Have you ever heard people boast that they only need five hours or less of sleep each night? Perhaps these overachievers want to seem superior to mere mortals who are just hitting their sweet spot at five hours. But they are inviting significant health risks. Studies have linked short sleep duration with higher risks of cardiovascular, metabolic and immunological health disorders.
It also tops the list of 20 sleep myths identified by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine. They reviewed more than 8,000 websites and listed the most common sleep myths based on the amount of evidence showing them to be false and their potential to cause harm.
Here are some other myths they busted:
Drinking alcohol before bed can help you sleep. Booze may help you fall asleep, but it also can disrupt your sleep cycle by delaying the onset of REM sleep. It also can make sleep apnea worse.
Here’s another: Lying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping. Your body’s systems aren’t fooled by this, and you miss out on the restorative REM sleep. One researcher likened lying in bed awake to standing on a treadmill that’s not moving.
Speaking of the gym, another myth is that exercise before going to bed will keep you awake. Exercise can be beneficial, but the evidence is inconclusive about just how much exercise is too much. Experts suggest doing some yoga or stretching rather than pumping iron or pounding out the miles on an exercise bike.
One thing the experts agree on is that your sleep habits should be a more prominent part of your conversation with your health care provider since it affects your overall health in so many ways.