False alarm

Wake up to the truth about sleep to ensure sweet slumber and refreshing mornings

man with an alarm clock

Sleep is supposed to revive our energies and act like a battery charger for our body. While this is an accepted fact, many of us believe in fallacies or myths regarding sleep, which lead us to neglect sleep problems. As a result, we deprive ourselves of good quality sleep that can greatly improve all aspects of our lives. Here are some of the popular beliefs that are actually myths:

If you snore, it means you are sleeping well

It stumps me to know how many people still take snoring as a sign of restful deep. They are mistaken. Snoring is a disorder. It obstructs the normal breathing pattern and makes breathing difficult. In extreme cases, it can turn fatal. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnoea, a disorder associated with obesity, heart problems and diabetes. In this condition, the airflow is reduced for long periods. As a result, it leaves the person feeling tired on waking up. In case of excess snoring, it’s important to consult a sleep expert.

Insomnia is nothing more than difficulty falling asleep

Insomnia is not just a physiological condition but also a psychological state. In addition to not being able to fall asleep easily, insomnia also refers to waking up frequently during sleep, or waking up tired and as if you didn’t sleep at all. These states have profound ramifications on our body and may trigger disorders like obesity, high blood pressure and depression among others.

Our brain rests while we asleep

It is not the brain, but the body that rests while we sleep. Sleep is when the brain is busy recharging the body and mind, making sure that we are ready for activity during our waking hours. So, sleep time is downtime for the body, but work time for the brain.

You can always catch up with lost sleep over the weekend

We often tend to overwork during normal days and catch up with sleep during weekends. This is a big mistake as it completely disrupts our sleeping patterns and biological clock. The body dislikes this practice and doesn’t react positively to it. It prefers a consistent cycle that can be sustained over erratic sleep patterns so that there’s a rhythm that sets in, leading to a more refreshing experience after sleep.

Eight hours sleep is just enough

The exact number of hours one must sleep to feel refreshed varies from individual to individual. It depends on one’s lifestyle, kind of work and social environment. Young children and teenagers require long hours of sleep. As we grow up, our sleep requirement diminishes. Some people get just four hours of sleep and still lead a healthy life. It is important for us to understand our body’s rhythm and adapt a sleep pattern that suits it. So, rather than following some ‘norm’, ask yourself when you wake up, “am I tired or fresh?” The amount of sleep that refreshes you is the sleep that you should get.

Alcohol helps you sleep better

This is a popular myth among those who drink. While alcohol may induce some kind of relaxation leading to sleep, it ends up disrupting our natural sleep rhythms. The quality of sleep suffers. Therefore, consuming alcohol to fall sleep is not recommended.

Lazy people sleep during the day

Feeling sleepy during the day could mean that one is deprived of the natural requirement of adequate sleep in order to refresh one’s body.

In some extreme cases of a rare medical condition of narcolepsy, one could get a sudden attack of deep sleep, sometimes even coupled with hallucinations.

Sleep disorders can affect anyone

It’s not true. Women are more prone to sleep disorders like insomnia than men. Various factors like menstrual cycle, mood swings, stress levels and other social issues may have a large impact over their sleep patterns.

If you exercise before going to bed, you’ll get better sleep

Exercise increases the temperature of our body and that does not help us sleep better. One should keep a gap of a few hours between exercise and bedtime. However, if you exercise in the morning on a regular basis, it certainly improves the quality of sleep.

This was first published in the November 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Dr Ashok Sirsat is a consultant neurologist at Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai.


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