5 Insomnia Myths That Could Cost You Precious Sleep

Not much can disrupt a person’s day like a bad night’s sleep. According to the CDC, over 35% of adults fall short of the recommended 7 hours of sleep they should be getting each night, and the repercussions could be huge. So why are so many people failing to get enough sleep? A handful of common insomnia myths could be at least partially to blame.

Myth: Alcohol Makes a Helpful Sleep Aid

Many of us have been there, so desperate for a good night’s sleep that booze feels like the only option left. Two or three alcoholic drinks usually can knock a person right out, that's true, but studies have shown regular alcohol use can actually contribute to chronic insomnia. 

Alcohol affects the length of every sleep stage, especially the REM cycle, as well as overall sleep time. Some people find they fall asleep well when using alcohol, but their sleep is fragmented, particularly in the later hours of the night. Or they drift off and then wake a few hours later feeling dehydrated and miserable and unable to get back to sleep. Even a nightcap is likely to disturb sleep but nightly drinking is the real problem as it sets a person up for a cycle that may be difficult to break free from.

Myth: Sleeping In on Weekends Is a Good Way to Catch Up

About 18.2% of adults attempt to make up for lost sleep by getting some extra on the weekends. While the body might sometimes need the extra sleep, this approach often backfires, even worsening the problem. Sleeping in can affect a person’s circadian rhythm, which the body relies on for a healthy sleep schedule, and it makes the alarm clock that much harder to face on Monday morning. Keeping a regular sleep schedule that's consistent throughout the week is actually much better than trying to catch up on any lost sleep.

Myth: Most Adults Only Need 5 Hours of Sleep

We do vary in the amounts of sleep we need, and ging may decline the need slightly, but the average person needs about 7.5 hours of sleep every night. Regularly getting fewer than 7 hours every 24 hours increases a person’s chances of developing coronary heart disease, asthma, COPD, arthritis, chronic kidney disease and diabetes. People suffering from sleep deprivation also have increased risks of depression, heart attacks and cancer so even if you may be functioning alright on 5 hours, it may be time to figure out how to get at least 7, no matter how old you are.

Myth: You Just Need to Relax

Don't you love super simple solutions that make you feel like you just can't get the basics right? In today’s stressful world, racing thoughts can definitely affect a person’s ability to fall asleep, but a worried mind isn’t always the culprit no matter how much we want to tell people to just relax their way into sleep. In some cases, a deficiency or health issue is at the root of the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Vitamin D deficiency is a common cause. Low levels of serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin, can also sometimes be the issue, which may be why many people with depression also have insomnia issues. Consider getting a full physical workup before assuming sleep issues are solely related to stress—and check out those vitamin levels.

Myth: Screen Time Before Bed Can Help You Unwind

For many of us, a little mindless scrolling or an episode or two of the latest streaming show seem like they could be great ways to settle in for the night. But as it turns out, it could be causing more harm than good. 

Research has shown exposure to lit screens and devices within 1.5 hours of bedtime adds to difficulties rising the following morning. Users also report poorer sleep quality and greater fatigue. Reduce the potential effects by switching off all devices long before bedtime. Wearing glasses with amber lenses while looking at devices at night may also help.

Insomnia is a health crisis and deserves to be treated as such rather than the lighthearted "I'm tired" we often write off. The fact is that insomnia can wreck a person's health and that getting it under control is both challenging and liberating with incredible impacts. As a culture, we too often take this lightly when we should be working to help people tackle the problem with support and resources. Getting the facts and practicing proper and consistent sleep hygiene is a good start, although some people may need additional help to get back on track. But no matter what, let's not fall for the myths that make everything harder. Insomnia sufferers should talk to a doctor about pinpointing causes and finding personalized solutions.

Copyright 2020, Wellness.com

1/25/2021 8:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
Wellness Exists to Empower Health Conscious Consumers. Wellness.com helps people live healthier, happier and more successful lives by connecting them with the best health, wellness and lifestyle information and resources on the web.
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