Common Myths About Sleep Busted: Poor Sleep Can Lead To Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Sudden Death, Dementia, Stroke, And Worse!

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The new reality about sleep is rising all around us, especially is you’re awake when you should be sleeping. Lack of restorative, deep sleep…can kill you.

Most of us have anecdotal knowledge about sleep that have are completely unfounded, and could even be killing us, according to researchers at the Langone Health's School of Medicine in New York, who conducted a study published which was recently published in the medical journal, Sleep Health.

CNN broke the story which sheds a damning bright light on many notions all of us have about sleep that either discount its importance or reassure young and healthy worker bees that they’re fine with 5 hours of sleep.

"There's a strong correlation between good sleep and our daylight hours performance and success," said lead study investigator Rebecca Robbins, a postdoc researcher in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical School. “We find ourselves constantly finding excuses and discrediting facts about sleep whether it's to media, family, or even a patient”, says Robbins.

thousands of web sites spread mistruths about pandemic sleep crisis

Robbins and her colleagues combed through 7,800 websites to discover the current understanding about sleep hygiene, which largely included “mythological information” about healthy sleep and then shared the global misperception to a carefully chosen team of sleep experts, many of whom are physicians who specialize in sleep disorders. They unraveled the myths and then ranked them by degree of falsehood and importance to health.

Here are 10 very dangerous and very wrong assumptions about sleep that they discovered, and when you consider that, let’s say you live to 100- you would spend 12,225 consecutive days in restful slumber- are of profound importance. The truth is, you have zero likelihood living to 100 if you adhere to much of this misinformation.


1. Adults need five or fewer hours of sleep

"If you wanted to have the ability to function at your peak level during the day, not to be sick, to be mentally strong, to be able to have the life that you would enjoy, how many hours do you have to sleep?" asked senior study investigator Girardin Jean-Louis, a professor in the Department of Population Health, according to a CNN article.

The most alarming observation made by Jean-Louis, was that the vast majority of the population felt that five hours of sleep a night is sufficient for restorative sleep and proper rest. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We're designed, through millennia of evolutionary design, to require between seven and 10 hours of sleep each night, depending upon age, but the CDC in Atlanta has stated that most Americans sleep fewer than seven hours a night. And, according to experts, sleep deprivation is threatening the health of up to half of the global population.

It has become a sweeping and pandemic crisis that can lead to a host of diseases and sudden death.

In a study of 10,300 British civil servants, researchers found that those who notched back their sleep from seven to five hours or less a night were almost 100% more likely to die from all causes, especially heart disease, an often silent killer.

"We have strong evidence to suggest that sleeping five hours a night or less increases your risk alarmingly for adverse health consequences, including heart disease and sudden death," says Robbins at NYU.

Researchers have also linked poor quality sleep with hypertension (high blood pressure), a broken immune system, loss of libido, panic disorder, depression, weight gain and substantially increased risk of diabetes, stroke, memory loss, and some cancers.

2. I’m Good- I can fall asleep 'anywhere, anytime'

Nodding off as soon as the airplane, car, bus, or train starts to move, is not a signal of a person who has excellent sleep habits and the ability to fall asleep, experts say. In fact, it's just the opposite.

"The ability to fall asleep instantly at any given moment is a sign that you are not getting enough sleep and you're likely experiencing 'microsleep’" Robbins stated. 'It means your body is so fatigued, that whenever it has a moment, it's going to start to repay its sleep debt."

Your brain actually keeps track of how much sleep you are getting, and it reminds itself to shut everything down “in order to make sure accounts payable does not exceed accounts received”, adds Marc Anderson, CEO and sleep expert of The Mattress Buyer Guide.

Unknown to even many physicians, sleep biology is actually very refined and straightforward. We feel drowsy because of a chemical called adenosine in the brain, which steadily increases in the blood plasma and neurological tissues throughout the day. Sleeping triggers the brain to metabolize adenosine, and the levels are at their lowest upon awakening.

