DON'T SLEEP ON IT!
There's been a lot of research and media musing about sleep. The negative effects of alcohol and caffeine on a good night's rest are fairly well-known, but myths abound. Correctives to these 14 common misconceptions, along with free tools and tips, might help you catch a full night of rest.
MYTH: STAY IN BED UNTIL THE ALARM GOES OFF
Penn Medicine research has found that people can prevent acute insomnia from becoming chronic insomnia by getting out of bed if they wake before the appointed hour. People who developed long-lasting insomnia stayed in bed in the morning trying to force more sleep.
MYTH: MATTRESSES LAST FOR DECADES
Mattresses are expensive, and some consumers like to believe that the high cost guarantees decades of use. Much like all cushioned furniture, however, mattresses gradually decline in comfort and support. The lifetime of a mattress varies from person to person, but BetterSleep.org recommends replacing a mattress every seven years.
MYTH: PAJAMAS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SLEEP QUALITY
Research has shown that sleeping naked may improve sleep. Throwing off the PJs is better for body temperature regulation, which helps relieve stress -- and that, in turn, makes it easier to sleep. For some people, the absence of garments also leads to more intimacy in bed -- another soporific.
MYTH: SLEEP DEBT CAN BE REPAID
There's no such thing as catching up on sleep deficits. Research indicates that a lack of sleep has negative effects on the next day's energy, motor skills, cognitive thinking, and productivity. Studies show the effects of sleep deprivation on business leaders and adolescents alike, so strive to get the daily recommended amount of rest.
MYTH: EVERYONE NEEDS EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP
The exhortation to get eight hours of sleep a night may be the biggest myth of all. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation released revised recommended sleep durations, including a separate category for young adults (18 to 25 years old). Depending on your age, you may be sleeping too much or too little.
MYTH: A QUICK NAP WON'T AFFECT NIGHTTIME SLEEP
Naps come with great benefits, such as improved alertness, performance, memory, and even reaction time. Those who have no trouble sleeping won't be affected by a short nap, but it's a different story for people with sleeping problems. For better nighttime sleep, power through drowsiness and resist napping. A quick walk outside or 10-minute stretch to activate the brain and body could induce those tired feelings.
MYTH: GETTING THE RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF HOURS IS ENOUGH
Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle can cause tiredness even in people who sleep the recommended number of hours. Try to time your morning wake-up so it falls between natural sleep cycles. Free services such as SleepyTi.me and When to Sleep can help determine the best times to begin preparing for bed so waking occurs at the most efficacious hour.
MYTH: EXERCISE IS UNRELATED TO SLEEP
According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise can make falling asleep (and staying asleep) easier. Even 10 minutes of physical activity during the day can improve sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of sleep disorders. People who have trouble sleeping and aren't particularly active can take a lunchtime stroll or go for a short pre-dinner speed walk. Challenge your partner to a joint workout so you both get better sleep.
MYTH: STAY IN BED UNTIL SLEEP RETURNS
Staying in bed may not help you fall asleep again if you wake in the middle of the night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Experts say if you don't fall back to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes, it's best to get up and do something relaxing in another room. Don't switch on bright lights, a smartphone, or a laptop. Instead, read a book by lamplight or listen to calming music until you feel drowsy again.
MYTH: COUPLES SHOULD SLEEP IN THE SAME BED
Tossing and turning, pillow flipping, or frequent trips to the bathroom may result in a sleepless night for your partner. Instead of trying to sleep through it, look at ways to alleviate the disruptions. Consider a memory foam mattress or topper, or even two twin mattresses in a king-size frame. Also, try using your own comforter or blanket.
MYTH: READING BEFORE BEDTIME IS RELAXING
This depends on the medium. Books and magazines are okay. Scrolling through social media feeds and news sites on a smartphone, not so much. The blue light emitted from personal electronic devices suppresses melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles, according to Harvard Health. Practice self-restraint and keep the phones, tablets, and laptops out of the bedroom.
MYTH: WARM, COZY ROOMS ARE BEST FOR FALLING ASLEEP
Hot temperatures and muggy conditions may induce drowsiness during the daytime, but they're not recommended for a good night's rest. Experts agree that the best temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. It's neither too cold nor too warm, and lets body temperature gradually drop -- as it should -- as you begin to fall asleep.
MYTH: CAFFEINE DOESN'T AFFECT SLEEP IF YOU'RE IMMUNE TO IT
Caffeine consumption should be cut off at least four hours before bedtime, according to Australia's Sleep Health Foundation, because the effects can last up to six hours. Even people who don't feel the effect should still practice moderation or abstinence. Research shows that caffeine negatively affects sleep, regardless how "immune" someone has become.
MYTH: ALCOHOL HELPS YOU SLEEP
A beer or glass of wine will make you drowsy and initially may induce sleep. But research shows that the quality of sleep deteriorates gradually during the latter half of the night. A glass of red wine may be recommended for other health benefits, but abstaining from alcohol before bedtime facilitates a better night's rest.