Sleep Myths

How much do you know about sleep disorders? Review these statements and learn which are true and which are not.

Health problems have no relation to the amount and quality of a person's sleep.

False: More and more scientific studies are showing correlations between poor quality sleep and/or insufficient sleep with a variety of diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. For example, insufficient sleep can impair the body's ability to use insulin, which can lead to the development of more severe diabetes. Patients with poorly controlled diabetes and sleep apnea have improvement of blood sugar control when treated for sleep apnea. This is also found in patients with high blood pressure and sleep apnea. When the sleep apnea is treated, the blood pressure also improves. In addition, too little sleep may decrease growth hormone secretion, which has been linked to obesity.

Older people need less sleep.

False: The average adult needs a total sleep time of seven to nine hours per day. While sleep patterns usually change as we age, the amount of sleep we generally need does not. Older people may sleep less at night due, in part, to frequent night waking, but their need for sleep is no less than that of younger adults.

Snoring can be harmful.

True: Aside from bothering other people, snoring is not harmful. However, it can be a sign of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that is associated with significant medical problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Sleep apnea is characterized by episodes of reduced or no airflow throughout the night. People with sleep apnea may remember waking up frequently during the night gasping for breath.

You can "cheat" on the amount of sleep you get.

False: Sleep experts say that most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health. Getting fewer hours of sleep will eventually need to be replenished with additional sleep in the next few nights. Our body does not seem to get used to less sleep than it needs.

Teens need more sleep than adults.

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True: Teens need at least 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep each night, compared to an average of seven to nine hours each night for most adults. The internal biological clocks of teenagers can keep them awake later in the evening and can interfere with waking up in the morning.

Insomnia is characterized only by difficulty falling asleep.

False: One or more of the following four symptoms are usually associated with insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
  • Frequent awakenings
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed

Daytime sleepiness means a person is not getting enough sleep.

False: While excessive daytime sleepiness often occurs if you don't get enough sleep, it can also occur even after a good night's sleep. Such sleepiness can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea.

Your brain rests during sleep.

False: The body rests during sleep, not the brain. The brain remains active, gets recharged, and still controls many body functions including breathing during sleep.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep you should get out of bed and do something.

True: If you wake up in the night and can't fall back to sleep within about 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Do not sit in bed and watch the clock. Experts recommend going into another room to read or listen to music. Return to bed only when you feel tired.

Getting too little sleep may impact weight.

True: How much a person sleeps at night can impact their weight. This is because the amount of sleep a person gets can affect certain hormones, specifically the hormones leptin and ghrelin, that affect appetite. Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of "checks and balances" system to control feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full. When you don't get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don't feel as satisfied after you eat, and increases ghrelin levels, stimulating your appetite so you want more food. The two combined can set the stage for overeating, which in turn may lead to weight gain.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 30, 2015

Sources

SOURCE: 

The National Sleep Foundation.

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