Sleep Myths and Truths

Malavika Happey
Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Sleep is something that is overlooked by many of us….. Until we realize its value. As a kid, I watched my cousins stay up all night binge-watching shows and movies, which I saw as a sign of ‘being cool’. Therefore, it was pretty natural for me to pick up the same habit. I did stay up late for late-night studies, rather than watching movies on Netflix. However, over time, I've noticed how my eyes slowly ascend to recharge mode in between classes. I would receive questions from my parents on why I looked gloomy at dawn every day. It was then that I realized that I took sleep for granted. As a high school student, I’ve noticed the amount of sleep my classmates and friends get, and let’s just say, it is abominable and not very astonishing.

Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of your body and health. It has a huge role in children and teenagers as it improves growth and development. Getting insufficient sleep can increase the risk of serious health problems in the long run. Not getting adequate amounts of sleep can alter your focus on tasks and can affect your performance in activities. To view this from a scientific aspect, getting lack of sleep can increase the risk of the following health conditions:

1. Coronary Heart Diseases
2. Obesity
3. Stroke
4. High Blood Pressure

According to an article published by the University of Michigan, adolescents require a sufficient amount of rest and 70% of high schoolers suffer from sleep deprivation. With the upcoming event of Mental Health Awareness Week, I would like to address the close relationship between sleep and mental health. One night of sleep deprivation can dramatically affect your mood. Anxiety and depression are common causes of sleep deprivation. To be in the era where technology is advancing at the speed of light is very fortunate but as people living in this period, we should not be blind to the hidden needles of screens that we face every day. It isn’t occasional for everyone to hear the sentence ‘Don’t sleep while watching your phone’. Well, it is high time to listen to these words. The blue light that is emitted from the screens can affect the secretion of the hormone that signals to the brain that it is time to fall asleep. Knowing that sleep is something that has to be taken seriously, some people living in this world believe in a few entirely false myths.

Myth 1: Being able to fall asleep ‘anytime’ ‘anywhere’ is a sign of a healthy sleep system.
Truth: Excessive daytime sleepiness can result from sleep deficiency. Ironically, rather than being described as a ‘good sleeper’, sleeping ‘anywhere’ at ‘anytime’ can be a sign of a sleep-deprived person.

Myth 2: Your brain and body can learn to function just as well as with less sleep
Truth: When sleep is less for the first few days, self-reported levels of sleepiness increase for several days until it becomes steady. However, choosing to sleep less is just an open door to dire health consequences.

Myth 3: During sleep, the brain is not active.
Truth: It may look to an observer that the brain is passive during sleep, but research holds strong evidence against that statement. Sleep helps in removing neurotoxic waste from the brain.

Myth 4: If your having trouble falling asleep, stay in bed until you can
Truth: Experts suggest getting out of bed if sleep is not attained within 20 minutes of trying to fall asleep. Staying in bed for a long time in an attempt of sleeping can do the exact opposite, linking your bed with a feeling of restlessness. Instead, reading a book or doing a quiet activity until you feel drowsy is the better approach.

Myth 5: Sleeping with the lights on is harmless.
Truth: It is advised to sleep in a room that is as dark as possible. Sleeping with too much light can cause eye strain. It can increase the risk of awakenings.

At the end of the day, Sleep should not be taken as a joke that can be compromised. Avoiding large meals or caffeine before bedtime helps in improving sleep. If you watch a scary movie, reading an emotionally driven article or any anxiety-producing content can affect your ability to fall asleep. To thank you for taking time from your schedule to read this article, I would like to end this article with a quote.

“Let the night take you. Let the stars evaporate in your dreams. Let sleep be the only comfort for you to believe in - Anthony Liccione”

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Malavika Happey Athimattathil
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