Sleep Facts and Falacies
When it comes to sleep there is no shortage of ‘experts’ who are willing to share their views and theories. Unfortunately, while many of them can be taken with a pinch of salt, some are potentially dangerous. So to set the record straight we’ve compiled a short list of the most common myths going the rounds.
- “You can catch up on your sleep over the weekend.”
As adults, the amount of sleep we ideally need for our health and daily performance is between 7 to 9 hours every night. When we don’t get enough sleep we accumulate what’s called a sleep deficit that, over time, can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, and depression. The idea that you can sleep in on the weekend to ‘catch up’ is not entirely true. In fact, recent research indicates that while the sleep deficit can be reduced to some extent by a long sleep-in, too much sleep is actually bad for you.
“Quality of sleep and health issues aren’t really related.”
Research has proved beyond doubt that there is a very strong link between the quality and quantity of sleep and health problems such as obesity, depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. Insufficient sleep can lead to a decrease in growth hormone secretion which in turn increases weight gain. Interrupted sleep can lead directly to higher blood pressure and can lead to heart problems. And the list goes on.
“Teenagers are lazy and sleep too long.”
Sleep experts tell us that teenagers need to get at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, which is at least an hour longer than required by adults. Findings also indicate that the internal biological clocks of teenagers keep them awake later in the evening and keep them sleeping later in the morning. Unfortunately our school system doesn’t take this biological requirement into account, with classes beginning early in the morning. No wonder teens often fall asleep at their desks.
“Sleepiness during the day means you aren’t getting enough sleep.”
Daytime sleepiness, in which a person feels very drowsy during the day even after getting enough night-time sleep, can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as narcolepsy or sleep apnoea. If these symptoms persist it should be discussed with a doctor.
“The older you get the less sleep you need.”
The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep no matter what their age. As we grow older, however, our sleep patterns tend to change and we may wake more frequently through the night. The interrupted night-time sleep means older people tend to sleep more during the day. By planning naps as part of a regular daytime routine, older people can ensure they are more wide awake when they need to be.