Sleep Expert Debunks Common Sleep Myths | WIRED

published on July 2, 2020

– Everybody sleeps,

but not all of us know
how important sleep is

Hi, I'm Ravi Aysola,

and I'm a professor of clinical
sleep medicine at UCLA

Today I'm gonna debunk
some myths about sleep,

so we can all work on getting
a better night's sleep

[dramatic music]

Our limbs are paralyzed during REM sleep

That is not a myth, that is true

There's circuitry within the brain,

especially during REM sleep,

that actually inhibits
our skeletal muscle tone

This is so we don't act out
what we're dreaming about,

and accidentally hurt ourselves

REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep,

which is about 20% of
the total time we sleep,

is a unique neurologic
and physiologic state

Our eyes are moving
rapidly during that time,

while the rest of our body's muscles

are almost in paralyzed state,

except for the breathing and eye muscles

It's when we tend to dream,

it's also when our brains are very active

You may have woken up
sometimes from a nap,

or if you were particularly

feeling like your mind is awake,

but you can't move your body,

that's sleep paralysis

It can be really scary,

but it's not dangerous

It can happen in people

who've just been
chronically sleep-deprived,

or it may be a sign of a sleep disorder

Some disorders of sleep,

especially REM sleep,

can result in inappropriate
muscle inhibition and paralysis

During wakefulness,
people with narcolepsy,

which is a disorder of sleep-wake
regulation in the brain,

can actually experience what
we refer to as "cataplexy"

This can occur when they're surprised,


or laughing,

and can result in them
collapsing to the ground even,

in its extreme cases

We have animals that do this as well

Certain breeds of dogs
experience cataplexy,

and when they get excited,

they may actually collapse

We only sleep with our eyes shut

That's actually a myth

Some people may have their eyes
partially open during sleep

This can happen in people who
are experiencing eye problems,

or other medical problems
that affect the eye

It can also happen in people
who are really sleep-deprived

Our brains have the ability
to have microsleeps,

when we go to sleep for
very brief periods of time,

and aren't even aware of it

This especially happens
if we're sleep-deprived,

and can happen with our eyes open

Having hemispheric sleep is
adaptive for an aquatic mammal,

because it makes sure

that they still are able to go
up to the surface to breathe,

as well as be aware of predators

There's some data that suggests

that humans may experience regional sleep

This may be times where our eyes are open,

but we're not really
registering what's going on,

because parts of our
brain are not fully awake,

especially if we're sleep-deprived

Everyone needs seven hours of sleep

That's a myth

The reason you often hear
that seven hours of sleep

is the magic number of
hours of sleep we need,

is based on a large number of studies

that have looked at populations,

and doesn't necessarily mean

that every individual
needs exactly seven hours

Some people need less

Some people may need more

The important thing is
not just how much sleep,

but it's the quality of sleep,

and how you feel after you've slept

Chronic insufficient sleep,

less than seven hours a night,

and especially less
than six hours a night,

is associated with an
increased risk of obesity,


cardiovascular disease,

and mood disorders like
depression and anxiety

How much we sleep,

and when we sleep,

changes over our lifespan

Parents often complain
about their lazy teenagers,

that they can't get up in the
morning and get to school

During adolescence, this
is physiologic and normal

Now that we've recognized
that wanting to stay up later

and wake up later, is normal for teens,

a number of states have
implemented policies

to delay school start times for teens

You can catch up on lost sleep

That's true,

but it's really important when
you catch up on that sleep,

and how you catch up on that sleep

Sleep deprivation is bad for you,

both in the short term and the long term

Acute sleep deprivation
can have negative effects

on everything from your mood,

your appetite,

as well as your cognitive performance

Sleep debt is not getting enough sleep

that our bodies and brains need
over a long period of time

We can pay that debt back, to a degree

What's critical is when we
pay that sleep debt back

One way to do this is to take a power nap

I think the best time to take a nap

is in the early afternoon,

sometime between one and
four, for most people

It's a natural dip in
our circadian rhythms,

when we tend to be a
little bit more sleepy

during the 24-hour day

Circadian rhythms are
24-hour biologic rhythms

that we have developed over time

Our planet goes through
phases of light and dark,

and day and night

And so our behavior adjusts accordingly

Some people have a
really hard time napping,

especially when the sun is out

We like to mimic the environment

that we sleep in at night

So keep it dark,

or put some dark sunglasses on,

anything that helps your body feel

like it's time to take a nap

Can you learn something
new while you sleep?

