There are a lot of myths about sleep.   Some people still think that sleeping late on the weekend can make up for losing sleep during the week or that eating a big meal before bedtime will give you nightmares.  Others believe that you the older you get, the less sleep you need and that working out at night can help you get a good night sleep.  These kinds of myths may keep some people from getting the sleep they need and leave them a little cranky and overtired in the short-term, but could believing the wrong things about sleep actually be dangerous?  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  Myths, misinformation, and misunderstandings about sleep can actually be hazardous to your health; here are some of the most common.


1.     The Amount of Sleep You Get Has No Impact on Your Health

Research in recent years has repeatedly demonstrated the link between sleep and health.  Not getting enough sleep tonight doesn’t necessarily mean you will be sick tomorrow, but there is a strong connection between the quantity and quality of sleep you get and how well your immune system functions.  Issues with sleep have also been linked to increased risks for many long term and life threatening diseases including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems.


2.     Snoring isn’t a Big Deal

In some cases, this is true.  However, snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea which does carry some significant health risks.  Untreated, sleep apnea significantly impacts the quality and quantity of sleep you get.  It also increases your risk of developing cardiovascular problems and diabetes.  It also increases the likelihood that you will die, from any cause, by as much as seven times the rate of those without the condition.  A study published in the journal Sleep found that people without sleep apnea had a death rate of 2.85 per 1000.  The death rate for people with mild sleep apnea was twice that at 5.54.  Those with the most severe sleep apnea experienced a death rate of 14.6 per 1000, nearly seven times that of someone without the condition.  Snoring may not be a big deal but sleep apnea is and the best way to counteract the negative health effects is to get diagnosed and treated.


3.     It’s Ok to Drive When You are Overtired

Statistics show that drowsy driving is thought to be responsible for more than 100,000 accidents resulting in more than 1500 deaths each year.  Most of us don’t realize just how tired is too tired to get behind the wheel.   In fact, many people are so used to being overtired, they don’t remember what it is like not to be tired which contributes to drowsy driving incidents.  Many people still don’t understand that driving drowsy can cause the same impairments people experience when they are driving drunk.  Unfortunately, things like playing the radio loud, opening the window, and guzzling caffeinated drinks are not enough to keep you awake and alert behind the wheel.

Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep.  If you are experiencing daytime tiredness, work on improving your sleep hygiene and talk to your doctor about your sleep habits in order to rule out any sleep disorders.


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