We all know sleep is important for our mental and physical well-being, and if you've ever gone a night without rest you can probably attest to how irritable you felt the next day. There's a lot that we already know about sleep, from personal experience and from verifiable scientific data. But there's also a lot of misinformation floating around, and sometimes it can get confusing.
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We all have plenty of experience with sleep (and for many of us, lack thereof.) But we can still buy into common myths without even knowing it! Before you attempt to trick your body out of a good night's sleep, make sure you have the facts. Here are a few myths about sleep, and the truth behind them:
1. You can adapt to getting less sleep
In our fast paced world we're always looking for shortcuts. We have apps that tell us the quickest route to the movie theater, or help us order dinner with a few simple taps.
We're so used to things moving quickly that we sometimes feel like we don't have time to sleep, and a shortcut can be tempting. But just because we'd like it to be so doesn't make it true.
Your body needs sleep, and you can't trick it into needing less. For most of us, that means that we need between 7-9 hours every night, and you can't outsmart your body.
2. You can't make up for lost sleep
According to this rumor, once you've missed a night of sleep you can never catch up. Some people fear enduring health consequences, or impaired cognitive functioning that they can never undo. The truth is you will likely have short term consequences if your Netflix marathon went until 4:00 AM, but they don't last forever.
According to Harvard Health, for a short term "sleep debt" (i.e 10 hours less than normal) 3-4 additional hours should be enough to get you back on track. For a longer term "sleep debt" a few weeks of rest and relaxation with long nights of sleep will help you undo the damage.
3. Watching TV calms you down
Screen time before sleep may be part of your routine, but research has shown that it might actually be keeping you from getting a good night's sleep.
According to Science Daily the light from your screen could be interfering with your sleep/wake cycle by suppressing melatonin production. Melatonin aids in helping you fall asleep, so when it's production is suppressed you end up being more alert at night.
4. Naps are bad
Naps can sometimes interfere with your regular sleep cycle if you're prone to insomnia, but they aren't always bad. Naps can help promote good health, improve your memory, and may even make you more productive at work, according to WebMD. If your nap isn't stopping you from falling asleep at night, go ahead and enjoy the extra z's!
5. You're "inactive" when you sleep
While we sleep our bodies (and minds) are doing all sorts of things. While we may be off in dreamland, our bodies are actually increasing blood supply to our muscles, and working on repairs to our bones and tissues, according to the Chicago Tribune. Our bodies also release hormones that can aid in growth, and white blood cells to fend off illnesses. If you've ever said you needed to "sleep on" a cold or virus, that's probably why. Far from being inert, your body attends to a lot of important repairs while you sleep.
Your sleep is essential, so don't rely on rumors and myths!
The right mattress and comfortable bedding are also key to getting a good night's sleep. An uncomfortable mattress can lead to back pain, tossing and turning, and sleep disruption- all of which will compromise the quality of your sleep.