The top myth about sleep is that it is possible to get by on just five hours a night, research reveals.
This myth is not just wrong, it is also dangerous to people’s health.
There are serious health risks from prolonged sleep deficits like this.
The second most common myth is that alcohol can help help you sleep.
In fact, alcohol impairs the brain’s ability to enter the vital phase of deep sleep.
It may feel like you are dropping off quicker, but the subsequent sleep is lighter and less refreshing.
The third myth is that snoring is harmless.
In fact, although it may be harmless, it may also be a sign of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is where breathing stops for brief periods during the night.
Dr Rebecca Robbins, the study’s first author, said:
“Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being.
Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health.”
For the study, the researchers looked at over 8,000 websites to find the 20 most common assumptions about sleep.
Each one was rated by the scientists on whether it was supported by evidence, or was a myth.
Other myths about sleep that they correct included:
- TV in bed: TV can be stressful and is best avoided in the bedroom.
- Insomnia: When awake for more than 15 minutes or so, it is better to get out of bed. Don’t stay there and struggle or you will begin to associate it with insomnia.
- Naps: Even if you have difficulty sleeping at night, daytime naps should be avoided. Stick to regular bedtimes and get into a good routine.
- The snooze button: Forget about the snooze button, the extra few minutes won’t do you any good. It’s low quality sleep. Better to get up and out into the daylight.
Professor Girardin Jean Louis, study co-author, said:
“Sleep is important to health, and there needs to be greater effort to inform the public regarding this important public health issue.
For example, by discussing sleep habits with their patients, doctors can help prevent sleep myths from increasing risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Sleep Health (Robbins et al., 2019).