You'd think the human race would have sleep down to a science by now, but many of us are still sleeping poorly (and so we need top 10 guides to getting better sleep). Part of the problem is we have outdated information and beliefs about this all-important health need. Let's set the facts straight. Here are 10 things you might have been told about sleep but aren't completely true.
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10. More Sleep Is Better for You
There could be such a thing as too much sleep. The amount of sleep we need varies by person and also changes as we age. Harvard researchers found that a lot of sleep (9 hours or more) is linked with poor sleep quality. So don't aim for more sleep — even on the weekends. Aim for better sleep.
9. Alcohol or Weed Helps You Sleep
Alcohol, the original nightcap, can help most people fall asleep. However, it also can cause you to wake up more during the night, wrecking your sleep quality. And marijuana can make you drowsy, but if you don't partake consistently, you might have trouble falling asleep and experience strange dreams. You can read more about the science behind these two drugs and sleep here. Consider drinking non-alcoholic beer before bed instead.
8. If You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night, Lie in Bed Until You Eventually Fall Back Asleep
Waking up in the middle of the night is the pits, but it happens to all of us. We all hope to quickly fall back asleep, and so we tend to stay in bed hoping it will happen any minute now. If that doesn't happen, though, within 15 minutes, most experts recommend getting out of bed to do something that occupies our bodies and brains without overstimulating us. Try not to check the clock either.
7. Insomniacs Have Difficulty Falling Asleep
Insomnia is a complex sleep disorder. Difficulty falling asleep is just one of its four symptoms. The others, according to the National Sleep Foundation are waking up early and not being able to fall back asleep, waking often and waking up feeling unrefreshed. There are things you can do to alleviate insomnia and other sleep problems. The best treatment for the long-term usually isn't medication; cognitive behavioural therapy may last longer.
6. Everyone Should Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep Per Night
Everyone's sleep needs are different, and the quality of your sleep matters more than how much time you spend asleep. That said, the National Sleep Foundation offers recommendations based on age group, from newborns who need 14-17 hours of sleep each day to adults 18-64 who should get 7-9 hours each day, and older adults who should get 7-8 hours each day. Children generally need more sleep. A Jawbone study found that people who sleep 8-9.5 hours each night report happier moods the next day.
5. You Feel Sleepy During the Day Because You Didn't Get Enough Sleep
One night of bad sleep — or no sleep — can definitely make you feel awful the next day, but if you're consistently tired or feel sleepy during the day, sleep might not be the issue. Your diet, stress, or an underlying medical problem could be the cause. Even allergies or the medications you're taking could zap your energy. Consider your sleep quality, of course, but also look into other possible causes.
4. Power Naps Will Make You Feel Refreshed
Naps are awesome, but they're not all equally restorative. Depending on how long you nap, you might end up feeling groggy when you wake up. Aim for about 20 minutes if you want a boost in energy and mental alertness.
3. You're Either a Morning Person or a Night Owl (and Morning People Are More Productive)
Most people think of themselves as either morning "larks" or night owls, but there's more to sleep cycles than that. People have different energetic times during the day that aren't necessarily tied to our preference for sleeping late or getting up early. And you know that saying "the early bird gets the worm"? While our society — the workplace and school systems — seem to reward morning people, night owls can be just as productive and creative as their counterparts. In fact, doctors say schools should start later in the day for the health of students, who aren't getting enough sleep.
2. You Can Catch Up on Sleep on Weekends
When we lose sleep during the week, we accumulate a kind of sleep "debt". Think you can pay that debt back by sleeping in on Saturday and/or Sunday? Not so fast. This might actually make you sleepier the next week. Instead of waking up later on the weekends, you're better off going to sleep earlier or perhaps taking a nap in the afternoon.
1. Snoozing Buys You Sleep Time
Finally, this might be painful to admit, but snoozing your alarm will only make you feel worse. It doesn't give you more time to finish sleeping but instead jolts you out of an even deeper part of your sleep cycle after you've dozed off between snoozes. And then you're a zombie for the rest of the day. So stop snoozing and drag yourself out of bed. You'll have a better day and perhaps sleep better at night.