Understanding more about sleep is the first step to improving your sleep hygiene
With increased research and better science, these days we know a lot more about sleep than we used to, but there is still much that remains a mystery. And because sleep is such a mysterious subject, a lot of misinformation gets spread around in place of actual facts.
By busting some of the most common sleep myths, we can help you improve your understanding of sleep. And when it comes to sleep, knowledge is power. Having a better idea of all things sleep can help you make smart decisions about improving your sleep hygiene and feeling more rested. Let’s take a look.
“You get used to not getting much sleep”
A lack of sleep takes its toll on your mental and physical health, both in the short term and the long term. After a night or two of bad sleep, you’ll find yourself feeling more tired during the day. This daytime tiredness may stabilise over weeks, but it doesn’t mean your body is functioning on all cylinders.
Instead, constant sleep deprivation can impact your decision making, memory, focus and more, as well as putting you at risk of serious health conditions because your body isn’t able to get the rest it needs.
“It all depends on how long you sleep”
While sleep duration is important, sleep quality is also a critical factor to consider, as it is involved in helping you avoid sleep disruptions. Fragmented sleep is marked by numerous awakenings, impacting your body’s ability to move through the sleep cycle. This can reduce the amount of time you spend in the most restorative stages of sleep.
“Your brain shuts down during sleep”
Despite what many people believe, the brain remains active during sleep. As you move through the sleep stages, your brain activity changes, and during REM sleep it ramps up to a level that’s similar to when you’re awake.
This brain activity is thought to contribute to sleep’s ability to support effective thinking, memory and emotional processing.
“Napping makes up for a bad night’s sleep”
Napping can indeed provide a boost of energy, but it’s not a substitute for quality, prolonged periods of sleep. For one thing, you don’t move through the stages of sleep in the same way you do when you sleep through the night.
What’s more, napping can throw your sleep schedule into disarray if employed at the wrong time of day, making it harder to fall asleep at a normal time. So though napping isn’t inherently bad (and works well for many people who can incorporate it into their routine), relying on it in exchange for a good night’s sleep isn’t a healthy approach to take.
“Alcohol before bed helps you sleep”
While a drink or two in the evening might make you feel more relaxed, it won’t improve the quality of your sleep. In fact, it will most likely have a detrimental effect on your sleep and leave you waking up feeling tired.
Alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, but it also throws off your sleep cycles and makes it more likely that your sleep will be interrupted.
If you struggle to get to sleep of an evening, don’t rely on alcohol. Instead, use the hour or so before bed to wind down your body and mind, avoiding bright screens and engaging in relaxing activities like stretching, reading, or taking a warm bath.