Sleep Myths and Facts

Find out if what you know about sleep is fact or fiction.

By Loren Bullock

Everyone has something to say about sleep. Maybe your grandmother swears a certain drink concoction helps her sleep better, or your best friend has a secret even better than coffee to stay awake.

There is a lot of false information about sleep out there. Gaining clarity about whether or not the sleep trivia you know is true can be time consuming, so we did all the work for you. We’ve compiled 20 of the most common sleep myths as well as over 50 sleep facts to help you decipher fact vs fiction.

20 Sleep Myths Debunked

Sleep Myths Sleep Facts
The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep a night. (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)
Count sheep to fall asleep easier. Tactics such as counting sheep are more distracting than helpful when trying to fall asleep. (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)
Turning up the radio helps keep you awake while driving. The safest way to handle drowsy driving is to pull over for a quick nap, or prevent it altogether with a good night’s sleep. (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)
Snoring isn’t harmful. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea or other breathing issues. Consult your doctor if you snore incessantly. (Cleveland Clinic, 2014)
Exercising before bed helps you fall asleep easier. Exercising right before bed inhibits melatonin production, making it harder to sleep. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
People can train themselves to operate effectively on less sleep. One of the biggest causes of drowsiness among Americans is self-imposed sleep deprivation. (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)
Mothers lose the most sleep with a newborn baby. A newborn affects men’s sleep more than women’s. (The Good Body, 2019)
Some people don’t dream. Everyone dreams even if you don’t remember your dreams. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
Your mind rests during sleep. Brains are active throughout the night, using more oxygen than when awake. (Sleep Health Foundation, 2019)
You only yawn because you are tired or bored. Yawning gives your brain extra oxygen and keeps it cool. If you yawn randomly throughout the day, your brain is just taking what it needs. (Live Science, 2012)
With enough effort, you can force yourself to fall asleep. We can’t make ourselves fall asleep; we can only create favorable sleep conditions. (Sleep Health Foundation, 2019)
Couples who sleep in separate beds are having relationship issues. Getting a sleep divorce can help each person get a better night of sleep, especially couples with different work schedules. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
Nappers get the most sleep. Nappers sleep less than non-nappers overall. (U of G University Health Center, 2019)
Staying up late to study will help you pass. Getting more sleep will help with recall of the test material. (Sleep Advisor, 2019)
Insomnia means trouble falling asleep. Insomnia is not only characterized by difficulty falling asleep, but frequently waking up throughout the night, excessive tiredness, and waking up without feeling refreshed. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
Drinking alcohol before bed helps you fall asleep. Alcohol reduces your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, thus disturbing your body’s natural sleep cycle. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
Don’t wake a sleepwalker. The best thing you can do is guide them back to bed, and if you wake them up, they are unlikely to remember. (Live Science, 2016)
You eat 8 spiders a year in your sleep. When you sleep with your mouth open, you’re probably snoring, effectively scaring away any spiders. (Scientific American, 2014)
Hitting the snooze button gives you more time to rest. The snooze button disrupts your sleep and sleep cycle. (LifeHacker, 2016)
Watching TV helps you relax before bed. TVs emit blue light that keeps you awake. Try to avoid this before bed. (CNN, 2019)

Sleep Facts By Category

Sleep and Nutrition

  • When you sleep less you become hungrier because leptin levels fall. (Cleveland Clinic, 2014)
  • You can burn more calories in your sleep by turning down the thermostat or doing physical activities before bed. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
  • Eating heavy meals close to bedtime interferes with the body’s process of winding down for sleep. (Sleep Score, 2019)
  • When you lose sleep, your metabolism drops by 30%. (WebMD, 2019)

Sleep Disorders

  • There are more than 70 reported sleep disorders. (Neurocore, 2017)
  • Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. (The Good Body, 2018)
  • 1-in-2000 people have some form of narcolepsy. (Sleep Education, 2017)
  • Women are twice as likely as men to develop restless leg syndrome. (Sleep Education, 2017)

Dreams

  • Today, 12% of people dream in Black & White. This is generational, because these numbers were reversed before color TV was invented. (Cleveland Clinic, 2014)
  • You dream about faces and places you’ve already seen whether or not you remember; you cannot make up faces or locations in your sleep. (Better Sleep, 2019)
  • Waking up without an alarm can help with dream recall. (WebMD, 2019)
  • There is evidence that blind people experience visual imagery in their dreams. (Very Well Mind, 2019)
  • The three most common emotions felt during dreams are anger, sadness, and fear. (Lucid Dream Society, 2019)

Parents and Sleep

  • Mothers who breastfeed and co-sleep get more sleep than those who don’t. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
  • Newborns spend about 14-17 hours sleeping per day. (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)
  • New parents lose 6 months worth of sleep in the first 2 years of their child’s life. (The Good Body, 2018)

Students and Sleep

  • Up to 60% of college students suffer from poor sleep quality. (NCBI, 2017)
  • Sleep loss can hurt academic performance just as much as binge-drinking or drug use. (Sleep Advisor, 2019)
  • Students with sleep deprivation have lower GPAs. (Health Research Funding, 2019)
  • Children tend to fall asleep faster and sleep longer when they go to bed before 9 p.m. (Sleep Education, 2019)
  • Teens need more sleep than adults: almost 9 hours. (Medicine Net, 2004)

Gender and Sleep

  • Women get more sleep than men. (The Good Body, 2018)
  • Women sleep longer, but men sleep better. (Fitbit, 2019)
  • Men are at twice the risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea than women. (NCBI, 2014)
  • Men fall asleep later and wake up later. (Psychology Today, 2012)

Sleep Deprivation

  • You’ll die of sleep deprivation before food deprivation. You can go 2 weeks without food, but only 10 days without sleep. (Better Sleep, 2019)
  • Sleep deprivation can result in the same lack of reaction time, focus, and perception as being intoxicated. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
  • The average person falls asleep in 7 minutes, any less than 5 means you’re sleep deprived. (The Good Body, 2018)
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to psychosis. (Lucid Dream Society, 2019)
  • You can be awake for 17 hours before you start experiencing sleep deprivation symptoms (Lucid Dream Society, 2019)

Sleep and Productivity

  • The body never adjusts to shift work. (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)
  • Tiredness peaks at 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Cleveland Clinic, 2014)
  • Sleeping in on the weekends can make up for not getting enough sleep during the week. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)
  • Poor sleep is causing 23-45% of the population to lose more than two weeks worth of productivity every year. (Zapier, 2019)

Humans, Animals, and Sleep

  • Humans are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep. (The Good Body, 2018)
  • Humans can sleep with their eyes open. (Restonic, 2018)
  • Up to 100 sea otters sleep together in an otter raft to stop each other from drifting away. (One Kind Planet, 2019)
  • Dolphins only shut down half their brains during sleep, so they can swim to the surface and keep from drowning. (One Kind Planet, 2019)
  • Dogs sleep between 12-14 hours a day. (Mattress Advisor, 2019)

Which of these facts surprised you the most?


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