Sleep is a pillar of health. It’s just as vital as eating or exercising. But what other facts circulate about slumber? Our experts debunk three common sleep myths:
1. You can make up for lost sleep. This one’s tricky, as it’s both true and false. “Trying to catch up with sleep if you’re deprived one night is a good idea,” says California-based sleep specialist, Britney Blair. For instance, if you slept poorly the night before, adding a little more sleep the next night is good. Yet if you’ve constantly deprived yourself of sleep during the week, adding those lost hours to the weekend doesn’t work and could spell trouble. “You’ll wake up Monday morning feeling as if you had jet lag,” she says, adding that it’s worse if you have insomnia. A recent survey by the meditation app Calm, in fact, found that 46 percent of participants named Sunday as the night when they found it hardest to sleep, perhaps because they changed their sleep routine over the weekend.
2. You can survive on fewer than six hours of sleep a night. Numerous executives tout how little sleep they get, but in reality, few people—less than 1 percent of the population—are short sleepers, meaning that they need fewer than six hours a night, says sleep psychologist W. David Brown.
3. Naps are for babies. Although naps don’t necessarily make up for lost sleep, they can help if you need a quick pick-me-up, Brown says. They’re especially effective when circadian rhythms naturally dip, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for most people. Limit napping to no more than 30 minutes; even just five to ten minutes can help. The one caveat? If you have insomnia, napping isn’t recommended.