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Catch your ZZZs: 4 sleep myths busted

Sleep is essential to your physical and mental health.

"During sleep, your body repairs itself and your brain processes memories of the day's events," says Lake Regional Neurologist and Sleep Medicine Specialist Justin A. Malone, M.D. "You're actually getting a lot done during restful slumber."

Below, Dr. Malone busts four sleep myths to pave the way for ultimate snoozing.

Myth: Older people need less sleep.

Fact: All adults typically need between eight and nine hours of sleep per night to cycle through all sleep stages. Unfortunately, adults older than 65 often find it difficult to sleep more than six to seven hours. This struggle results from natural changes to the circadian rhythm — our inner "clock" that tells us when to wake and sleep. Good sleep habits can help adults sleep better and longer at night.

Therapeutic napping — setting an alarm to limit naps to around 20 minutes — also can help older adults meet their sleep requirements.

"Napping longer than 30 minutes can take you into 'slow wave sleep,' and waking during this sleep stage can leave you feeling worse than before the nap," Dr. Malone says.

Myth: Turning on the TV will help you doze off.

Fact: "Light is the strongest alerting stimulus to the brain," Dr. Malone says. "To be a successful sleeper,
remove all stimuli, including light and noise, from the bedroom."

Dr. Malone adds that good sleep hygiene starts with daytime habits.

"The best thing we can do to be a good sleeper is to have a set wake up time, typically around 6 a.m.," he says. "We should exercise routinely; avoid napping, if possible; and try to maintain a cool, dark and quiet sleep environment. Our circadian rhythm's sweet spot for falling asleep is typically between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m."

It's best to wind down for about 30 minutes before bedtime. Avoid all artificial light stimuli, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, computers and television.

"Be aware that between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., our circadian rhythm has a slight uptick — termed the 'second wind' — and it is extremely difficult to fall asleep during this period of the night," Dr. Malone says.

Myth: Sedative medications are a good solution for better sleep.

Fact: There's growing evidence that chronic sedative use harms cognition and memory as we age.
"Sedative medications should be used similarly to non-steroidal medications for pain; that is, only on occasion and as needed, not routinely," Dr. Malone says.

Myth: Snoring is not a big deal.

Fact: Snoring is the No. 1 sign of sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops temporarily during sleep. This can happen many times a night, even if you're not aware of it, and can keep you from restful sleep. In addition to leaving you tired, sleep apnea increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

"Poor sleep also causes the body to release the hormone ghrelin, which promotes hunger and tells the body to store fat," Dr. Malone says. "Obesity is related to obstructive sleep apnea, and weight gain worsens sleep apnea, creating a vicious cycle."

For most individuals, sleep apnea is easily treated. The most effective treatment option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This treatment involves using a CPAP machine to help keep the airway open during sleep.

Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Sleep Foundation

Categories: Sleep needs

One-size sleep studies do not fit all

If your doctor suspects sleep apnea or another sleep problem, you may receive an order for a sleep study at Lake Regional Sleep Medicine, located on the third floor of Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach. Learn about our thorough assessments, individualized treatment plans and follow-up care.

Test for better rest