Myth 1. Snoring’s not that big a deal.
Sawing logs can feel good, even if it does annoy your woman to no end. Besides, real men snore. It’s what we do. It’s a sign of vigor, right? Um, not so fast.
The truth is that snoring can indicate serious health problems.
How serious? Studies have found that snoring associates with hypertension, obesity, and a condition known as sleep apnea, in which your airway shuts off and you literally starve your brain of oxygen… forcing you to gasp for breath… and then the horrible snoring cycle starts all over again. Snorers who live with sleep apnea are at greater risk of stroke and heart attack.
On top of that, snoring can strain relationships, unless you’re dating a weirdo who for whatever reason digs listening to your snoring. They probably also watch you while you sleep. Creepy.
Either way, the solution is not just better earplugs for your bedmate – it’s to get to a doctor ASAP.
Myth 2. Fido and Fifi never have insomnia.
Your loyal dog, cat, hamster, lizard, moose, or spotted peacock may seem to enjoy copious amounts of shuteye – especially compared to your sleep-starved self. But before you go trying to swap places with your favorite furry friend like some bad Freaky Friday remake consider this: animals get insomnia just like humans do.
B’lieve it. Scientists in a recent study attempted to breed insomnia in fruit flies. And it worked.
They discovered that the flies with enhanced insomniac traits were more apt to stumble around (or get swatted) and had a worse memory than their better rested counterparts.
So while you picture tiny insomniac fruit flies stumbling around like little drunks who forgot their way home, remember this is factual. They studied it. This is science dammit. Animals don’t sleep any better than you.
Myth 3. You gotta get 8 hours of sleep or you’re screwed.
The amount of sleep you need varies from day-to-day and from stage to stage in your life.
Teens need more than adults. Babies sleep crazy hours. Senior citizens don’t need to sleep at all as long as they can veg watching CNN for a few hours (they love them some Lou Dobbs – why?).
It’s not even clear that human beings are evolved to sleep in full blocks eight hour blocks. Our crazy modern world forces us to sleep at night and make widgets all day. Naps are for babies and stoners and old folks, say we.
But is that natural?
It may be healthier to sleep in several blocks a day. Some European cultures, for instance, emphasize the “siesta” – a two hour nap (or sex break, for the ambitious) taken in the middle of the day.
Of course, Europeans seem to enjoy more facets of life than Americans do, and stressing over that might be what’s keeping you up at night to begin with.
Myth 4. You need to make up missed sleep.
Only slept a few hours last night, and need to ‘make up’ the hours you missed? Need to catch zzz’s ASAP to get back on schedule? Then feast your eyes on this technical debunking of Myth #4:
The sleep system is homeostatic – it self-regulates. If you sleep less than your body wants you’ll naturally restore balance to the system the following nights.
But it’s not a simple calculus. If you miss an hour on Monday, you won’t just “make up” that hour on Thursday. The body and brain adjust. That said, if you starve your body of sleep for a long period, you can damage the neural apparatus in your brain that controls your sleep cycle.
Not to mention making you susceptible to temporary insanity.
Tell it to the judge.
Myth 5. You don’t fall asleep “all at once” – you drift away.
Wrong. The Sandman kicks your ass every night.
Unless you have crazy insomnia or a sleep disorder, you literally “go out like a light.” One minute you’re here, next minute you’re gone.
If you’re a geek with waaay too much time on your hands and some fancy-schmancy sleep machines, you can actually graph the differences among your waking, hypnogogic, and sleeping states and pinpoint precisely when you shift consciousness.
Myth 6. Sleepy during the day? You must be sleep deprived.
If you’re tired, you need sleep. So saith our good friend Captain Obvious.
Think again, Captain.
Drowsiness or fatigue can be caused by an enormous variety of factors, including disease, malnutrition, stress, pollution, psychosomatic disorders, a rambling girlfriend, college, a boring job, hard partying, or staying up past 3 AM to write an article while crashing hard from 4 Red Bulls and a Vyvance that didn’t counteract last night’s all-nighter like they were supposed to.
Snap out of it.