Popular sleep myths can be harmful to your health
After reviewing some of the most common assumptions about sleep, a team of researchers at the NYU School of Medicine has exposed how these myths can promote unhealthy habits. The belief that alcohol helps you fall asleep more easily or that snoring is harmless can actually threaten your health.
The investigation was focused on more than 8,000 websites, from which the team identified the most widely held assumptions about sleep. With the help of sleep medicine experts, the researchers ranked these beliefs based on whether or not they were supported by scientific evidence. The assumptions were also ranked on the potential harm they could cause.
“Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being,” said study lead author Dr. Rebecca Robbins. “Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health.”
Among the top myths that the researchers were able to debunk based on scientific evidence, the claim that five hours of sleep is a sufficient amount is one of the most dangerous assumptions. This is due to the long-term health risks that have been linked to sleep deprivation. Dr. Robbins and her colleagues recommend a consistent sleep schedule with at least seven hours of sleep.
Another common myth that was negated by the researchers is related to snoring. According to Dr. Robbins, snoring can be harmless, but it can also be a sign of a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects breathing known as sleep apnea. The study authors advised that loud snoring cannot be dismissed. The experts also warned that alcohol at bedtime deprives the body of deep sleep.
“Sleep is important to health, and there needs to be greater effort to inform the public regarding this important public health issue,” said study senior author Dr. Girardin Jean Louis. “For example, by discussing sleep habits with their patients, doctors can help prevent sleep myths from increasing risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”
The researchers acknowledged that some myths are still up for debate. For example, sleeping in on the weekends disrupts the natural circadian rhythm for some people, including shift workers, but it may be better for them to sleep in than to only get fewer hours of sleep overall.
The study is published in the journal Sleep Health.