Sleep is a regular part of everyone’s life. We get up in the morning. We go about our day and then sometime after nightfall, we sleep. Studies suggest that we require six to eight hours of sleep to feel rested and restored. Unfortunately, since we spend an inordinate amount of time sleeping, a lot of myths about sleep circulate, especially on the Internet. People have come to believe a lot of things about sleep that aren’t actually true. Here are six myths about sleep.
Older people need less sleep
We generally think that as we get older, we need less sleep. We are no longer growing, and thus the body requires less sleep. That’s not true. Twenty and 30-year-old people generally require about the same amount of sleep as people ages 60 and 70. Sleep tends to become more fractured as people age. People might sleep in three or four hour blocks, but that does not mean that the total amount of sleep should be less. Adults, no matter what age, generally require around eight hours of sleep.
You can always catch up on lost sleep over the weekend
It can be challenging to get enough sleep on the weekday. We get home late from work, and we have to be back up early. Many people believe that it’s all right to get four hours of sleep a night on the weekday, because they will make it up on the weekend. A recent study in Science Translational Medicine looked at how short-term and long-term sleep patterns combined with the body’s natural rhythm. The researchers concluded that a couple of long sleep nights do not completely restore the body when it is lacking sleep for an extended period of time. The body will be alert and awake shortly after waking, but the numerous days of lost sleep become apparent later in the day. Reaction times can be 10 times less than a person who gets regular sleep, the researchers concluded.
Sleeping pills are fine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 50 and 70 million Americans have some form of a sleep-related disease. Of that, around 6% to 10% take sleeping pills as a way of getting a better night’s rest. Most people and doctors believe that sleeping pills are safe. A recent study, however, found that sleeping pills increase a person’s chance of an early death. According to the study, a person who takes sleeping pills is four times more likely to die, and has a 35% greater chance of getting cancer. The risk appeared to be greater for people ages 18–55 years old rather than elderly people. The greater mortality rate can be partially attributed to overdoses when combined with alcohol and operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
Naps are a waste of time
In Spain and many other societies around the world, the afternoon nap is part of the culture. The opposite is true in the United States. Naps are often associated with being lazy and are considered a waste of time. The opposite is true. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that napping decreased mortality rates. It has also been linked to higher rates of productivity. A good nap is 15 to 90 minutes, enough for the body to relax. You don’t, however, want to sleep the day away. A nap is a quick way to refresh and restore the body in the middle of the day.
Eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares
In “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge ate cheese before bed, and he concluded that the cheese was to blame for his encounter with ghosts. Some believe that the novel is responsible for the myth that cheese before bed is bad and will give you nightmares. The only known link between cheese and sleep is the chemical tryptophan. Trace amounts of the chemical are found in cheese, as well as several other foods, and tryptophan causes the body to produce serotonin, which regulates your sleep and mood. There is not, however, any evidence that cheese produces nightmares.