There's a wealth of information about sleep out there, but some of it is just myth. If you've ever stood by while a friend bragged about his ability to evade sleep, or if you've heard the old adage, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," you might not realize just how dangerous sleep insufficiency or deprivation can be.
Everybody needs sleep, and consistently avoiding it or getting too little of it over long periods of time can be quite harmful. Don't listen to the naysayers when it comes to the importance of getting the right amount of slumber each night. Instead, use facts to help you debate those common sleep myths once and for all.
1. Nobody Needs 8 Hours of Sleep a Night
False. While some people can get by on less, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. And the younger you are, the more sleep you need. Teens, for instance, regularly need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Kids in elementary school need 9 to 11 hours, preschoolers need 10 to 13, and infants need as much as 17 hours of sleep per day. If you get less sleep than the recommended amount of time, over an extended period of time, it can lead to illness, poor performance and depression.
2. There's No Connection Between What You Eat and How Well You Sleep
This myth is definitely false. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that's filled with B vitamins, calcium, melatonin and more helps to ensure a healthy sleep cycle. You should balance out your diet with generous amounts of berries, green, yellow and orange vegetables, fish, whole grains and citrus for quality, uninterrupted sleep. And keep an eye on drinks and foods that sneak in caffeine, like chocolate mocha cookies!
3. Snoring Is Never Harmful
Not necessarily true. Sometimes it isn't harmful, but other times snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea -- a condition in which you actually stop breathing in your sleep. At best, sleep apnea can leave you feeling tired and drained the next day. At it's worst, sleep apnea can actually kill you. Even if simple snoring doesn't affect you, it can definitely disturb your partner's sleep – and that can be harmful to your spouse's health and wellbeing.
4. Exercise Doesn't Affect Sleep
Wrong. The time you spend exercising can absolutely help you to sleep better and more efficiently. Exercise makes you feel good. It produces endorphins that give you feelings of well-being, which are always good for combating anxiety. Exercise can also tire the body and make it easier to fall asleep. Even less than 30 minutes a day of brisk exercise can greatly impact how well you sleep each night.
5. There's Nothing You Can Do About Insomnia
False, thank goodness. If you suffer from inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, you don't have to just "ride it out." Sometimes, making simple lifestyle changes can help you drift off at night. Easy lifestyle choices, such as limiting screen time, learning meditation or making an effort to spend more time outdoors, can help immensely. So can limiting your intake of caffeine and nicotine, refraining from eating big meals right before bedtime, and getting yourself into a regular routine of waking early.
If none of these home remedies work, your physician or the experts at a sleep clinic can certainly help you.