This story was contributed by our wellness columnist, Michelle Calarco.
What parent doesn’t want a more restful night’s sleep? And yet many of us are struggling to fall and stay asleep. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three individuals in the U.S. doesn’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night they’re supposed to.
There are quite a few common misconceptions that could be messing with your sleep. To get to the bottom of them, we talked to Dr. Rebecca Robbins, Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Associate Scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and co-author of Sleep for Success!
Myth 1: When Having Difficulty Falling Asleep, It’s Best To Stay In Bed
Dr. Robbins: Unfortunately if we stay in bed we’ll start to associate our bed with insomnia. if you’re lying in bed and trying and not succeeding it’s the same thing as going to the gym standing on a treadmill and not doing anything. Trying to fall asleep is important and it actually does take the healthy sleeper about 15 minutes to fall asleep, but much longer than that, make sure to get out of bed, change the environment and do something that’s mindless — keep the lights low and fold socks!
Myth 2: Hitting Snooze Is A Gentler Way to Wake Up
Dr. Robbins: When we wake up all of us have a little bit of inertia so realize that you will be a little bit groggy, Resist the temptation to snooze because your body will go back to sleep but it will be very light, very low quality sleep so make sure to start your day get up and get into the daylight as fast as possible.
Myth 3: Drinking Alcohol Before Bed Will Help You Fall Asleep
Dr. Robbins: Many believe that alcohol, a nightcap, is a good thing for sleep, that it will help you fall asleep and improve the quality of your sleep. But this is a myth. It may help you fall asleep but it dramatically reduces the quality of your rest that night. It continues to pull you out of rapid eye movement and the deeper stages of sleep, causing you to wake up having maybe spent time sleeping but not feeling restored.
Myth 4: Watching TV In Bed Helps You Relax Before Sleep
Dr. Robbins: Unfortunately TV watching is not an optimal way to relax before bred.These devices emit bright blue light and that blue light is what tells our brain to become alive and alert in the morning. What we want to do is avoid blue light before bed from sources like a TV or your smartphone and do things that relax you.
Myth 5: Adults Don’t Need More Than 5 or 6 Hours of Sleep
Dr. Robbins: We have extensive evidence to show that unfortunately sleeping 5 hours or less at night consistently increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences, including cardiovascular disease and early mortality, so for this reason we strongly recommend a sleep duration consistently of 7-8 hours at night for optimal health.
About Michelle Calarco: Michelle is a communications expert and a wellness enthusiast. After honing her storytelling craft in media and television, Michelle went on to elevate the profiles of premier brands across the hospitality, healthy living, and better-for-you food spaces. She has always been passionate about living and eating well and became even more immersed in health when she became a mom. On weekends you can find her squeezing in a barre class (during Paw Patrol) and baking healthyish desserts with her little one. Michelle has a consulting business and resides in Greenwich with her husband and 3-year-old son.
Have an idea for something you want to see in the column? Write to Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @michelle.calarco