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How Much Do You Really Know About Sleep?

By Alex Stein

Everyone from beauty bloggers to Instagram influencers has an opinion on how to get a good night’s sleep. It’s hard to tell the real news from the fake! So it comes as no surprise that sleep researchers conducted a review of the myths that many of us believe to be true. The findings of their recent study might explain why many of us are walking around like zombies.

The Gist Of The Study

Sponsored by the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, a team of 10 sleep experts compiled a list of 20 popular myths about sleep from online resources. The goal was to evaluate them on a scale from 1-5, with 1 being “not false at all,” 3 being a “moderate degree of falseness,” and 5 as having a “great deal of falseness.” To be clear, all of these claims are completely untrue.

The Myths

Would you be able to call out these myths as lies? Test yourself!

1. Being able to fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” is a sign of a healthy sleep system.

2. Many adults need only 5 or less of sleep for general health.

3. Your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep.

4. Adults sleep more as they get older.

5. More sleep is always better.

6. One night of sleep deprivation will have lasting negative health consequences.

7. In terms of your health, it does not matter what time of day you sleep.

8. Lying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping.

9. If you have difficulty falling asleep, it is best to stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep.

10. Although annoying for bed partners, loud snoring is mostly harmless.

11. A sound sleeper rarely moves at night.

12. Hitting the snooze button is better than getting up when the alarm first goes off.

13. If you’re having difficulties sleeping, taking a nap in the afternoon is a good way to get adequate sleep.

14. Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep.

15. It’s better to have a warmer bedroom for sleeping than a cooler bedroom.

16. Boredom can make you sleepy even if you get adequate sleep.

17. Watching television in bed is a good way to relax before sleep.

18. Exercising within 4 hours of bedtime will disturb your sleep.

19. The brain is not active during sleep.

20. Remembering your dreams is a sign of a goodnight’s sleep.

The Results

None of the experts thought any of the myths were totally true, but some did identify a few as having “a moderate degree of falseness,” meaning the statements were confusing.

The two that generated the most confusion: Napping in the afternoon and watching TV before bed, possibly because they are some of the most common behaviors. Who doesn’t like an occasional cat nap or cuddling up with the TV remote? And those claims may not seem as unbelievable as thinking 5 hours of sleep is adequate.

To clear things up, short siestas can be a good thing—10-30 minutes is best. But napping too long or too late in the day isn’t advised, especially if you have problems sleeping, experts say. And when it comes to watching TV before bed, the content is a big factor (violent GoT episodes are a no-no). Also, the light emitted from the screen can disrupt melatonin production and delay REM sleep. Ideally, you should turn off the TV 30 minutes before bed.

The myth they agreed was the worst of all? The brain is not active during sleep. Science shows that not only is your brain active during REM, it also gets rid of neurotoxic waste (toxins involved in neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s).

The Takeaway

In a climate where misinformation is easily spread to millions of people (hurray, internet!), it’s our job to ask questions and be skeptical about what we read and who we listen to. Make sure you’re getting your information from trusted, scientific sources and experts who know about sleep. Otherwise, we’ll all be in for a long night.

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