Sleep Myth #1: My anxiety will get better if I just get more sleep.
Fact: Anxiety and sleep deprivation can go hand-in-hand. Generally speaking, anxiety is worsened by poor sleep, and sleep problems are worsened by anxiety. The two are not mutually exclusive. If you suffer from anxiety, seeing your doctor and a psychologist to understand your anxiety may help improve sleep over time.
Sleep Myth #2: If I sleep deprive myself all week, I can “catch up” on the weekend.
Fact: Most adults consistently need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. The idea that you can sleep deprive yourself for a period of time and then “catch up” is not accurate. Having a consistent sleep schedule every night will improve sleep quality overall and reduce sleep problems.
Sleep Myth #3: Alcohol helps you sleep.
Fact: Alcohol allows you to fall asleep faster, but the quality of sleep you get is worse. Alcohol can lead to poor quality sleep and sleep problems. When you drink alcohol you do not spend as much time in the “restful” stages of sleep. Although you may have slept 8 hours on a night you consumed lots of alcohol, you are less likely to be well rested the next day.
Sleep Myth #4: Snoring means you are in a deep sleep.
Fact: Snoring is caused by vibrations of the tissue in the throat during sleep. Although you may be in a deep sleep when you are snoring, snoring in itself is not indicative of a restful sleep.
Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder where the airway is narrowing while breathing. This can contribute to poor quality sleep and sleep problems.
Sleep Myth #5: If I can’t sleep at night, I should nap more in the day.
Fact: The first step in managing insomnia includes a set of principles called sleep hygiene. Napping is generally not recommended for people who are having difficulty initiating sleep, staying asleep, complaining of poor sleep quality, or have sleep problems. In people with normal nighttime sleep, short naps may be appropriate.
Sleep Myth #6: If I got a bad night’s sleep, I should sleep in or stay in bed longer to get more rest.
Fact: It is not uncommon to have a bad night’s sleep once in a while. But some people with insomnia have a poor quality sleep more often than not. The initial tendency is to stay in bed longer.
Studies have shown that going to bed at the same time, and getting up at the same time every single day, is one of the most helpful first steps to restoring healthy sleep patterns.
Although it is contrary to most people’s instincts, if you are suffering from insomnia try and get up at the exact same time every day. This will help your body’s circadian rhythm to become more consistent and your sleep will become more regular.
Sleep Myth #7: Your brain can adapt to less sleep over time.
Fact: Generally speaking, you should sleep as long as necessary to feel rested and then get out of bed. For most healthy adults, this is 7-9 hours per night.
Sleep Myth #8: If I cannot fall asleep in bed, I should count sheep until I do.
Fact: Individuals who suffer from difficulty falling asleep should implement a relaxing nighttime routine. If you have not fallen asleep after 20 to 30 minutes of turning out the lights and snuggling up in bed, it is recommended you get up from the bed, exit the room, and do a non-stimulating task like reading a relaxing book in a low-light area. Then after 20 to 30 minutes, re-enter the bedroom and try to go back asleep again.
Tossing and turning at night without intervention does not improve insomnia and may worsen sleep problems.
Sleep Myth #9: We need more sleep as we age.
Fact: As we age, we need less and less sleep.
Sleep Myth #10: People with chronic insomnia should be on sleeping pills.
Fact: People with sleep problems should first implement a consistent sleep hygiene routine.
There are many mental health disorders that are associated with insomnia. People with anxiety and depressive disorders commonly have impaired sleep. Treatment of the underlying disorder that is contributing to the impaired sleep can be a good first step to help with sleep problems.
This post was co-authored by Suzanne Black, MD, BSc and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.
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- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 3rd ed, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Darien, IL 2014.
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- https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/children-and-sleep accessed June 18, 2019
- https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times accessed June 18 2019