There are several common myths about sleep and sleep disorders. In some instances, even when struggling with numerous symptoms and side-effects of sleep deprivation, people will ignore these sleeping issues and brand them ‘old wives tales’. However, this attitude can be severely harmful to general health and well-being. Undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders can lead to various medical complications, such as weight gain, behavioral changes and heart disease. If you are struggling with falling or staying asleep, it is important to learn about sleep and sleep disorders and acknowledge the difference between myth and fact.
Myth: You don’t need to see a healthcare professional if you can’t sleep.
Fact: If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of insomnia for more than a month, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms and discuss treatment. Over-the-counter sleep aids may help you, but you should still discuss the available treatment options with your physician before self-medicating. Many sedating OTC drugs contain ingredients which you may not need, such as antihistamines or pain relievers, and may cause harmful side effects. By working with your physician to develop your individualized treatment regimen, you can successfully change your sleep habits and address your concerns about insomnia or other sleep problems.
Myth: Alcohol is helpful as a sleep aid.
Fact: Although alcohol may relax you and speed up the onset of sleep, it can also cause you to wake up multiple times at night as your body works to metabolize the alcohol. To get a full night’s rest, you should not drink alcohol several hours prior to going to sleep. Similarly, never take alcohol with a sleep aid medication or any other drug.
Myth: Prescription sleep medications are unsafe and can make you addicted.
Fact: When taken as directed by your physician, sleep aids are both safe and effective in treating insomnia. As with any medication, you should discuss with you doctor about information regarding when to take your sleep aid, how much to take, and how long to take the pills. The newer prescription sleep aids carry a lower risk of dependency compared to traditional benzodiazepines. If you have past addiction problems, be sure to inform your doctor, as you would be at a higher risk of becoming dependent.
Myth: Insomnia isn’t dangerous and there are no long term risks.
Fact: The difficulty of falling and staying asleep associated with insomnia can have serious medical consequences. These include poor concentration, decreased work or school performance, mood changes, and a much higher risk of car accidents.
Myth: Working out before going to bed is a good way to wind down at night.
Fact: Routine exercise is a good way to get better quality sleep, but it should be done in the morning or afternoon for the best results. Exercise can be energizing, and working out too close to bedtime can delay the onset of sleep because it has an alerting effect and raises body temperature.
Myth: Watching TV in bed or working on your laptop in bed is a useful way to relax at night.
Fact: In actuality, both of these activities hinder the quality of sleep. The light emanated from electronics can delay the onset of sleep, and watching certain programs or news reports which can lead to agitation. For the best quality sleep, keep electronics outside of your bedroom and associate your bed with sleep and/or sex.
Myth: Sleep isn’t that important, I don’t need 7-9 hours of sleep at night.
Fact: Much like diet and exercise, sleep is a crucial component to your overall health and well-being. Sleep boosts the immune system and helps with learning and memory functions. It can also aid in weight maintenance by improving your energy level and helping you eat right, because sleep deprived people are more likely to choose junk food than well rested people.
It is incredibly important to make sure to maintain proper sleep hygiene to get a good night’s rest every night. To learn more about the myths and facts of sleep, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.