In the last 20 years, sleep science has developed greatly, giving us a better understanding of how sleep works, why it’s important, and how it might be disrupted. Despite advances in science, it is still common to come across sleep misinformation shared online, on social media, or through word-of-mouth. Some of this incorrect information is repeated so frequently that it becomes accepted as fact.
Even though scientific evidence contradicts these sleep myths, they are widely believed and can contribute to bad sleeping habits and insufficient sleep.
Everyone needs 8 hours of sleep
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep, as there is with many other aspects of human biology. Overall, research suggests that 7–9 hours of sleep is sufficient for healthy young people and adults with normal sleep patterns.
However, the story becomes a little more convoluted. Throughout our lives, the amount of sleep we require varies:
- newborns need 14–17 hours
- infants need 12–15 hours
- toddlers need 11–14 hours
- preschoolers need 10–13 hours
- school-aged children need 9–11 hours
- teenagers need 8–10 hours
- adults need 7–9 hours
- older adults need 7–8 hours
All that matters is how long you sleep
Sleep duration is essential, but it isn’t everything. Another important factor to consider is sleep quality, which is linked to sleep continuity and preventing sleep disruptions.
Repeated awakenings throughout sleep might make it difficult to go through the sleep cycle, reducing the amount of time spent in the most restorative periods of sleep. As a result, everyone’s goal should be to sleep for a sufficient amount of time, with those hours consisting of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep.
Your brain shuts down during sleep
Luckily, our brains do not stop working during the night. Our brains can never completely shut off because they perform important activities like breathing. In fact, brain wave activity is similar to that of alertness during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when most dreams occur.
Interestingly, despite the high level of activity, waking a sleeper during REM sleep is the most difficult. This is why paradoxical sleep is a term used to describe this stage of sleep.
More sleep is always better
While most worries regarding sleep duration focus on sleeping too little, sleeping too much can also cause issues.
Excessive sleep, in general, can be a symptom of an underlying health problem. People in specific conditions, such as recovery from illness, may require more sleep, but excessive sleep, in general, might be an indication of an underlying health problem. Furthermore, studies have revealed that persons who sleep too much have a greater likelihood of mortality, but more research is needed to fully understand this link.
A good sleeper doesn’t move at night
During a normal, healthy night’s sleep, little body movements may occur. Movements at the night are usually only a cause for concern if they include one or more of the following:
- Prolonged or chronic
- Abnormal (such as sleepwalking)
- Aggressive or violent
- Bothersome to a bed partner
- Causing nighttime awakenings
The majority of people have dreams every night, yet we rarely remember them. Dreams are most common during REM sleep, although they are quickly forgotten.
The memory of a dream is only retained when someone wakes up during or shortly after REM sleep. In short, remembering a dream is not an indication of good sleep. It is just that you woke up at the right time to recall it.
Your body becomes accustomed to sleeping less
Lack of sleep has been shown to have negative consequences in both the short and long term, demonstrating that your brain and body cannot adapt to obtaining less sleep.
You’ll probably feel sleepier during the day after a few nights of poor sleep. Without enough sleep, this rise in daytime drowsiness may settle over weeks or months, but that doesn’t mean your body is running on all cylinders or that it is properly responding to sleep loss.
Consistent sleep deprivation, on the other hand, has a negative impact on daytime performance, impairing decision-making, memory, focus, and creativity. Insufficient sleep can have a negative impact on metabolism, the cardiovascular system, the immunological system, hormone production, and mental health over time.