5 Common Myths About Sleep – Busted!

An occasional sleepless night is normal. But when that occasional one night turns into two, three or more " it's time to nip it in the bud before sleeplessness becomes a chronic condition requiring medical intervention. Lack of good quality sleep plays havoc with our lives, not to mention the well-being of our families and communities. Here's some eye-opening information that hopefully, will prompt you to make any needed adjustments to ensure you're getting enough sleep to maintain a healthy, long life.

Myth #1: You can make up sleep.

Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don't get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. The result: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road.

Myth #2: Fatigue is the only downside of sleep.

Fatigue can result from an underlying medical condition, or just poor sleep habits. Excessive sleepiness is not just a matter of feeling lousy it can also affect mood, relationships, work, and quality of life. According to the results of NSF's 2008 Sleep in America poll: 36 percent of Americans drive drowsy or fall asleep while driving 29 percent of Americans fall asleep or become very sleepy at work 20 percent have lost interest in sex because they are too sleepy 14 percent report having to miss family events, work functions, and leisure activities in the past month due to sleepiness Excessive daytime fatigue is associated with a number of sleep disorders, including Restless Legs Syndrome, sleep disordered breathing (including sleep apnea and snoring), narcolepsy, depression and more. See your health practitioner if you have tried the tips below and they don't seem to be working.

Myth #3: Health problems are unrelated to your amount and quality of sleep.

Research has found links between the quantity and quality of sleep and numerous health problems. One example: insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity. As the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Another health risk: Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Studies have shown that a sleep deficit impairs the body's ability to use insulin, which can lead to diabetes.

Myth #4: If you don't feel tired, you don't need to sleep.

You may not feel like going to bed, but that doesn't mean your body doesn't need sleep and rest. If you consume a lot of caffeinated beverages or are experiencing stress at work, you may not feel tired now. Eventually, your body will send you the message that it needs rest. The problem is, the message may come in the form of illness, depression, behavior that jeopardizes the safety of others, or a sleep disorder.

Myth #5: The older you get, the less sleep you need.

Sleep experts recommend a range of seven to nine hours of sleep for the average adult. The patterns of sleep may change as we age, but the amount of sleep we need generally does not. Older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less nighttime sleep, but their sleep need is no less than younger adults. Many older people make up for this by sleeping more during the day.

How to facilitate healthy sleep

There are some simple things you can do to establish what the experts call "good sleep hygiene." The National Sleep Foundation recommends these fundamentals for sleeping smart:

  1. Establish a regular bed and wake time.
  2. Avoid nicotine altogether, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  3. Exercise regularly, but complete the workout at least three hours before bedtime.
  4. Establish a consistent, relaxing "wind-down" bedtime routine.
  5. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable. Discuss the appropriate way to take any sleep aid with your health-care professional.

Once you've established the basics, any of the following nighttime rituals may help:

  • Soft, relaxing music or relaxation
  • CD Chamomile tea
  • Non-stimulating reading material
  • Aromatherapy eye pillow this works to block light as well as soothe tired eyes
  • Warm aromatherapy bath with lavender, lemon balm, chamomile or other relaxing fragrances

National Sleep Foundation
WebMD: Sleep Disorders

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