We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for our health. However, the advice to simply get more of it doesn’t often come with hard facts or surrounding information. To put an end to the tossing and turning, you may need to turn your attention to less conventional wisdom and start busting the many myths our culture perpetuates.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, around 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, many of which go undiagnosed and untreated. Considering the numerous health risks of inadequate sleep, this is a worrying statistic; but could misinformation be contributing to the cause? To help you separate fact from fiction, here are three common claims about sleep deprivation, and why they’re wrong.
Smoking Is Causing Your Sleep Deprivation
While it’s true that smoking cigarettes can stimulate your brain and make it harder to switch off, the advice to quit ignores every other factor associated with poor sleep. For instance, a quarter of all Americans rely on hypnotics or sleeping pills (a five billion dollar industry) to get them through the night, without realizing this habit could be contributing to their nightly woes.
Other reasons for lack of sleep may include, lack of exercise, poor diet, mental health problems, not enough natural light, and about a dozen other possible factors, many of which go unexplored. Having said that, there are proven risks associated with smoking, so it’s advisable switch to e-cigarettes and experiment with e liquid flavors to lower your chances of cancer, heart attack, and premature death.
You Need Eight Hours of Sleep per Night
The eight-hour myth seems to have been perpetuated since the dawn of time, but who came up with this magical number, and how can it possibly be accurate? The answer is, it can’t. It’s no secret that regular sleep clears the brain of toxins and generally equates to a healthier, longer lifespan, but the continuous-eight-hours-of-sleep rule (otherwise named monophasic sleep) ignores other sleep variations and their links to evolution and history.
Most controversially, professor and author Daniel Kripke conducted a sleep study on more than a million adults of varying ages. His results demonstrated that people who only get six or seven hours of kip per night have a lower death rate than those who sleep for the full eight. It’s helpful to consider that everyone has his or her own optimum sleep amount, but this information is certainly food for thought.
Nighttime Waking Indicates a Health Problem
Doctors would have us believe that waking in the night is a symptom of insomnia, depression, or both, creating hysteria about sleep – or more specifically, getting enough of it. Because we panic when we feel alert during the night, we find it harder to drift off, creating a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.
Contrary to these oft-held beliefs, history suggests that before electricity, humans were primed to sleep biophysically – that is, for two blocks of four or five hours, interrupted by an hour or two of wakefulness. In other words, nighttime waking could mean you’re more in tune with your body’s circadian rhythm than you think.
Whatever your beliefs about sleep, smoking, and the pharmaceutical industry, it’s important to listen to your body clock and follow your own sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night (studies show that 10pm is the optimum time for the brain to rest) will help your body find its own natural rhythm, whether you need five hours or eight.