Whether you’re a sound sleeper or having a little bout of insomnia, you’ve probably heard a lot of myths about sleep or advice on how to fall asleep. And sometimes, the various myths and advice seem to cancel out each other. With all the myths out there, it can get confusing and frustrating – and all you want is a good night of sleep!
Well, no need to fret. We recently reached out to Dr. Michael Breus, a PhD clinical psychologist and well known sleep therapist, to get some insights and an expert’s take on 5 Popular Sleep Myths.
Myth 1: Eat a Big Meal Before Sleeping
“Our bodies require food to be digested sitting or standing up. People need to stop having large meals within three hours of lights out. Conversely, you don’t want to sleep on an empty stomach,” says Dr. Breus. “One should sleep with a comfortable level of food in their stomach. Also, eating spicy food can also discomfort through indigestion so it’s good to avoid that, too.”
Thinking of a massive plate of spicy enchiladas right before bed? According to Dr. Breus, it’s advisable to pass on that idea – no matter how delicious it sounds.
Myth 2: Do Cardio Exercise to Tire You Out
While we know that folks who exercise regularly are pretty good sleepers, some data suggests that we need to make sure it’s not too close to sleep.
“Exercise such as cardio done right before you sleep can be too stimulating,” says Dr. Breus. “It’s suggested to stop exercising approximately four hours before lights out.”
So, go ahead and exercise but make sure it’s not too close to bedtime.
Myth 3: You Need Less Sleep as You Age
It’s a popular myth that says older folks don’t sleep that much. But is it true? Well, according to expert Dr. Breus, it’s “No.”
“Data suggests as you get older you still need the same amount of sleep. Some retired folks take naps during the day, which may cause them not to sleep too much at night,” adds Dr. Breus.
Myth 4: Everybody Should Sleep 8 Hours
This is a popular one: the 8 hours of recommended sleep for everyone. According to Dr. Breus, the 8 hours of sleep is a myth.
“Recent data suggests seven hours is optimal. Everybody’s sleep need is individual. There’s no one magic number of hours of sleep that can apply to everybody,” adds Dr. Breus.
Myth 5: Naps Ruin Your Sleep
Who doesn’t enjoy a good nap? However, as studies show, there might be times to avoid napping.
“Naps only ruin sleep if you have insomnia or if you nap too close to your bedtime. I suggest not napping after 2 pm and never if you have insomnia,” says Dr. Breus.
For more information on sleep research and education, check out the National Sleep Foundation.
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. An author of several books, Dr. Breus’s articles have appeared in WebMD The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and various publications. www.thesleepdoctor.com