Americans do not know much about sleep after all. A new study found that many have notions about sleep that are false and harmful.
A team of researchers at the New York University Langone Health's School of Medicine reviewed about 8,000 websites that reflect what the public know about "healthy sleep habits." They presented this information to a team of sleep medicine experts who determined which ones are myths and explained how this false information can be damaging to health.
"Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being," stated Rebecca Robins, a postdoctoral researcher and the lead investigator of the study. "Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health."
They published their findings in the journal Sleep Health.
Common Myths About Sleep
One of the most common and most damaging, according to the study, is the belief that adults only need about five hours of sleep every night. Adults, just like everyone else, need an ample amount of sleep to function during the day and that means, getting seven to 10 hours of sleep.
In relation, experts also clarified that the body cannot learn how to function with little sleep. That is because the body goes through four stages of sleep to fully restore itself.
The rapid eye movement or REM stage, in particular, is important because it is when the brain restores memories and regulates moods. REM does not start until about 90 minutes after the body has fallen asleep. Because the body goes through several sleep cycles at night, REM takes up about 25 percent of a person's total sleeping time, that is if they get enough sleep.
Experts also emphasized the importance of deep sleep, which is necessary for the generation of neurons. This stage also aids in repairing the muscles, restoring the immune system, and releasing growth hormones.
Another important myth is about snoring. Many adults believe that snoring, albeit annoying, is harmless. In fact, it is the opposite. Sleep apnea increases the risk of heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and cognitive and behavioral disorders.
Moreover, it is exhausting. People who have sleep apnea wake up several times per night. They do not get enough sleep and struggle to stay awake during the day.
Researchers also warned about consuming alcohol before bed. They explained that while drinking can help a person fall asleep faster, it disrupts the normal sleep cycle. People who drink to fall asleep will only reach the lighter stages of the sleep cycle, preventing them from reaping the restorative benefits of going to bed.
Importance Of Sleep
The researchers stated that it is necessary to address and dispel myths about sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep every night.
"Sleep is important to health, and there needs to be greater effort to inform the public regarding this important public health issue," explained Giardin Jean Louis, one of the authors of the study. "For example, by discussing sleep habits with their patients, doctors can help prevent sleep myths from increasing risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes."