By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll be surprised at the number of misconceptions you held about sleep
BY JAMES MAAS, DANIELLE J BOEHM
1. During sleep, your brain rests completely
Most people think of sleep as a passive, dormant part of their daily lives. Wakefulness contains only a single brain wave. To be physically, psychologically, and emotionally at your best, you have to experience ﬁve different types of brain waves every night during sleep. That’s how much work your brain does while you are asleep. The sleeping brain regulates endocrine, immune, and hormonal functions essential for healthy living. It is also a critical period for memory consolidation.
2. Sleeping longer makes you gain weight
The opposite is true. Lack of sleep can stall your weight loss efforts. By adding one extra hour of sleep every night, you can lose up to half kg per week. Sleep deprivation causes leptin levels to decrease and ghrelin levels to increase, leaving you craving for sugars and junk food. That’s how, contrary to popular belief, regular and sound sleep can actually help you lose weight.
3. You can condition yourself to need less sleep
You may want to believe that but you cannot convince your body of it. You can condition yourself to wake up after just a few hours of sleep, but it does not change your need for adequate sleep. Your sleep requirement is hard-wired! Determine the amount of sleep that will permit you to be energetic and alert all day long. You must condition yourself so that the hours in bed correspond to the sleeping phase of your circadian rhythm and the hours out of bed correspond to the waking phase. Therefore, establish a regular sleep/wake schedule, Monday through Monday, including the weekends.
4. A boring meeting, warm room, or low dose of alcohol helps you fall asleep
Not true, unless you are sleep deprived. These factors simply unmask the sleepiness that is already in your body. If you are not sleep deprived, you may be restless and ﬁdgety, but not sleepy.
5. Snoring is not harmful
If left untreated, heavy snoring can lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure [heart attacks and strokes]. Heavy snoring with repetitive pauses in your breathing, followed by a gasping for air, is indicative of sleep apnoea. This life-threatening breathing disorder is commonly treated non- surgically by wearing a mask at night that delivers continuous, positive airway pressure through the nose to keep the airway open. Without the mask, these individuals may stop breathing up to 600 times a night and must wake up for a microsecond each time to resume normal breathing.
6. Not everyone dreams at night
All of us dream every night, although many do not remember having done so. Most dreams occur during rapid eye movement [REM] sleep that occurs every 90 minutes. If you sleep for eight hours, approximately two hours will be spent dreaming.
7. The older you get; the lesser sleep you need
As you age, the ability to maintain sleep becomes more difﬁcult. This is due to hardening of the arteries or the result of taking medications for rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, or type II diabetes that may interfere with sleep. We need almost as much sleep in our senior years as we needed when we were of middle age or younger.
8. Most people know how sleepy they are
The majority of sleepers overestimate the amount they actually have slept by about 47 minutes.
9. Raising the volume of your radio, air conditioning or drinking coffee will help you stay awake while driving
None of these “remedies” will help prevent drowsiness or falling asleep at the wheel for a person who is sleep deprived. Drowsiness is a red alert—get off the road and take a 20-minute power nap in a safe area. At best you will have another 30 minutes of driving.
10. Sleep disorders are mainly due to worry
There are 89 known sleep disorders whose causes range from neurological issues to biochemical imbalance and physiological problems. Examples are sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, nocturnal myoclonus, enuresis, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and REM sleep behavior.
11. Most sleep disorders go away without treatment
Sleep disturbances that last for more than three weeks typically require professional treatment, ranging from learning good sleep hygiene practices to medicines and psychotherapy.
12. Men need more sleep than women
On the contrary, women tend to need more sleep than men, especially during premenstrual, pregnancy, and premenopausal stages. Women sleep lighter than men and are more susceptible to bouts of insomnia.
13. By playing audiotapes during the night, you can learn while you sleep
If you are asleep you cannot acquire new knowledge. However, sleep enables you to process and retain information learned during wakefulness and recall it better the next day.
14. If you have insomnia at night, you should make up by sleeping in the day
If you wish to cure your nocturnal insomnia you should never nap during the day.
15. The best time to exercise is early in the morning when you are most alert
Exercise is good for promoting the quantity and quality of sleep whenever done during the day. However, early morning exercise is only suitable for people who have met their nocturnal sleep requirement. Furthermore, it’s best to avoid heavy aerobic exercise within an hour of bedtime.
16. Sex at night will arouse you and keep you up, delaying sleep onset
Satisfactory sex might help you to go to sleep fairly quickly. However, concerns about performance and unsatisfactory sex can delay sleep onset and make sleep more ﬁtful.
17. A sound sleeper rarely moves during the night
Most people move 40 – 60 times during the night although they might be unaware of having done so.
18. A glass of wine before bed helps you fall asleep
A nightcap might put you to sleep but any alcohol within three hours of bedtime is likely to disrupt ensuing REM sleep. Alcohol in large amounts is a stimulant, not a sedative.
