you should be alert) is usually caused by an underlying medical condition. While disrupted or shortened sleep can make you feel terrible, it’s unusual for it to make you nod off at work. If you’re consistently and excessively sleepy during the day, you could have a sleep disorder like narcolepsy or sleep apnea.

“Early bird gets the worm” (aka night owls are lazy)

Contrary to belief, not everyone’s circadian rhythms are the same.

Our biological clocks (which determine whether we’re early birds or night owls – though our sleep cycles aren’t that cut and dry) are mostly determined by genetics (not arbitrary preferences or laziness), so starting your day at 7:00am isn’t right for everyone. Interestingly, creatives tend to sleep later and work later, being more motivated and productive later in the day.

“You can sleep when you’re dead.”

A destructive myth that downplays the importance of sleep, the “you can sleep when you’re dead” mantra promotes sleep deprivation and downplays healthy sleep habits as well as the impact sleep has on our brains (especially productivity and memory). And while we can catch up on a certain amount of sleep, some sleep debts can’t be paid back.

So, don’t brag about how little sleep you get, brag about how sleep is your priority.

Just turn up the music and open the window!

Driving drowsiness can’t be cured by opening the window, blasting the A/C, or cranking up the tunes – if you’re feeling sleepy on the road, the only fix is to pull over in a safe area and nap for half an hour. But, the better solution is to get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road. If feeling sleepy when you drive is a frequent problem, take our Sleep Apnea Quiz now!

I can cure my sleep apnea by myself

Some people get tested for sleep apnea, find out they have it and do nothing. While some home remedies such as weight loss, reduced substance consumption, altering your sleep position and healthy sleep tips can help, they may not treat it altogether or consistently. And if you’re sleep apnea is left untreated, it can have dire consequences to your health.

Knowing the facts helps you make the best decisions for your health. If you’re worried about your quality of sleep, book a sleep test with one of our experts to make sure there isn’t a deeper problem involved.

* Cover Image Credit: The Record.Com