Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
All of us have experienced the miracle of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is as essential as food, air and water for our survival. Did you know that good night sleep can spur your creativity and helps the brain retain new memories? It also plays a vital role in the immune functions, metabolism and other important functions of the body. A good night sleep heals our body and mind and recharges it for the next day. The benefits of sleep are infinite, but we often take it for granted.
Haven’t we all experienced fatigue, inefficiency, inability to concentrate, mood swings, crankiness due to lack of sleep? Without proper sleep our body and mind cannot function normally. Long term sleep deprivation can pose serious risks to our health. To add to it, there are several old wive’s tales about sleep.
Do we not need to know the truth about sleep and its relation to our health! Here are the facts against some common sleep myths:
Myth 1 – We all need 8 hours of sleep
Fact – Every individual has an unique sleep requirement. Quality of sleep is as important as the duration of sleep for good health.
This is the most common sleep myth. The recommended average hours of sleep required by a healthy individual is around 7 to 9 hours. However, the fact remains that every person is unique and hence the sleep requirements also vary. Also, the need for sleep depends on age and health status of a person; for example, kids and teens need more hours of sleep than an adult. Similarly pregnant women, people experiencing fatigue or those recovering from injuries, surgeries, flu or other illnesses may need more sleep.
Myth 2 – We can make up for our sleep on weekends
Fact – Less sleep on weekdays can lead to chronic sleep debt.
What if I am sleeping very late? I am very busy, it should be alright, if I sleep on weekends. Well, it is not okay to compromise sleep as our body needs the proper rest on a daily basis.
People who work for long hours on weekdays may end up causing huge sleep deficit which may not be recovered by sleeping over the weekend. Sleep is a part of our daily healing and recovery. While weekend sleep can offer some relief such sleep patterns can affect the normal sleep rhythm and result in chronic sleep disorder. Long term or chronic sleep loss has been linked with an increased risk of health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, stroke and depression.
Myth 3 – Sleeping less will reduce my weight
Fact – On the contrary sleeping less can increase the risk of gaining weight.
Adequate sleep rejuvenates our body and maintains normal hormonal levels. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalance which can result in various health problems. As some of the important hormones also control our appetite, sleeping less can actually increase our appetite and we may end up consuming more calories. This not only puts us at greater risk of weight gain but also increases our risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes and thyroid.
Myth 4 – Exercising before bed helps us sleep better
Fact – Exercises can revitalise your energy levels and interfere with your sleep.
It is believed that if we exercise or play a lot in the evening, it will help us sleep better. However, it is seen that rigorous exercise in late evening can actually fuel you and keep you active for long. This energy boost can also hinder with your sleep and keep you awake till late. It is best to exercise during daytime, while avoiding late evening workouts as it affects your sleep.
Myth 5 – People who doze during daytime are lazy
Fact – People dozing during daytime may need more sleep or are not getting the required sleep.
As sleep requirements vary from person to person, people who doze during the day, may be falling short of sleep at night and experiencing fatigue. It is not necessarily a sign of laziness but could indicate an underlying health problem. Diabetes, thyroid or other hormonal problems, rheumatoid problems, arthritis, etc. can cause fatigue resulting in daytime sleepiness. Lack of sleep also leads to a grumpy, irritable and impatient you.
Myth 6 – Snoring is common and harmless, will go after sometime
Fact – Snoring can be a sign of a health problem and should not be ignored.
Chronic and loud snoring may be due to respiratory problems like stuffy nose or inflamed adenoids, increased weight or due to sleep apnoea. These can greatly affect our health. Particularly sleep apnoea causes reduced oxygen supply thus increasing our risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. People suffering from sleep apnoea wake up frequently during the night gasping for breath. Consult a physician to get treated for sleep apnoea in time.
Myth 7 – Older people sleep less
Fact – Older people need adequate sleep similar to what they needed when they were young.
Getting old does not mean needing less sleep. However, it is possible that due to health problems, changes in circadian rhythm, or environmental factors there may be change in sleep patterns. Also, aging people with diabetes or prostate problems may have to get up at night due to excessive urination. This causes sleep disturbances and difficulty in sleeping again but this does not mean that they need less sleep.
Myth 8 – Lying down in bed will help me fall asleep
Fact – Lying down in bed will not make you fall asleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, it is mostly due to over activity or excess stimulation. People having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night may actually benefit by changing the position or taking a break from attempting to sleep. Staying in bed and trying hard to sleep will not help but relaxation techniques like deep breathing, listening to soft music or calming your mind may help. Some people may experience sleeplessness due to pain or restless leg syndrome. It is important to diagnose and treat any underlying medical conditions like arthritis or nerve problems that can also cause sleep problems.
Myth 10 – Sleeping less means more success
Fact – Sleeping less can increase the risk of weight gain, heart diseases, hormone problems and even depression. With adequate sleep our brain can perform better increasing our productivity and efficiency, thus paving the way for our success.
Trading sleep for more work is not at all wise, as sleep deprivation can affect the physical and mental well being of a person. Sleep problems can be related to various health conditions as well, it is necessary to know the risks and monitor the progress, if under treatment. Follow medical advice and undergo appropriate medical tests to detect and monitor medical problems.
Thus, sleep is of utmost importance for a healthy life. Having adequate sleep is essential for all; let’s keep all sleep myths at bay and maintain a good sleep hygiene. Do not compromise on your sleep because healthy sleeping is healthy living.
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