Your sleep patterns are one of the most important determinants of your overall health and wellness.  Sleep contributes to the storing of important information learned throughout your day, it stabilizes your metabolism and body weight, and it contributes to superior cardiovascular health.  In addition, adequate amounts of sleep and high sleep quality aids in fighting illnesses, cancer and disease.  There are many common myths surrounding sleep and some of these myths are quite misinterpreted-and many times, completely false. Read on to learn the most common sleep myths, the truths and adjust your sleeping habits in order to adopt a healthy bedtime routine.

Myth 1: “If you wake up in the middle of the night, you should stay in bed as long as it takes to fall back asleep.”

TRUTH:  If you are not successful in falling back asleep within 15-20 minutes of waking, it is best to get out of bed. Try going to another room in the house and do something relaxing- open a book or listen to calming music.  By staying in bed, you are inviting stress into your mind surrounding falling back asleep. Because of this, anxiousness tends to increase, making it nearly impossible to fall back asleep.

Myth 2: “Using my laptop or cell phone in bed helps me wind down and relax before falling asleep.”

TRUTH:  Using electronic devices in bed is not advisable as it is very stimulating to both your mind and body.  Actually, the artificial light that is emitted from various mobile devices may also alter the chemicals in your brain which aid in promoting healthy sleep patterns.  Exposure to electronics immediately before bed has been shown to dramatically lower the levels of the hormone melatonin in your body, which is responsible for regulating the body’s internal clock and playing a role in the sleep cycle.  Make it a rule to stow away your devices an hour before bed in order to achieve the highest quality of sleep possible.

Myth 3: “The older you get, the less sleep you need.”

TRUTH:  As you age, the amount of sleep you need stays the same as when you were in your more youthful years. The difference is that, commonly, with age, changes in your body occur which can cause sleep disturbances and lower quality sleep.  Because of this, elderly people must adjust to living on less sleep compared to when they were younger, but they do not necessary need less sleep.

Myth 4:  “An evening workout allows you to sleep better at night.”

TRUTH: Exercise can be a helpful technique for getting a good night’s sleep, but you should pay close attention to the time of day in which you choose to get an exercise session in.  Generally, it is best to work out in the morning or afternoon hours and avoid fitness activities too close to bed time. Sleep experts have warned people to avoid high impact exercise right before bed and suggest workouts take place more than 3 hours before bed. It takes your body quite awhile to “return to normal” following an intense, high impact fitness session.  The same rules don’t really apply to lower impact exercises, such as walking the dog or light to moderate stretching at the end of the day.  These activities actually can improve your overall wellness and sleep quality.

Myth 5:  “You should catch up on sleep on the weekends when you have some extra time.”

TRUTH: It can be very tempting to in sleep late on the weekends, but, the truth is, it is important to keep a fairly regular sleep schedule across every day of the week. A regular bed time and waking time will help you fall asleep at night and promote healthy long-term sleep patterns.  You’ll have a much easier time waking on a Monday morning if your sleep schedule was not thrown off during your weekend.

Myth 6: “It’s a rule that all people should be getting 8 hours of sleep.”

Truth:  Every person is different and each body functions in a different way.  Eight hours is a typical measure of what many individuals believe is the standard for the optimal amount of sleep.  While this is a good average number, it is simply not a requirement for all people.  As a general rule of thumb, the right amount of sleep is the amount where you can feel well-rested and you are not dozing off to sleep in the middle of your day.

Myth 7: “Taking a daytime nap has no effect on nighttime sleeping patterns.”

TRUTH:  Sleep experts suggest that people only need a set amount of sleep over each 24 hour period.  Because of this, it is advised that if you take a one hour nap, you should sleep one hour less than usual that night.  Any amount of sleep over that total provides no additional health benefits and could throw off your internal clock.

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