Sleep facts & myths
Even in 2023, we’re learning more and more about sleep. We’re learning about sleep problems, how a lack of sleep can impact mental health, how to minimise sleep disruptions, and more – all so that we can promote better population sleep health practices. Why? Because sleep is as critical a function as eating or drinking is.
In this blog post, we answer questions like, “why is so much of the population so sleep deprived?” “Why do I have so much trouble falling asleep?” and “what is REM sleep?” We plan to address these questions and more in our list of myths and facts about sleep.
Have you ever heard that it’s dangerous to wake a sleepwalker? There’s a reason why we have so many myths surrounding sleep, and that’s because the study of sleep goes back into early history – back when we didn’t really understand why we slept, or why insufficient sleep could impact our health the way it does. Primarily, early history focused on the interpretation of dreams, not about how to get a good night’s sleep or its role in human health.
Around the 18th century, humans finally began to study what it meant to have a healthy sleep schedule. A researcher in 1729, Jean Jacques d’Ortuous de Marian, conducted research on plants, which prompted intrigue in sleep research on humans.
As you can expect, misinformation has led to a lot of sleep myths over the last several hundred years. Let’s identify false beliefs and debunk some popular myths so you can sleep better.
You can train yourself to function off of less sleep
While you might be able to feel the effects of being sleep deprived less and less the longer it goes on, your body keeps score. That’s right – the myth that your body “adjusts” to getting less sleep is not true. In fact, insufficient sleep will gradually begin to impact your waking days, even if you aren’t aware of it. You might just become accustomed to the symptoms, but it’s still doing damage to your body. Serious health problems may arise from insufficient sleep and sleep deprivation, even if it feels normal.
Humans are the only mammals who willingly delay sleep. Every other species will go to sleep as soon as they feel sleepy and are in a safe space to do so. It’s imperative to your sleep health that you get the recommended amount of sleep. That’s 7-8 hours for adults, and more for teenagers and young children, as well as seniors.
It only matters how long you sleep
How many hours of sleep you get is important. Sleep quality is essential and can be closely associated with minimising sleep disruptions. If your sleep quality is poor, even if your hours of sleep are adequate, you might awake feeling groggy or as if you haven’t slept at all.
It’s best to sleep as much as possible with as few distractions as possible. Certain sleep disorders may make that difficult, so you should probably consult a physician about sleep medicine or alternative therapy. Good sleep hygiene and routines will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
The less you move, the better your sleep quality
Moving during sleep is normal and can occur at any stage of sleep. The only concern regarding sleep movement is if you have prolonged or chronic body movement, abnormal movement (like sleepwalking), aggressive movements, or if your sleep movements are bothersome to a bed partner/yourself. When adults sleep, jerking, twitching, or switching positions is entirely normal.
Your brain turns off during sleep
Your brain is extremely active while you sleep. After you fall asleep, your brain partners change depending on your sleep stage. During quality sleep, you’ll experience multiple different stages of sleep, all lasting different durations. During rapid eye movement sleep, your brain activity will ramp up to a level that is comparable with brain activity when you’re awake.
Sleep is complicated – even sleep experts seem to think so. Understanding how sleep impacts our immune system, circadian rhythms, and mental health is beneficial to our overall health. There’s so much scientific evidence suggesting that sleep duration and quality are as essential to our health as eating and drinking.
Here are some facts about sleeping that you may not have known:
Your REM sleep stage accounts for about 20-25% of your total sleep
REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep is the stage where your eyes move around rapidly but no visual information is being delivered to your brain. It’s one of the most critical sleep stages as it plays an integral role in emotional processing, memory, and healthy brain development. This stage of sleep was first discovered in the 1950s, when scientists were studying sleeping babies. Your brain is highly active during this stage of sleep, and your brain waves may even become more variable. Virtually, your body is functioning very similar to how it would when you’re awake, save for the fact that your eyes are closed.
On average, we spend about two hours a night dreaming
You won’t always remember your dreams, but the fact of the matter is that you probably spend about two hours dreaming – every single night. That’s right! Why is this important to know? Dreaming is important to your overall sleep health. While the evidence isn’t 100% clear, it has been suggested that dreaming can be crucial to our mental and emotional health, as it helps us learn how to solve problems, deal with thoughts and emotions, and more.
It’s also been suggested that during the time of night when we dream, we’re able to sleep better through disturbances and noises. Have you ever had a dream where a sound in the waking world (like your alarm clock) worked its way into your dream? Dreams have also been known to reveal our innermost feelings about particular problems in our lives.
The main driver of your body’s circadian rhythm is the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain
Your body’s circadian rhythm functions like an internal body clock. It is designed so that you feel awake in the morning and sleepy at nighttime. Research shows that your circadian rhythm can be altered or “thrown off” by alcohol consumption, late nights, short sleep duration, and more. It’s not impossible to get your circadian rhythm back on track.
What controls your circadian rhythm is your body’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, a bilateral structure that is located in the anterior section of the hypothalamus. Think of it like a pacemaker for your circadian timing.
Sleep is critical to your immune system
Did you know that babies need about 12-17 hours of sleep each day? That’s because babies need sleep during a key period of development to help develop their immune systems. During a time where your immune system is extremely immature, you’ll need all that sleep to grow and develop for the first few years of your life.
Sleep is still crucial to improving our immune systems throughout our adult lives, even as older adults. A lack of sleep can cause a well-balanced immune defence system to weaken, and we can get sick easier. Our bodies produce T-cells during sleep, which help to play a critical role in the human body’s immune response. Want to avoid getting sick? It’s time to look at ways to improve sleep.
Sleep better with more support
Do you stay awake for hours? If you have trouble sleeping due to back pain, a firm mattress can help you get more comfortable. Our mattresses offer a firmer surface to support your back and spine. In turn, this allows the mattress to absorb more pressure meaning less stress on your body.
Sleep can be hard to come by when you have a poor mattress. Ditch the blue light glasses or the million other methods of helping you sleep. The best option for getting more sleep is with a mattress from Sleep Firm. If you suffer from sleep apnea or an uncomfortable bed, it’s time to upgrade today.