Sleep habits can be some of the most impactful habits on our health, mood and more. We’ve all heard some sort of sleep advice that promises a better night’s rest, but we’re here to set some common myths straight — helping you separate sleep facts from fiction and ease your anxieties around sleep issues.
Sleep facts or myths?
Myth: You can catch up on sleep at the weekend
When you’ve had a sleepless week, sleeping in at the weekend feels like an easy solution. But it can actually make things worse.
Your body functions best with a consistent sleep pattern so try going to bed and getting up at the same times every day (even at weekends). It’s one of the best ways to regulate our sleep-wake cycle and maximize sleep.
Fact: More sleep is not always better
While most concerns about sleep duration focus on not getting enough of it, there are also problems that can arise from sleeping too much.
People in specific cases, such as recovery from illness, may need extra sleep, but excessive sleep, in general, can be a symptom of an underlying health issue. The most common cause of oversleeping is not getting enough sleep the night before, or cumulatively during the week. But one night of longer sleep won’t harm your body. The problem lies when one night turns into a regular habit. Too much sleep on a regular basis can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and death according to several studies done over the years. Too much is defined as greater than nine hours.
Undecided: You shouldn’t let your dog or cat sleep in your bed
This one is neither a part of the sleep facts nor sleep myth category. It actually depends. Sleeping alongside your pet has numerous health benefits — for a select group of people.
In some cases, people with anxiety, depression or PTSD could benefit from sleeping with a pet in the bed. For people with these types of stressors, having a bed buddy may be helpful in fostering sleep. Children, too, may sleep just as well with a pet accompanying them, studies have shown.
But for individuals with allergies, this sleeping habit is more difficult and a lot more uncomfortable. Light sleepers may also find their sleep disturbed by too many micro-awakenings, which can be harmful to health. In those cases, pet owners may find they need to keep pets on the floor at night or keep them out of the bedroom entirely.
Read more about the 4 benefits of sleeping with your pet.
Myth: Exercising at night disturbs sleep
Working out before bedtime has been discouraged by many. However, recent studies have found that moderate-intensity exercise won’t impact your sleep if you complete it at least an hour before bedtime. In fact, working out at night helps many people sleep better.
On the other hand, strenuous physical activity just before bedtime may have a negative effect on your sleep s this may make it hard for your body to settle. This includes workouts like running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and lifting heavy weights.
Everyone is different, though. The best time to get active is the time that works for you.
Myth: If you can’t fall asleep, you should stay in bed and try harder
You’re tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. You know you need to get rest so you stay in bed, forcing your eyes closed but nothing is helping. It may seem counter-productive and unlike other sleep facts, but the best thing you can do at this point is to get out of bed.
Not being in bed can help your brain dissociate your place of rest with wakefulness, and you’ll get tired more easily. If you’re not asleep in 20 minutes, it’s important to get out of bed until you feel sleepy.
While you wait for sleepiness to kick in, try reading or listening to relaxing music.
Myth: Napping during the day makes up for a lack of sleep at night
A quick nap can provide a boost of energy, but it is not a substitute for quality sleep at night. This is largely due to naptime sleep not moving through the stages of sleep in the same way as during nightly sleep.
Trying to catch up on sleep with a nap often throws the sleep schedules further out-of-whack by making it harder to fall asleep at a normal bedtime. Long naps can also mean waking up disoriented and sluggish.
Though napping isn’t necessarily bad, relying on naps to try to manage regular sleep deprivation isn’t a method we encourage. When you do need a nap, it’s best to keep it shorter than thirty minutes and early in the afternoon. Get your afternoon napping guide.
As far as sleep facts and myths go, there are many easy fixes to get your sleep schedule on track and your body and mind well rested.