Intriguing new research emphasizes the need to make sleep a higher priority
Just in time for May and Better Sleep Month, a new study released by the Better Sleep Council shows that Americans are still hanging onto some outdated, inaccurate and just plain wrong ideas about sleep. The data serves as a wake-up call to prioritize rest and to recognize the importance of sleep to overall good health.
According to Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communications, International Sleep Products Association/Better Sleep Council, the results weren’t all that surprising. “We realize that we still have a lot of work to do to help Americans understand that sleep matters and you need to take the ‘driver’s seat’ when it comes to getting a good night’s rest.”
Myth understood: Top 5 untruths about sleep that just won’t go away
1 – Nothing happens when you sleep
It’s clear from the BSC’s research that 154 million Americans think sleep is simply your mind and body turning off for a few hours. “That is not true,” Rogers points out. “Sleep isn’t a passive activity. It’s a time when the body can undergo repair and detoxification. A typical night’s sleep comprises five different sleep cycles and it’s important that we experience each for our body to be restored and rejuvenated for the next day.”
She likens sleep to a digital “energy save mode” that allows repair and growth processes to kick into high gear. While our levels of adrenaline and corticosteroids wane, the production of human growth hormones promotes development and restoration work on muscles and bones.
2 – A 10-year-old mattress is still fine and dandy
Not a chance. “Think about your body today and then what it was like 10 years ago,” says Rogers. “We age; we experience different things. We might have been single 10 years ago and married with children now. We might have gained or lost weight, had an injury or health condition. All of these things impact your sleeping needs, including a good mattress, which is the absolute foundation of a good night’s sleep. As a rule of thumb, she suggests evaluating your mattress every 7 years to see if it’s still giving you the comfort and support you need to sleep well.
3 – You can catch up on lost sleep over the weekend
A surprising 43% of Americans believe you can. While this is an attractive notion in theory, it’s not how sleep works. You can’t bank it. When attempting it becomes a pattern, your mental and physical health will show signs of stress from lack of sleep. A better approach is to put “get a good night’s sleep” at the top of your priority list. It’s tempting to borrow 2 or 3 hours from your sleep hours to get things done, but your body will pay for it dearly with decreased productivity and mental alertness.
4 – You don’t dream
About 122 million Americans believe they don’t dream. More men (52%) than women (46%) say that’s the case, according to the BSC data. That’s not the case at all. We all dream. It’s an integral part of a healthy sleep cycle. The truth is closer to the idea that that dreams are not remembered and sleepers can’t recall them upon waking.
5 – It’s illegal to remove mattress tags
That’s the case for at least 122 million Americans. It’s not against the law and there isn’t a mattress police force that will come marching to your front door. The legalese that was put on mattress tags dates back to the early 20th century when some dodgy things were used as stuffing for mattresses. Consumers needed assurance and protection that what they were buying was new and not an old mattress stuffed into a new cover.
Important note – While it’s not illegal to remove your mattress tags, it’s a good idea to leave them on. Why? The tag carries important information and about where and when your mattress was made and that’s important if you have a warranty issue in the future. Your mattress warranty will be null and void with the label.
What’s the bottom line from the BSC study? Many Americans aren’t taking their sleep seriously, despite a wealth of accurate information on sites like Bettersleep.org. People can be fact blind and tune out important truths. As Rogers says, “Sleep is not something we need to put at the bottom of our list of priorities.” That means making our bedrooms an oasis and setting them up for sleep success. Address everything from mattress comfort and support to adequate pillows and limiting screen time on electronic devices to at least 2 hours before bed.
Don’t ignore your sleep needs is the message. “If you continually ignore the importance of a good night’s sleep, you’ll find your health, mental well-being, relationships, job and athletic performance, success at work will all suffer. Rogers says that sleep is the third leg of the healthy life stool, along with nutrition and exercise. All are essential to a healthy and productive life.” Just as you shouldn’t eat fast food every day of your life and avoid regular visits to your doctor, you shouldn’t skimp on sleep.