Sleep Diagnostics

Facts and Myths of Sleep

Sleep deprivation is dangerous, accounting for 1,500 motor vehicle deaths per year. Major industrial accidents linked partly to errors by fatigued night-shift workers include the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plant accidents. There are many common myths about sleep, knowing the facts can be life-saving. Talk with your doctor about sleep. Once correctly diagnosed, most of the 70 identified sleep disorders can be effectively treated.

Myth: You can “get by” with less sleep.

Fact: Most sleep experts agree adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each day. Although sleep patterns change as we age, the amount we need does not. Teens need at least 8.5-9.25 hours. Getting too little sleep creates a “debt”-the higher the withdrawal from this bank, the harder it is to pay back. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot reverse the effects of severe sleep deprivation. Too little sleep impairs judgment, reaction time, memory, concentration, learning, and physical performance.

Myth: Snoring is common, but not harmful.

Fact: While snoring may be harmless for most people, it can be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition in which air is prevented from flowing in and out of a person's airway. Sleep apnea is a life-altering disorder that reduces blood oxygen levels, strains the heart and is linked to high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, and increase risk of heart attacks and stroke. Men and women who snore loudly, especially those who pause during snoring, should consider a sleep evaluation. Several treatments are available, although people with sleep apnea should never take sedatives or sleeping pills that may prevent them from awakening enough to breathe.

Myth: If you have trouble falling asleep, it is insomnia.

Fact: Four symptoms are associated with insomnia: difficulty falling asleep; waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep; frequent awakenings; and waking up feeling not refreshed. Insomnia can be a sign of a sleep disorder or other medical or psychological conditions that can often be treated. When insomnia symptoms occur more than a few times a week and affect daytime activities, talk with your doctor.

Myth: Health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression have nothing to do with sleep.

Fact: Research continues to expand our understanding of the role of sleep. Conditions such as obesity may be related to a growth hormone that decreases with sleep. Interrupted sleep may also disrupt a normal decline in blood pressure, leading to hypertension and heart conditions. Cardiovascular events, including strokes, are most likely to occur in the morning. Studies have also suggested that the lack of sleep makes it more difficult for the body to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes, or complications in managing the disease.