Submitted by J. Todd Gray, DDS, D. ASBA, Koala Center for Sleep Disorders
Sleep is one of our three pillars of health, along with diet and exercise. However, there are many misconceptions about sleep. Following are six of the most common.
Myth 1: Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation.
No evidence shows that any major organ (including the brain) or regulatory system in the body shuts down during sleep. Some physiological processes actually become more active while you sleep. For example, secretion of certain hormones is boosted, and activity of the pathways in the brain linked to learning and memory increases.
Myth 2: Getting just one hour less sleep per night than needed will not have any effect on your daytime functioning.
This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day. But even slightly less sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can impair your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body’s ability to fight infections, particularly if lack of sleep continues. If you consistently do not get enough sleep, a sleep debt builds up that you can never repay. This sleep debt affects your health and quality of life and makes you feel tired during the day.
Myth 3: People need less sleep as they get older.
Older people don’t need less sleep, but they may get less sleep or find their sleep less refreshing. That’s because as people age, the quality of their sleep changes. Older people are also more likely to have insomnia or other medical conditions that disrupt their sleep.
Myth 4: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends.
Although this sleeping pattern will help you feel more rested, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep or correct your sleep debt. This pattern also will not necessarily make up for impaired performance during the week or the physical problems that can result from not sleeping enough. Furthermore, sleeping later on the weekends can affect your biological clock, making it much harder to go to sleep at the right time on Sunday nights and get up early on Monday mornings.
Myth 5: Naps are a waste of time.
Although naps are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, they can be restorative and help counter some of the effects of not getting enough sleep at night. Naps can actually help you learn how to do certain tasks quicker. But avoid taking naps later than 3pm, particularly if you have trouble falling asleep at night. Also, limit your naps to no longer than 20 minutes, because longer naps will make it harder to wake up and get back in the swing of things. If you take more than one or two planned or unplanned naps during the day, you may have a sleep disorder that should be treated.
Myth 6: Snoring is a normal part of sleep.
Snoring during sleep is quite common and is not necessarily a cause for concern. However, loud, frequent snoring is very often a symptom of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that should be evaluated and treated. If you find that your snoring is consistently waking you or your partner up and you feel tired during the day—even if you have gotten enough sleep—it is imperative to determine if sleep apnea is present. The health implications of Obstructive Sleep Apnea by the majority of pulmonary and medical professionals research papers reviewed is staggering.
For more information, contact Dr. Todd Gray at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders, 309-319-6568 or online at bloomingtonsleep.com. The office is located at 2309 E. Empire St., Suite 500 in Bloomington. Dr. Gray is devoted to the management of sleep-related breathing disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea, with oral appliance therapy as well as conservative treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, headaches, facial pain, and teeth-grinding.