The Five Biggest Sleep Myths

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

People often don’t give sleep the respect it deserves. They also often believe myths about sleep that are no more than old wives tales or flawed conventional wisdom. Read on to see which myths don't hold up.

Myth #1: Napping hinders ability to sleep at night

Napping, if done properly, will not hinder your nighttime sleep. In fact, it may instead give you the mental and physical boost you need to get through the day feeling energized. The key is not to take a nap longer than 20 minutes, and to nap earlier in the day.

Myth #2: Exercising late makes it hard to fall asleep

Actually, the opposite is true. Exercising late in the day may help you fall asleep faster and rest better. If your schedule doesn’t permit you to exercise until late, or if you just aren’t a morning person, don’t stop exercising, just monitor yourself. If you begin to feel that exercising late is affecting your sleep, move your start time up 15 to 30 minutes and see if that makes a difference.

Myth #3: It's normal to get sleepy and nod off during the day

While it’s normal to feel less energetic midway through the day, falling asleep at work, an event, or while waiting for your children at practice is not normal. It is a sign you are in sleep debt and your mind and body are feeling deprived. Occasionally, everyone will have a night when they are unable to get a night’s rest, but repeating this on a regular basis can lead to health problems.

Myth #4: If you're dealing with insomnia, go to bed earlier

This is not good advice. In fact, going to bed earlier may exacerbate the problem. Many sleep specialists advise you to do the opposite if you are dealing with insomnia--try going to bed an hour later than normal. This will make your need for sleep greater and it can keep you from tossing and turning.

Myth #5: Losing sleep really isn't that bad

Don’t believe the lie, losing sleep is bad for you. Losing less than even two hours of sleep a night can reduce alertness by 35 to 40 percent. This impairs your thinking ability, memory, and can put you at risk for accidents on and off the road. Going without sleep over an extended period can also have a disastrous impact on your mental and physical health.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.