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Sleep Myths and Napping

Michael Hazel -- Most of us feel sleep deprived. In fact, in a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, almost two-thirds of Americans say they don't sleep well and are often tired.

What's causing the problem? It is possibly due to myths about sleeping and lack of knowledge of the facts. These include:

1. We need less sleep as we age. FALSE

No matter what our age, we still need a full eight hours of sleep. Without it, we are less attentive, make more mistakes, are more vulnerable to illness and are accident-prone. With even the loss of one hour's worth of sleep can cause us to be sleep deprived. If you missed a full eight hours worth of sleep, try lying down for a nap during the middle of the day and revitalize yourself.

2. If I nap during the day, I won't sleep well at night. FALSE

Why is daytime rest important? Daytime rest can help keep you from "overdoing it," which can make you feel much worse for a day or two. It also makes it easier to cope with feelings of tiredness caused by nighttime sleep interruptions. People with heart failure sometimes find themselves awakened by symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing. Their sleep may also be interrupted because they need to urinate more often. This is a result of the diuretics (water pills) that may have been prescribed to help rid the body of extra fluid. If getting a good night's sleep is hard, then resting during the day is even more essential.

3. Men need more sleep than women. FALSE

It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. If you're getting less than eight hours of sleep each night, you are sleep deprived. If you want to be fully alert, in a good mood, mentally shape, creative and energetic all day long, you might need to spend at least one-third of your life sleeping.

4. You are somebody who just doesn't need a lot of sleep. FALSE

Everybody needs eight hours of sleep. Sleep is also the time when the body does most of its repair work; muscle tissue is rebuilt and restored. We know, for example, that growth hormone is secreted during sleep. This hormone is important for growth in children, but is also important throughout adulthood in rebuilding tissues.

5. To promote optimal sleep, the best time to exercise is early morning. FALSE

The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon or at noontime. Morning exercise has little effect on the quality of sleep that night. If you must exercise in the early morning, do not do so at the expense of needed sleep. Make sure you get to bed in time to fulfill your sleep quotient.

6. The human body never adjusts to night shift work. TRUE

Our natural sleep-wake cycle, regulated by light and darkness and programmed by over thousands of years of evolution, prevents us from easily adjusting to night or rotating shifts and irregular work schedules. In fact, sleep shift workers are 40 percent more likely than day workers to be involved in accidents at work, on the highway and at home.

Human beings can function without a full tune-up, but they will be in a state of relative sleep deprivation and won't be able to work or to think as well as they do when they are fully rested. It's like an engine that gets only four out of eight spark plugs replaced and then runs sluggishly. Sleep is also a time for restoring mental energy. We spend all day thinking and creating, and that uses up our energy stores.

7. In order to stay awake while driving, one just needs to turn up the radio or air conditioner. FALSE

Thirty-one percent of the population report having fallen asleep while driving. Many fatal accidents are a result of falling asleep while driving. If you have had a long days work and a long way to drive home, try taking a quick nap before getting on the road.


Michael Hazel is the director of operations at Yelo, an industry leader in the art of relaxation through reflexology massage paired with sleep. Yelo is located in New York City and can be described as a wellness sanctuary for urbanites in need of relaxation. See what everyone is talking about at

© 2009 Yelo

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