A Time to Look at Some Myths and Facts About Sleep

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March 4, 2013

There are many common myths about sleep.  As National Sleep Awareness Week approaches, the National Sleep Foundation takes a look at six common myths and the facts that dispel them. 

The National Sleep Foundation’s 16th annual National Sleep Awareness Week campaign begins March 3 and ends March l0, when Daylight Saving Time returns, clocks move forward one hour and too many people choose to lose an hour of sleep!

Myth #1: Sleep is not important. I can just get by on a few hours.

Fact: Sleep is vital to our health and well-being, and is just as important as diet and exercise. Although individual needs may vary, adults typically need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.  Getting enough sleep may also be a critical factor in a person’s weight as well as energy and productivity levels.
Each time you don't get enough sleep, you add to your “sleep debt,” or accumulated sleep loss. You may not be able to catch up on lost sleep.  As a result, your sleep debt may make you feel sleepier and less alert at times.
 
Myth #2:  People who don’t  have the usual 9-5  work schedule shouldn’t have too much trouble falling asleep when their work shift ends.

Fact:  An estimated 15 percent of the nation’s work force are shift workers, who are often at work when their internal body clocks tell them its time to sleep.  Sleep producing hormones such as melatonin are produced at night, when shift workers must be fully awake and alert. 
But when its time for them to sleep, their irregular schedule works against their body clock, and they may find it difficult to get a full 7-9 hours of sleep.  Despite the challenges, shift workers need just as much sleep as those who work traditional hours, though they are at an increased risk for sleepiness as well as the common health risks that come with insufficient sleep such as high blood pressure and heart problems. 
  
Myth #3: Insomnia is not a serious medical condition and has no consequences.

Fact: Insomnia can be a serious