More than one-third of U.S. adults sleep too little, getting fewer than seven hours of shut-eye per night. It’s a common problem, which means you can find tons of information about sleep and how to sleep more and better. Unfortunately, many of the so-called facts you’ll see online about sleep are false or only partially true. It’s important to understand some of these myths.
Myth #1: The More Sleep the Better
According to sleep and medical experts, adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night. Older adults over 65 should target seven or eight hours. Does this mean that more is better?
This is a persistent myth. Excessive sleep doesn’t necessarily help you recover from too little sleep. An exception is if you’re healing from illness, an injury, or surgery. You may sleep more than usual as your body repairs.
The truth is that if you consistently sleep more than nine or 10 hours per night, you could have an underlying medical or medical health condition. See your doctor if you sleep a lot more than normal or if it is affecting your daily life.
Myth #2: Alcohol Helps You Sleep
A lot of people find a nightcap relaxing. It can make you drowsy and help you fall asleep faster, but in reality, alcohol interferes with good sleep. You may even wake the next morning feeling as if you slept all night without interruption.
Alcohol is a depressant, which is why you feel sleepy, but it reduces sleep quality. Typically, alcohol puts you into a deeper sleep for the first half of the night. For the second half, it disrupts sleep. It interferes with regular sleep cycles and may delay the onset of REM sleep, a necessary stage for true rest.
Drinking impacts sleep in other important ways. It can increase snoring and the risk of an episode of sleep apnea. It may also lower melatonin levels, a hormone the body increases at night to make you sleepy.
Myth #3: Hitting Snooze is a Positive
You may feel like hitting your snooze button in the morning gives you an additional 10 minutes of quality rest, but it doesn’t. Waking up and dozing off again for a few minutes only disrupts the normal sleep cycle.
A significant part of the end of a night’s sleep is restorative REM sleep. Hitting the snooze button once, twice, or more interferes with it. Hitting that button regularly can also be a sign of a problem. If you’re getting a good night of seven or eight hours of sleep, you shouldn’t need to delay getting out of bed. Talk to your doctor about a potential sleep disorder if you do this frequently.
Myth #4: Your Mattress Doesn’t Matter
A mattress can make the difference between restful sleep and a night of tossing and turning followed by aches, pain, and fatigue. Mattresses do matter, so prioritize getting a quality mattress that works for your sleep needs.
For instance, mattresses made for hot sleepers are more breathable and can help you keep cool if you find you’re always overheating at night. Latex, innerspring, and AirFoam are the best options for hot sleepers.
Beyond the type of mattress is the firmness. For example, pillowtop mattresses might seem cozy but for those consistently waking up with lower back pain, a medium-firm mattress provides better support.
Myth #5: You Can Train Yourself to Sleep Less
People often brag about surviving or even thriving on only a few hours of sleep. They’re in denial. No one can thrive for long, and it is impossible to train yourself to sleep fewer hours. Everyone needs adequate sleep to be mentally and physically healthy. Sleep deprivation increases your risk for:
- Day time accidents from drowsiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Poor mood, even anxiety or depression
- High blood pressure
- A weaker immune system and more frequent illness
- Weight gain, obesity, and diabetes
- Sexual dysfunction
- Heart disease
Sleep deprivation means getting less than seven hours of quality sleep several nights in a row. An occasional bad night of sleep is not a major worry, but it will catch up to you if you are trying to function on too little every night.
Focus on Facts for the Best Sleep
Myths about sleep abound. It can be hard to keep up with them all and find the actual truth. Focus on these truths about sleep, how much you need, and how to get it. Based on experts and research, these facts are what you really need to sleep well and wake up refreshed.