Myths - and Facts - About Sleep

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There are many common myths about sleep. We hear them frequently, and may even experience them far too often. Sometimes they can be characterized as "old wives tales," but there are other times the incorrect information can be serious and even dangerous. The National Sleep Foundation has compiled this list of common myths about sleep, and the facts that dispel them.

1. Snoring is a common problem, especially among men, but it isn’t harmful.

Although snoring may be harmless for most people, it can be a symptom of a life threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways. People with sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night gasping for breath. The breathing pauses reduce blood oxygen levels, can strain the heart and cardiovascular system, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Snoring on a frequent or regular basis has been directly associated with hypertension. Obesity and a large neck can contribute to sleep apnea . Sleep apnea can be treated; men and women who snore loudly, especially if pauses in the snoring are noted, should consult a physician.

2. You can "cheat" on the amount of sleep you get.

Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don't get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road.

3. Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving.

These "aids" are ineffective and can be dangerous to the person who is driving while feeling drowsy or sleepy. If you're feeling tired while driving, the best thing to do is