Sleep Myths You Shouldn't Believe

The Catching up on Sleep Myth and Other Sleep Lies You've Been Told

There are still too many myths about sleep that much of the population believes. You've likely heard someone say that they were planning on "catching up on some sleep" or that sleep is just unproductive rest and they'll "sleep when they're dead." We humans generally sleep about one-third of the day (unless you're an infant or growing child), but we actually know very little about sleep inherently - other than that we need it. So here are ten myths about sleep that need to be busted. By understanding the truth behind these sleep myths, you can make the healthiest choices when it comes to getting your nightly shut-eye.

Sleep is Just Rest

Sleep is more than simply a period of rest; it is an essential time for your body to perform routine maintenance, create long-term memories, and repair damage from your day. Sleep brings many health benefits. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night assures that your body and mind will function well the next day. Make sleep a priority for your health and energy.

Losing an Hour of Sleep is No Big Deal

If you get less sleep than you need, your ability to do certain cognitive and physical tasks is immediately decreased. If that sleep loss builds over time, it can interfere with the hormones that monitor things like your appetite, your mood, and your risk of some chronic illnesses. Be sure to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night for good health and do your best to stick to your schedule.

You Adjust to Sleep Changes Easily

Your body gets on schedule based on your activity and exposure to daylight. When you travel across many time zones or work night shifts, you confuse your body's sense of time, making sleep difficult and inhibiting some necessary sleep functions. For every one- to two-hour time change, it takes your body 1 day to adjust. That means it could take your body 6 to 12 days to adjust to a trip from New York to China!

Older People Need Less Sleep

Older people need the same amount of sleep as everyone else, about 7 to 9 hours per night. There is a cultural belief that as you age, you need less sleep. Unfortunately, because of this myth, many older people do not seek help for their sleep problems. Often, older people sleep less than they need to because of illness and other chronic conditions. Many of the medications older people are prescribed may also interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor if you find that you're not getting the same sleep that you used to.

Extra Sleep Helps Fatigue

Some people assume that if they feel tired during the day, then they should sleep longer at night. This is not necessarily true. If a person is getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, then he or she should seek another approach for managing and treating their fatigue.

Some sleep disorders decrease sleep quality, even when the person is technically getting enough sleep. Many medical conditions can also cause fatigue. If you are sleeping long enough, but are still tired, try some exercise and daylight exposure during the day. If that doesn't help, see your doctor.

You Can "Catch Up" Over the Weekend

Many people sleep late on Saturday, hoping to compensate for sleep lost during the week. While sleeping late helps catch up on your sleep debt, it alters your sleep schedule. If you sleep late one or two days and then wake up early again on Monday, your body must adjust to these changes. During this adjustment, your quality of sleep is poor. It is much better to have a consistent daily sleep schedule that gives you 7 to 9 hours each night.

Naps are Wasteful

Naps can be a great way to catch up on lost sleep or hit refresh during the day. After taking naps, people function better and perform certain cognitive tasks quicker. Napping can also help you train yourself to fall asleep quicker. Napping longer than an hour or after 3 p.m., however, may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep at night. So schedule your cat naps accordingly.

Snoring is Normal

While snoring is common during sleep, frequent snoring can indicate serious sleep disorders like sleep apnea. If you are a frequent, loud snorer, see your doctor about being assessed for sleep apnea or other health problems. Treatments are available, and you (and your partner) will have more energy during the day.

Children With a Sleep Deficit Will be Tired

Children are different from adults. When children are overtired, their adrenaline kicks in and they can seem energetic, even hyper. Children with sleep deficits may have behavior and attention problems. So don't use daytime energy levels to assess your child's sleep needs; use the clock. Children need an incredible amount of sleep. Find out how much sleep your child needs and troubleshoot your family's schedule to make sure this happens.

Insomnia is Caused by Worry

While worry and stress can interfere temporarily with sleep, insomnia is often caused by other factors. Medications and medical conditions can keep a person from falling and staying asleep. These conditions include depression, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, and other conditions which worsen at night. If you consistently have trouble sleeping, consult your doctor.

Be sure to check out more on the health benefits of sleep.


National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. NIH Publication No. 06-5271.

Continue Reading