If you’ve had a proper night’s rest, your body will tell you in the morning. You feel refreshed and alert. If you don’t, you’re likely slowly starving your body and mind of its resources, and inviting disease, and possibly early death.

3. Your brain and body can easily adjust to less sleep

Amazingly, much of the online ethos about sleep suggests that people also believed that the body can operate optimally with less sleep. An absolute myth, sleep experts, sleep researcher, and sleep physicians suggest. That's primarily because your body goes through a regimen of four unique sleep phases to provide proper restorative sleep that is of value.

In phase one, you start to lightly sleep, nodding off, disengaging from reality and your brain feathers you slowly into phase two, where you will level off and spend the most amount of sleep time. Phases three and then four contain the deepest, most productive and restorative sleep, and the active state of REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, where lucid and busy dreams occur.

Though the brain is busy processing memory, rebuilding and repairing databases, signaling hormone release, stimulating cells to rejuvenate all over the body, you are experiencing the most healing phase of sleep. REM sleep cannot be substituted with nappy, nodding off, light sleep. It won’t work, and your body will tell you.

"During REM sleep, the brain is very reactive," Robbins stated. "In fact, the brain almost looks like it is awake if we were to hook you up and were able to monitor you via electrodes."

REM can happen pretty much any time during the sleep cycle, but typically starts about 90 minutes after you've fallen asleep. Your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed during REM sleep, so you can't act out your dreams and injure yourself. Ah, the precision of natural selection and evolution. The brain is in fact a computer with very sophisticated software and hardware.

Because a solid night's sleep gives your sleep cycle time to repeat, you'll go through multiple REM cycles, which consumes about 28% of your total sleep time.

Yet another important phase of sleep is deep sleep, when your brain waves melt into what are called delta waves, or slow-wave sleep. Human growth hormone is released and memories are further processed, embedded into the long term storage files in the back rooms of the mind. Keeping this pathway healthy “helps prevent dementia, memory loss, and neurological decay”, according to sleep expert Anderson.

"The deeper stages of sleep are essential for producing healthy neurons, repairing muscle and connective tissue as well as restoring the immune system," Robbins stated.

4. Snoring is an annoying nuisance, pretty much harmless

Uh, no. Really bad myth. In fact, loud, sky splitting snores interrupted by hesitation in breathing is a sign for sleep apnea, a highly dangerous sleep disorder that, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, rockets the likelihood of heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, asthma, , glaucoma, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease and memory disorders. It is even associated with psychological disorders like borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD.

"Sleep apnea is horrifyingly exhausting," Robbins said. "These patients sleep and then they wake up again and again; all day long they fight the urge to sleep because they're so exhausted. It's also very under-diagnosed. We believe it affects about 35% of the population, yet only a slim margin of 10% are effectively diagnosed."

5. having a nightcap helps you fall sleep

Do you think a cocktail before bed will help you fall asleep and stay asleep? Then you’re completely misguided, according to sleep experts. A global report suggests that zero alcohol consumption is recommended. Even small amounts compromise your overall health and greatly impacts sleep.

Alcohol may help with sleep induction, but that's where it all end, researcher Robbins said. Instead, it keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep and "dramatically reduces the caliber of your rest at night."

"It continues to pull you out of rapid eye movement and the deeper stages of sleep, causing you to wake up not feeling restored," Robbins said.

6. Not sleeping? Stay in bed with eyes closed & just give it awhile

It seems to makes sense, and how else can you fall asleep if you're not in bed trying? Sleep experts suggest that continuing to “count sheep” for more than twenty minutes isn’t a brilliant idea.

"If we stay in bed for too long without sleeping, we begin to associate the bed with insomnia," Robbins said. Your mattress no longer is a sanctuary, a place of retreat, but quickly becomes an object of dread.

