7 False Beliefs About Sleep and Health

Most people take for granted a bunch of facts concerning sleep and health. Unfortunately, some of of these prove to be false. You’ll be amazed at how uneducated we are about these topics!

Here’s a list of of the 7 sleep and health-related misconceptions that surprised me the most.

1. Waking up tired means you didn’t get enough sleep.

Although it’s possible that you didn’t sleep enough, what mainly dictates how refreshed you feel upon waking is where in your sleep cycle you wake up, not how long you slept. For example, even if you slept for more than 12 hours, you’ll clearly feel tired if you wake up in a “deep sleep” phase. The opposite is also true, after a few hours of sleep you’ll wake up refreshed if you do so in a “light sleep” phase. Most people have sleep cycles of about an hour and a half (90 minutes). Therefore, it is recommended to sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. Who would’ve thought that sleeping 6 hours (4 cycles of 90 minutes) was more optimal than 7 hours? However, since sleep cycles length may vary from person to person, you should experiment with various sleep durations and see what works best for you!

2. The more sleep you get, the healthier you’ll be.

Although most people take for granted that sleeping too little is bad for them, they often are ignorant of the fact that getting too much sleep can also be detrimental for their health. It’s surprising that even though it is commonly known that excesses such as over-eating and over-exercising are bad for you, it is often believed that getting “a good 12 hours” of sleep is beneficial. Actually, besides greatly reducing the time you spend awake, sleeping 12 hours has also been shown to increase your risk of diabetes, heart diseases and even death! Moreover, oversleeping has been shown to correlate with obesity, depression and low levels of energy. Science considers you to be an “over-sleeper” when you are getting more than 8 hours of sleep, on average. If that corresponds to you, it is suggested to restrict your sleeping hours, to commit to a fixed sleeping schedule and to improve your sleep quality.

3. Everybody needs the same amount of sleep.

First of all, with sleep, like most other things in life, quality is much more important than quantity. While people often assume that upon getting eight hours of sleep a night they’ll feel good, there are many more factors that should be taken into consideration. Variables like physical activity, diet, metabolism have a tremendous impact on your sleeping needs. Obviously, a monk whose routine consists of meditation, tea-drinking and minimal consumption of food will have much lower sleeping requirements than a bodybuilder who train 6 hours a day and eats over 10 000 calories. Additionally, the quality of your sleeping environment (pillows, bed, darkness of the room, etc.) also have a great impact on your sleeping needs. Lastly, committing to a fixed sleeping schedule also significantly improves sleep quality.

4. We use only 10% of our brain.

The source of this myth is unknown but one thing’s for sure, it is absolutely false. Actually, we use every part of our brain most of the time. A great deal of evidence indeed refutes this myth. Brain imaging technologies clearly show that all parts of our brain show some level of activity at all times (even during sleep). Also, no area of the brain can be harmed without resulting in a certain loss of ability. If only 10% of our brain was useful, losing some of it likely wouldn’t be such a concern! Why has this myth been so exhaustively believed and taught? Perhaps we just enjoy thinking we are much more intelligent than we are. New age gurus and pseudoscience definitely don’t help either.

5. Most of our body heat is lost from the head.

This is one myth that has been taught over and over again by parents anxious to see their kids get cold from not wearing a hat! Even US army survival manuals from the 70’s state that humans lose “40 to 45% of body heat” from the head. You might be surprised to learn that this, too, is false! We actually lose as much heat from our head than from any other parts of our body We lose about 10% of our total body heat from the head and indeed, our head represents 10% of our body surface.

6. Exposure to cold and wet weather increases your odds of getting sick.

Another one that you might have been told by your parents! This one myth has also been debunked over and over again by scientists. Double-blind studies clearly show that exposure to cold temperatures have no impact on the rate of infection by sicknesses such as the common cold virus. You may then wonder how come you get sick much more often in winter? Scientists believe that this is simply due to our increased indoor proximity of people as well as our lower Vitamin D, which is causes by lessened sunlight exposure.

7. Sugar causes hyperactivity in children.

Who has never heard this one!? Several studies have studied this myth and all of them have concluded that the intake of sugar has no effect on kids’ hyperactivity. Funnily, when parents were told that their kid had eaten sugary foods (even though they had not), they reported their child as hyperactive!

Hope you enjoyed acknowledging these as much as I did!