19. Sleeping in late on the weekends is a good way to catch up on lost sleep
You have one biological clock—not one for the workweek and one for the weekends. You must go to bed and get up at the same time Monday through Monday. To do otherwise would have the same effect of dieting or exercising only on the weekends—it doesn’t work.
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20. It is not normal to awaken several times a night
It is rare that people can sleep uninterrupted for long periods of time. However, if you wake up during the night and cannot get back to sleep within 20 minutes, this is indicative of insomnia. Often such awakenings will last for an entire 90-minute wake period before you will be able to resume sleep.
21. Cozying up under heavy blankets will make you go to sleep faster
An ideal sleeping room temperature is between 65 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Being too warm may lead to awakenings and emotionally laden dreams.
22. You are a good sleeper if you can fall asleep within ﬁve minutes
The well-rested sleeper will take about 20 minutes to fall asleep. Going to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow is a sure sign of sleep deprivation.
23. Sleeping pills are absolutely safe if taken in correct dose
Many sleeping medications can be harmful, causing memory loss, daytime grogginess, depression, cancer and even death. Cognitive behaviour therapy for solving sleep problems is a much better long-term treatment for insomnia.
24. Sleep cannot help you improve your athletic skills
In the last quartile in an 8-hour night, the brain secretes calcium into your motor cortex. This permits well-rehearsed good athletic moves to be consolidated into motor muscle memory, improving athleticism, reaction time, and situational awareness.
Dr. James B. Maas, a leading authority and international consultant on sleep and performance, is CEO of Sleep for Success. He has been the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, Professor and past Chairman of Psychology, as well as a professor in the graduate fields of Education and Communication at Cornell University. He has also served a professor for 8 years for a week of in-person lectures at the Weill Cornell Medical College-Doha, Qatar. Dr. Maas received his B.A. from Williams College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell. He holds the world’s record for university teaching, having taught more than 65,000 students in his 48 years on the Cornell faculty.
Dr. Maas has held a Fulbright Senior Professorship to Sweden, has been a visiting professor at Stanford University and past president of the American Psychological Association’s Division on Teaching. He received the Clark Award for Distinguished Teaching at Cornell and is the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award for being the nation’s outstanding educator.
Dr. Maas is one of the world’s most sought after corporate, medical, association, academic institution and athletic team speakers. He has presented highly acclaimed programs for such organizations as IBM, Eastman Kodak, Apple Computers, Campbell’s Soups, Kraft Foods, Pepsi Cola, Google, CitiGroup, JP Morgan Chase, ING, John Hancock, Bloomberg Financial, USAA, Goldman Sachs, Raymond James, Edward Jones, USAA, Federal Express, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Mutual Life, Metropolitan Life, Million Dollar Roundtable, The GAP, Transplace, Young President’s Organization (YPO), World Presidents’ Organization World Business Council (WBC), Maytag, the Naval War College, US Navy, Beyer Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Steelcase, American College of Facial and Plastic Surgeons, American and Canadian Colleges of Rheumatology, American Urological Association, Urban Land Institute, United States Figure Skating Association, the National Basketball Association, NFL New York Jets, NFL Miami Dolphins, NHL Philadelphia Flyers, NHL Ottawa Senators, NHL Nashville Predators, USA and Canadian Men’s Olympic hockey teams, Professional Hockey Trainers Association, S.C. Johnson, Equinox Fitness, Nestle, Simmons Company, Marriott, Starwood and Wyndham Hotels, Cunard and Crystal Cruise Lines, and scores of prep schools, colleges and universities, including Stanford, Harvard, Duke, Dartmouth, University of Michigan and Michigan State Universities. He significantly changed student performance through sleep education at Cornell, Deerfield, Andover, Exeter, Hotchkiss, The Hill School and the Chinese International School in Hong Kong. Dr. Maas has presented programs in Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, South Africa, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Qatar, China, Bermuda, New Zealand and South Korea. Dr. Maas’ book, Power Sleep, published by Random House and HarperCollins, is a New York Times business best-seller and published in 12 languages. Sleep for Success! co-authored with Rebecca Robbins is a book designed for business executives, students, parents, and seniors. His new book for athletes, Sleep to Win, co-authored with Haley Davis, is receiving rave reviews. Dr. Maas’ children’s venture, Remmy and the Brain Train, is an award-winning children’s bedtime story designed to help improve daytime alertness, mood and performance. There have been over 800 articles in the popular press about Dr. Maas’ work on sleep and performance. He coined the term, Power Nap and appears frequently on national television on programs, such as the TODAY Show, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CBC, The View, Regis & Kelly, and ABC’s 20/20. OPRAH devoted a hugely popular long segment to Dr. Maas and his research on sleep and performance. The Dr. Maas Collection of scientifically developed pillows and comforters are available from www.ufdshop.com