Common Sleep Myths
This blog post was created by our Sleep Coach Jessica Rojas.
Let’s look at three main sleep myths to see if they are true or false.
8 Hours of Sleep
The first myth I hear all the time is: you need eight hours of sleep! Is this true or false? This is false.
Sleep requirements for each person are individual and depend on several factors, such as: genes, age, sleep routine, overall health, the internal body clock, length of sleep cycles, etc. But in general, studies show that 90% of adults need seven to eight hours of sleep at night, 5% less than seven hours and 5% more than nine hours.
So, 7 to 8 hours is a really good starting point to figure out how many hours of sleep you actually need. But keep in mind that the number of hours is not the only thing that matters. Equally or even more important is your sleep quality and your sleep efficiency. Sleep efficiency shows the relationship between the amount of time you sleep and the amount of time you have been in bed. So, if you were lying in bed for 10 hours, but only slept seven hours, your sleep efficiency is around 70%.
A good sleeper has an efficiency of 97 to 98%. You don't need to reach 100%, (it might even be impossible) but 95 or 97% is really good. Therefore, sleep efficiency becomes the most important indicator of one’s sleep quality.
Deciding how much sleep you personally need means taking many things into consideration: your overall health, your daily activities, your sleep patterns, etc.
Here are some questions that might help you to assess your individual sleep needs:
- Are you productive, healthy, and happy on seven hours of sleep?
- Have you noticed that you require more hours of sleep to get into high gear?
- Do you have a coexisting health issue? Are you at higher risk for any disease?
- Do you have a high level of daily energy consumption? For example, do you frequently play sports or work out?
- Do your daily activities require alertness to do them safely? Do you drive every day or operate heavy machinery?
- Do you have a hard time staying awake and alert throughout the day?
- Do you have a history of sleep problems?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get through the day?
- Do you sleep more on days with an open schedule than on a typical workday?
Sleep Helps You Lose Weight
The second myth is sleep helps you lose weight. This is true, sleep helps burn fat. Now, it does not mean that you can compensate for binge eating every night with good sleep, but sleep can support you efficiently if you want to lose weight.
During the night, your body draws on fat reserves to gain the necessary energy for the important metabolic processes that occur during this time. On the other hand, various studies show that too little sleep causes obesity because sleep can affect your appetite. While we often think of appetite as simply a matter of feeling hungry, it's actually controlled by neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers allowing neurons (nerve cells) to communicate with each other. There are two main neurotransmitters that are controlling your hunger signals. One is called ghrelin, and the other is called leptin.
Ghrelin promotes hunger and leptin sends you the signal that makes you feel full. Your body naturally increases and decreases the levels of these neurotransmitters throughout the day, signaling the need to consume calories or to stop eating. A lack of sleep negatively affects your body's regulation of these neurotransmitters. Studies show that if you only get four hours of sleep your ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. This leads to increased appetite and a diminished feeling of fullness in people who are sleep deprived. In addition, if you are sleep deprived, you tend to choose foods that are very high in calories and carbohydrates. So, sleep can help you burn more fat, having an easier time controlling your appetite and avoiding craving unhealthy foods on top of that.
If you are well-rested and full of energy, you are more likely to have an active lifestyle and even work out, which will obviously help you lose more weight.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime, improves your sleep and helps you fall asleep quicker and easier
The third sleep myth I hear often is that drinking alcohol before bed actually improves your sleep and helps you to fall asleep quicker and easier. Is this true? Yes and no. It's a myth that alcohol helps you sleep better, but it does make it easier to fall asleep because a drink or two can be very relaxing and this makes it easier for you to fall asleep initially. But here's a buzzkill for those who enjoy a glass of wine or a nightcap before bed: it’s bad for your sleep and therefore bad for your health.
The quality of your sleep declines quite a lot after drinking alcohol. Alcohol will give you the sensation of drowsiness, but it will keep you in a superficial state of sleep interrupting your sleeping cycles. It can also worsen snoring and sleep apnea, which is not healthy and good for your sleep. The next morning, depending on how much you drank the night before, you will not feel as optimized for the day as normal and, you'll get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom more often because alcohol blocks reabsorption of liquid in your body, which both dehydrates you and fills your bladder more quickly. It's best to stop drinking at least 2 hours before bed, so you can go to the bathroom before bed. It is better to have an early after-work drink, instead of a nightcap and to drink enough water, to avoid dehydration. Even better, don't drink alcohol at all, but create a soothing good night routine to help you relax and go to sleep easier.
I hope all of this helps you to sleep easier and better and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by visiting the Sleep Like A Boss Team Page.