Study debunks the sleep myths that are wrecking your health

If you’ve ever gone to work on five hours of sleep, had a drink of whiskey as a nightcap, or refused to get out of bed when you can’t drift off, you’ve bought into some common sleep myths – and they could be wrecking your health.

A new study from researchers at the NYU School of Medicine takes a look at the most widely held myths about sleeping, suggesting that they may pose a significant risk to your health.

Researchers looked at more than 8,000 websites to find out the most common myths, then used a team of sleep experts to debunk the most damaging ones.

Lead investigator Rebecca Robbins said: ‘Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being. Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health.’

With that in mind, shall we get on to those myths?

You can get away with five hours of sleep

You’ve likely heard someone bragging about how they just don’t need much sleep, and are magical beings that can survive on just a few hours of snoozing a night.

Those people are wrong, says the study.

Robbins says this myth poses the most serious risk to health from long-term sleep deficits, and maintains that humans need a consistent sleep schedule of at least seven hours asleep a night.

‘We have extensive evidence to show sleeping five hours or less consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences,’ she said.

Those health risks include heart attacks, stroke, and a shorter life expectancy.

Snoring is harmless

Not always.

Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing to stop and start throughout the night.

If someone is experiencing loud snoring, it’s important to chat to their doctor about possible causes.

Drinking booze before bed will help you sleep

Sorry, that nightcap isn’t a good idea. Study authors found that drinking alcohol before bed is bad for your sleep, preventing you from achieving the deep sleep you need for proper functioning.

Yes, booze might help you drift off, but the quality of your sleep will be lessened. Skip the glass of wine and just head to bed.

Stay in bed if you’re struggling to sleep

If you’re tossing, turning, and struggling to switch off, just lying in bed won’t help.

If you can’t get to sleep after 15 minutes, get up and do something else. This will prevent your mind associating your bed with sleepless nights.

Six easy ways to improve your sleep:

  • Give yourself a bedtime – and stick to it even at the weekends
  • Use the hour before bed as quiet, relaxing time free of technology
  • Stop drinking caffeine from around 4pm
  • Avoid alcohol before bed
  • Keep your phone on silent and away from your bed
  • Get outside and exercise during the day

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