If there’s one thing we should appreciate, it’s sleep — and myths proliferated on the internet aren’t doing anyone any favors.
As you might have figured out by now, not everything that’s on the internet is true — shocking, I know. In a new study, researchers analyzed 8,000 websites containing information about sleep, and then analyzed that information, ranking it from scientifically accurate to complete myth. They also assessed how dangerous the myths were, as having an unhealthy sleep scheduled can be hazardous to your health.
“Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being,” says study lead investigator, Rebecca Robbins, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. “Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health.”
Scientists found that one of the most common myths was that people can get by just fine with only five hours of sleep. This greatly risks human health, as long-term sleep deficit is no joke. Robbins and colleagues suggest sleeping at least seven hours a night and compensating with naps whenever you have trouble sleeping at night.
Another common myth relates to snoring. While snoring can be harmless, it can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. Some forms of sleep apnea have been found to increase the risk of driving accidents and work-related accidents, and others have also been related to serious health problems, such as diabetes.
Researchers urge people to not ignore loud snoring and see a doctor if snoring continues over longer periods of time.
The study authors also note that despite what many websites claim, alcohol has been consistently found to be disruptive to sleep.
While many things about sleep are not exactly settled, it’s important to follow the science that actually is.
“Sleep is important to health, and there needs to be greater effort to inform the public regarding this important public health issue,” says study senior investigator Girardin Jean Louis, PhD, a professor in the departments of Population Health and Psychiatry at NYU Langone. “For example, by discussing sleep habits with their patients, doctors can help prevent sleep myths from increasing risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”
Here are a few good (science-based) places to start reading about sleep:
- How to get to sleep;
- Why the lack of sleep is bad for your health;
- Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep;
- Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.