The favorite pastime for some us, and something we all do – sleep. It seems like a straight-forward activity. We all know that the more sleep, the better. And even if you don’t, you can catch up on it later, right? Except, none of those things were true. You’ve probably heard many of these myths in your life, and some of you might actually be living your lives by them. Here are some commonly believed myths that you likely believe about sleeping.
Counting sheep helps you fall asleep
No matter how many lamb, mutton, tufa or sheep you’ve imagined and calculated, you’re not going to sleepy town anytime soon. This old tradition was tested at the University of Oxford who challenged a group of insomniacs to count sheep, imagine a relaxing place, or do nothing at all. They’ve discovered that the group of participants who imagined a relaxing place managed to fall asleep on an average of 20 minutes earlier compared to participants who counted sheep and do nothing at all.
Watching TV while in bed helps you fall asleep
The most popular thing to do before going to sleep for many people, especially in North America is to watch TV. Many feel that the moving pictures, light, and noise are sleep aide. Possibly because most of us have found ourselves passing out while watching it on occasion. But the truth is studies have shown that while the TV is on can actually lead to health issues such as depression and ironically insomnia. Additionally, when our bodies are exposed to blue light, which the televisions and other electronic gadgets emit, they stop producing melatonin we feel more awake.
A warm glass of milk will help you fall asleep
Mom’s little trick to quickly get you to snooze in – a warm glass of milk – is still many people’s ‘go to’ method. This myth stems from milk containing tryptophan, an amino acid that produces serotonin. In turn, serotonin is essential for a healthy sleep. So this all makes perfect sense, right? Well, it turns out that after studying milk’s effects on the body, Scientists discovered that milk alone wouldn’t give your body that knockout punch that it needs. Your body also requires foods loaded with carbohydrates which help it produce insulin. Coupled with tryptophan, the carbs will bring out the effects that the milk alone simply won’t. It is speculated that milk actually has a psychological effect on our sleeping pattern.
The more sleep you get, the better
It’s a very common myth that if you’re able to, you should sleep as long as you can. And if you love to sleep, this sounds too good to be true, and that is because it is. Studies have shown that people that sleep more than 8 hours per night on average die younger compared to individuals who have a shorter sleep schedule. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be getting as little sleep as possible because that has been proven to bring about even more dangerous effects to our body. Longer sleeping patterns have been linked to sleep apnea, diabetes, and also to depression.
The older you get, the less sleep you need
This common notion is that the elderly require less sleep than younger people. While experts recommend 7-9 hours of rest each night, many people that the older you get, the lesser that truth applies to them. This thought might be because the older generation has a habit of getting up so much earlier than young people. To bust this myth, let me ask you a question, have you ever wondered why your grandpa is always napping? As it turns out we all need roughly the same amount of sleep to remain healthy. But while most of us sleep only at night, older people tend to take naps during the day adding to the total amount of sleep that they’re getting.
You can stay awake while driving by turning up the radio or opening the car window
If you’re too tired or sleepy to drive it’s selfish to go behind the wheel. This myth states that “if you’re sleepy while driving, just roll down the window and let the cold air hit you. Crank up the music, and you’ll be zapped back to the land of alert!” Those methods cannot only prove to be futile but can be dangerous to the driver. Multiple studies have shown that any effect that this has for the tired driver is either incredibly brief or won’t work at all. Your best bet is to pull over and catch a 15-45 minute nap.
As long as you get a lot of sleep for 1 or 2 nights, you can go with a little sleep for the rest. The truth is that it is the exact opposite of reality, and you will wake up the next day not feeling refreshed at all. The healthiest thing to do is to have a steady sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at a regular time every day sensually programs our body into knowing when we should be sleeping and when it should be awake. In other words, by following a sleep schedule, we’ll find it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
There are millions of people who live their lives by this myth. The idea is that if you’re busy during the week with work and school and can’t find enough time to get in more than a few hours of sleep every night, you can actually catch up on sleep during the weekend. That is not how our body works. Though that 11 hours of sleep on Saturday morning might feel beneficial at first, after just 6 hours the energy will drain away, leaving your reaction time about ten times slower. Also, you’re accumulating sleep debt which will lead to health problems. Maybe it’s time to start rescheduling your nights.