In today’s society, sleep is considered merely “down time” when a person’s brain shuts off and their body rests, but this is not the case. While you sleep, your brain is hard at work forming new pathways necessary for learning and creating memories. Take into consideration a person’s daily priorities, it will usually include the following: work, spending time with family, household responsibilities or school; unfortunately sleep has taken a less-important role in many people’s non-stop lifestyles. A common misconception is that losing an hour or two of sleep won’t be a problem because all other aspects of your life are more important. Contrary to popular belief, research reveals that a number of vital tasks are carried out during sleep that help maintain good health and enable optimal cognitive functioning. Furthermore, a recent survey showed the average adult now sleeps <7 hours a night, and >33% of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work and social functioning.
As mentioned earlier, a number of tasks vital to health and quality of life are linked to sleep, and these tasks are impaired when you are sleep-deprived. Here are some common myths that should be exposed to ensure proper sleeping habits.
1. You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends
Getting additional sleep on the weekends will help relieve the acute symptoms associated with sleep-deprivation, but it is a short-term solution to a problem with long-term implications. Impaired performance will still be apparent during the week due to the chronic symptoms of sleep deprivation. In addition, the extra time spent sleeping on the weekends will affect a person’s biological clock, making it harder to fall asleep at the right time on Sunday night; in turn perpetuating the cycle.
2. People need less sleep as they get older
Older people do not need less sleep, however they often get less sleep as well as a lower quality sleep. Older adults are normally light sleepers, and often times do not reach a deep sleep cycle allowing for proper rest throughout the night. Older individuals are also more likely to suffer from insomnia or other medical conditions that can disrupt sleep cycles.
3. Naps are a waste of time
Naps fail to substitute for a good night’s rest, but they do help the restorative process and counter some of the impaired performance resulting from sleep deprivation. However, individuals should avoid taking naps later than 3 p.m. as it can interfere with the ability to fall asleep at night. In addition, naps that are longer than 1 hour appear to have negative side-effects and may impair mental function for a period of time after waking.