Busting The Top 10 Sleep Myths Wide Open

Sleep is the consummate target for myth creation. Whether it be curing insomnia with the latest snake oil - myth, or telling your child to stay awake so he'll be sleepy on your next road trip - myth. The themes and logical assumptions range from comical to tragic, and as we all know, there are so many out there circulating around the water coolers and clubs of this world. Below you can read about the most popular myths about a good night's sleep, and why they are absolute rubbish.

Myth 1: Sleep merely means to rest

Sleep is much more than just a period of rest; it is an essential time for the body to perform routine maintenance, creating long-term memories, and repairing damage from your day. Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day ensures your body and mind will function well the next day.

Myth 2: Sleep Is A Passive Event

Sleeping is not at all passive. The brain can be more active during dream sleep than it is in an awake state. Although the metabolic activity during dream sleep is high, it is essential in rejuvenation, memory rebuilding, and feeling refreshed.

Myth 3: The more I dream, the more tired I am.

It is well accepted that dream sleep is important to rejuvenation, and to feeling refreshed. All dreams, even nightmares, are good for people.

Myth 4: Losing an hour of sleep is no big deal.

When you get less sleep than you need, your ability to do certain cognitive and physical activities is greatly reduced. As sleep loss builds over time you develop a sleep debt. Having a sleep debt can interfere with hormones that monitor your appetite, change your moods and increase the risk of long term illness.

Myth 5: You can learn to get less sleep.

There is absolutely no way to “train” yourself to get less sleep. Research has shown that restricting a person to only 5 hours of sleep per night for a period of weeks can severely effect performance, impair judgment and cause mood swings. There have been studies done in the late 1980's that have linked chronic sleep debt with depressive disorders.

Myth 6: Naps are wasteful.

Naps are a great way to catch up on lost sleep. After taking naps people can accomplish cognitive tasks much quicker and feel refreshed. Naps are also an excellent way to train someone to fall asleep quicker, which is very beneficial to anyone with insomnia. It is worth noting that napping for longer than an hour or after 3pm can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Myth 7: There is such a thing as sleep “Catch up”.

Simply put, when you don't get the proper 7 to 9 hours of sleep, you are accumulating a sleep debt. On weekends it would seem ideal to wake up later to catch up on lost slumber. However, it is much more efficient and healthier to develop a daily schedule that allows you a consistent 7 to 9 hours per night.

Myth 8: Snoring is normal and indicates a state of deep sleep.

It's no surprise to know that snoring is very common, frequent snoring can be indicative of very serious sleep disorders. If someone has complained about consistent snoring, or noticed you are short of breath during sleep, you may have fallen victim to the disorder of sleep apnea. It would be very wise to head to a sleep specialist for a sleep evaluation. If you have sleep apnea there are many successful treatments that can help you sleep better and feel more refreshed during the day.

Myth 9: Children with less sleep will become more tired.

Children have very different metabolisms than adults. If you think that by making your child stay awake in order to tire him/her out for an upcoming trip, e.t.c... think again. Children without enough sleep have a tendency to produce an excess of adrenaline and can end up more energetic, even hyper-active from a lack of sleep. Sleep deficits in children have successfully been linked with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder). Furthermore, children with sleep apnea have been linked with poor school performance and lower sports and health activities. Put bluntly, children need an incredible amount of quality sleep.

Myth 10: Older people need less sleep.

Older people have a tendency to get less sleep than young and middle aged adults, but that does not mean they need less. The fact is that older individuals need the same amount of rest as the rest of us, only older people may not be able to achieve this easily due to lower melatonin levels circulating in the blood. This is why you may notice older people nap more throughout the day, as their bodies try to make up for the lack of sleep during the evening.

There you have it. My first Top 10 list. If you have any other myths that need dispelling, leave them in the comments, and I'll be sure to play myth buster and test the theories. As with sleeping itself, plenty of the most popular insomnia cures are also based on pure myth, just so you know. My mother used to say that well informed is well armed, and when it comes to curing a string of long, sleepless nights she was right on the money. The next time someone tells you that in order to fall asleep you should run naked in the woods or bathe in motor oil, check in to this site before you get arrested for streaking or catch fire. :)


  1. This helpful information.
    As one who has suffered from severe sleep apnea I can assure all that it depletes the energy and attention pool. I finally had to have surgery.

  2. Hi guys,

    Nothing depletes your daily energy worse than ongoing sleep apnea. We have had people come to the clinic who swear they have severe vitamin deficiencies, allergies, or complained of chronic fatigue, only to find out through a sleep analysis that apnea was the culprit.

    At any rate, I am hopeful the surgery went well for you, and that you're now much more energetic. Let me know your progress :)

  3. That is a new point to me that all dreams are "good" for you.
    I have noticed that when I have not been getting a enough sleep and I finally get a 8 hour night that I dream way more, or at-least remember more dreams.

  4. Hiya Topher, Yep all dreams are good for you. There is a common belief that nightmares can be harbingers of doom, or in some way linking your subconscious mind to a hidden illness. I can't dispute the metaphysical aspect of this - I am sure there are statistics that can show this as true.

    To have dreams - and nightmares - aside from the creepy theoretical factors, shows that the physiology of your sleep cycles is quite healthy.

    Put in plain English, you are having more vivid dreams once you do get a proper 8 hours because it is a healthy dose of quality slumber.

    What stumps me is the fact that there are people out there whom have never once remembered a dream in their life. Strangely, that is not unhealthy either, but it certainly must be a bummer to those people. I feel for them.

    Cheers!! Oh, come by again anytime, I update often. :)

  5. Hi. I'm Natalie from www.allsleepinfo.com. My blog is about sleep. I found your blog very helpful and interesting. very great ideas and notes. I will come to your blog more often.

  6. Thanks! I've been trying to 'train' my body to sleep for only 5 hours a day without much success. I was starting to wonder whether there was something was wrong with me.. Now I'll make sure I get the rest I deserve!

  7. No problem Monique, I'm glad to help.

    There are tons of people that try and survive on less sleep - especially now in the lagging economy. What's pathetic is that most companies encourage employees to work longer hours and risk sleep. If only they could look at the reports and studies I've seen floating over my desk. :)

    I guarantee if you get a solid 7 to 9 hours a night, your productivity will soar.

    Stop by again :)

  8. Health is one of our most precious companion through life. Your list about sleeping myths are really great. Normal sleeping is very important for our health.