HYDERABAD: This World Sleep Day (March 16), let us bust sleep related myths. We hear about those myths frequently, and may even experience them far too often.
The National Sleep Foundation has compiled this list of common myths about sleep, and the facts that dispel them
Snoring is isn’t harmful
Although snoring may be harmless for most people, it can be a symptom of a life threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is characterised by pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways. People with sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night gasping for breath. The breathing pauses reduce blood oxygen levels, can strain the heart and cardiovascular system, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need
Older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less night sleep, but their sleep need is no less than younger adults. Older people tend to sleep more during the day. Naps planned as part of a regular daily routine can be useful in promoting wakefulness after the person awakens.
You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep
When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to “pay back” if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues.
During sleep, your brain rests
The body rests during sleep, however, the brain remains active, gets “recharged,” and still controls many body functions including breathing. When we sleep, we typically drift between two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute cycles. Non-REM sleep has four stages with distinct features, ranging from stage one drowsiness, when one can be easily awakened, to “deep sleep” stages three and four, when awakenings are more difficult and where the most positive and restorative effects of sleep occur. However, even in the deepest non-REM sleep, our minds can still process information.
Teens who fall asleep in class have bad habits and/or are lazy
According to sleep experts, teens need at least eight to ten hours of sleep each night, compared to an average of seven to nine hours each night for most adults. Their internal biological clocks also keep them awake later in the evening and keep them sleeping later in the morning. However, many schools begin classes early in the morning, when a teenager’s body wants to be asleep. As a result, many teens come to school too sleepy to learn, through no fault of their own.
Insomnia is characterised by difficulty falling asleep
Difficulty falling asleep is but one of four symptoms generally associated with insomnia. The others include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, frequent awakenings, and waking up feeling unrefreshed. Insomnia can be a symptom of a sleep disorder or other medical or psychological/psychiatric problem, and can often be treated. When insomnia symptoms occur more than a few times a week and impact a person’s daytime functions, the symptoms should be discussed with a doctor or other health care provider.
Daytime sleepiness always means a person isn’t getting enough sleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness is a condition in which an individual feels very drowsy during the day and has an urge to fall asleep when he/she should be fully alert and awake. The condition, which can occur even after getting enough nighttime sleep, can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. These problems can often be treated, and symptoms should be discussed with a physician. Daytime sleepiness can be dangerous and puts a person at risk for drowsy driving, injury, and illness and can impair mental abilities, emotions, and performance.
Health problems are unrelated to the amount of sleep
Insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity; as the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Research has also shown that insufficient sleep impairs the body’s ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
It is best to lie in bed, count sheep, or toss and turn until you fall back asleep
Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep is a symptom of insomnia. Relaxing imagery or thoughts may help to induce sleep more than counting sheep, which some research suggests may be more distracting than relaxing. Whichever technique is used, most experts agree that if you do not fall back asleep within 15-20 minutes, you should get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading. Return to bed when you feel sleepy. Avoid watching the clock.