Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health

sleep
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.

These are, in fact, among the most widely held myths about sleeping that not only shape poor habits, but may also pose a significant public threat, according to a new study publishing online in Sleep Health on April 16.

Researchers from NYU School of Medicine reviewed more than 8,000 websites to identify the 20 most common assumptions about sleep. With a team of sleep medicine experts, they ranked them based on whether each could be dispelled as a myth or supported by scientific evidence, and on the harm that the myth could cause.

"Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and and well-being," says study lead investigator, Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. "Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall ."

The claim by some people that they can get by on five hours of sleep was among the top myths researchers were able to dispel based on . They say this myth also poses the most serious risk to health from long-term sleep deficits. To avoid the effects of this falsehood and others identified in this study, such as the value of taking naps when you routinely have difficulty sleeping overnight, Robbins and her colleagues suggest creating a consistent sleep schedule and spending more time, at least seven hours, asleep.

Dr. Rebecca Robbins debunks common sleep myths that could compromise good sleep and overall health. Credit: NYU Langone Health

Another common relates to snoring. And while Robbins says snoring can be harmless, it can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing starts and stops over the course of the night. The authors encourage patients not to dismiss loud snoring, but rather to see a doctor since this sleep behavior may lead to heart stoppages or other illnesses.

The study authors also found sufficient evidence in published studies that, despite beliefs to the contrary, drinking alcoholic beverages before bed is indeed unhealthy for sleep. According to experts, alcohol reduces the body's ability to achieve , which people need to function properly.

"Sleep is important to health, and there needs to be greater effort to inform the public regarding this important public health issue," says study senior investigator Girardin Jean Louis, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of Population Health and Psychiatry at NYU Langone. "For example, by discussing sleep habits with their patients, doctors can help prevent sleep myths from increasing risks for , obesity, and diabetes."

The researchers acknowledge that some myths still cause disagreement among sleep experts. For instance, although sleeping in on weekends does disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, for people in certain professions, such as shift workers, it may be better for them to sleep in than to get fewer hours of sleep overall. These discrepancies, they say, suggest that further research needs to be done.


Explore further

Exploring the relationship between sleep duration and diabetes risk

Provided by NYU Langone Health
Citation: Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health (2019, April 16) retrieved 16 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-04-common-myths-compromise-good-health.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
38 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 16, 2019
The claim by some people that they can get by on five hours of sleep was among the top myths researchers were able to dispel based on scientific evidence.


No. It is well known that people vary in the amount of sleep they need. Some people need more than 8 hours. Some need far less than 8. One size does not fit all.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more