The reality, Robbins said, is that it takes a healthy sleeper about 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you're flipping and flopping longer than that, you should get out of bed and do something which requires little or no brain function: "Keep the lights low and fold laundry," she says. Sleep expert Marc Anderson suggests that if you cannot put down your device, fine. Dim the light or display your night time lighting options and watch ASMR videos, video content that is specifically designed to lull you to sleep. “They work, I use them, and even suggest Gibi ASMR as my favorite channel of excellent videos to get you to nod off.”

Some people also believe that it's just as healthy and rejuvenating to your body to lay still in bed with eyes closed, but not sleeping. Wrong. That's another absolute myth, experts say.

7. It doesn't matter what time of day you sleep

Sleep experts say its yet another myth that can greatly affect your health.

"We recommend that people utilize a regular sleep schedule because it controls the biological clock, the circadian rhythm of the body," researcher Jean-Louis said. "It controls most of the hormones of the body, temperature regulation, digestion, and sleep-wake cycles."

When your biological clock and the outside world are out of sync, you can feel disoriented, groggy and sleepy at times when you need to be operating at crisp, brightest, and optimal levels. We’ve all experienced it - remember crossing time zones, experiencing daylight savings time? What about flying to Asia or Europe. “It throws our entire mind and body into a state of confusion and exhaustion”, Anderson says.

Workers who do shift work, altering their daytime and night time schedules frequently, clearly demonstrate that they are at increased risk for heart disease, peptic ulcers, depression, anxiety, obesity, and certain insidious cancers, as well as a higher incidence of accidents and injuries due to reduced reaction time and poor decision-making.

8. Watching TV in bed helps you relax and invokes sleeping

Sure, it helps us calm down and relax, taking our mind off our daily stress. How would we survive if we could not check our laptop or phone to find out what Dog the Bounty Hunter had to say today, or catch up on GOT insider information? Unfortunately, that sets us up for a bad night.

“Devices emit bright blue light, and that blue light is what tells our brain to become alive and alert in the morning," Robbins explained. Blue light tricks your brain into thinking that it’s time to wake up, not nod off. It’s the scourge of modern society, and it has created a zombie like pandemic in the workplace.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, blue light greatly alters the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone, more than any other wavelength of light, even daylight. Using an electronic device within 2.5 hours of bedtime requires you to take longer to fall asleep and experience less REM sleep, and even if you do get eight or more hours, you'll wake feeling groggy, disoriented, and out of sorts.

If you or your kids can't make that two and a half hour cutoff because of homework or work demands, experts suggest installing an app that can warm the screen to nighttime, dusk, or even a sunset pallet of colors. Red and yellow don't affect melatonin levels.

9. Hitting the snooze button is great! why get up right away?

"Resist the temptation to snooze, because unfortunately, your body will go back to sleep but in a very light, low-quality sleep," Robbins states.

As your body wraps up its sleep cycle for the night, your brain is probably nearing the end of its last REM cycle. Smash that snooze button, and your brain snaps right back into REM sleep.

When the alarm goes off a few minutes later, you’re catching it in the middle, not at the end of that cycle, and you'll wake up groggy and stay that way longer.

Tip: place the alarm on the far side of the room, so you have to get up out of bed, and struggle slightly to turn it off.

10. Remembering your dreams is a sign of good sleep.

"That's complete urban legend, because all of us experience dreams four to five times a night," Jean-Louis said.

One study showed that people who remember their dreams have higher brain activity in the neurological thinking hub of the brain. They also woke more frequently during the night and were more sensitive to sound when both sleeping and awake.

"Now, I will tell you if you that if you have a dream with strong emotional elements, it may come back to you layer, maybe three in the afternoon, when you have some downtime and are relaxing," Jean-Louis said. " But if it it’s a weird little mundane dream, most of us who sleep well don't remember those."

Robbins adds, "Sleep is a highly active process..It's crucial, actually, in restoring the body and is in fact the most efficient, effective way to do so."