The answer is much more complicated
than a simple yes or no

You're not gonna learn a language

just by playing language
tapes while you're sleeping

If you've been working on
something during the day

and trying to learn something new,

auditory cues during the night

to help reinforce that
knowledge, may help

The key is we don't wanna disrupt sleep

while we're trying to do that

More time in bed does not mean more sleep

If you're lying in bed
awake, looking around,

and especially if you're lying in bed

getting frustrated that
you're not sleeping,

and worrying about how
you're gonna do the next day,

or when you're gonna
finally get some sleep,

or how many hours you're gonna sleep

It's not helping the problem

There are things we can
do to optimize our sleep

Having a comfortable mattress,

making sure that your body's
not experiencing stress points,

or that your muscles and joints

are not misaligned during sleep,

can help improve the
quality of your sleep

Some people find that
using a weighted blanket

helps them feel more secure during sleep,

and that weight on their body,

as well as potentially
near their forehead,

helps calm them

Though we're warm-blooded animals,

our body temperature is not
the same throughout the day

The lowest point of our body temperature

is when we're in deep sleep

In some cases, cooling our heads

as we're trying to fall asleep

may actually help us fall asleep

Some people have tried to do things

as simple as putting a cool
compress on their head,

as they're trying to fall asleep

A lot of people claim a hot or
warm bath before sleep helps

It actually may help cool the body,

because the blood flow is
going out to the surface,

cooling our core a little bit more,

and that may help us fall asleep

We also don't want to
necessarily be productive

when we can't sleep,

because the goal is to calm
our nervous systems down

Better off getting up and doing something

that I would say is dull,
boring, in a dim light

We want to try to avoid bright light,

and especially blue light,

'cause that can get us activated again,

make it even more
difficult to fall asleep

Melatonin supplements help you sleep

That's true

Melatonin is actually a hormone,

made in a part of the brain
called the pineal gland

Melatonin helps our body

regulate our sleep-wake cycles naturally

Supplements that contain
melatonin may not be good for you

The problem with supplements
is they're not all the same,

and the dose of melatonin,

the timing of it,

and how much actually gets
into our body, can vary a lot,

depending on the type
of supplement we take

The timing and the dose of
melatonin are important,

because our bodies react to melatonin

at different times during the day

Depending on what we're trying to achieve,

we may wanna give a low dose of melatonin

several hours before we go to sleep,

or a higher dose right before bedtime

Melatonin supplements
and melatonin treatment

may be appropriate

for people with certain
types of sleep disorders

Taking a high-quality melatonin supplement

to help fall asleep

when you're dealing with an
unusual situation like jet lag,

or shift work,

may be appropriate,

but taking melatonin
supplements all the time

may be covering up a problem
that needs to be looked into

Insomnia is all in your head

That's a myth

Insomnia's when people may
have trouble falling asleep,

staying asleep, or waking
up before they intend to

Insomnia can be related

to both issues relating to
our minds, and our bodies

Sleep disorders and mood disorders

are really interconnected,

and both can affect each other

If we're having difficulty

coping with our feelings and emotions

that can certainly impact
our sleep, and vice versa

If we're not sleeping well,

we often have a tough time
regulating our emotions as well

Trouble falling asleep

can be related to the way we
deal with stress or anxiety,

or if we have trouble
shutting off our brains,

as we try to get to sleep

Trouble staying asleep may be a problem

with the way we're breathing during sleep,

or movements during sleep

If you've done your best to
improve your sleep environment,

and your sleep hygiene and habits,

and still suffer from disrupted sleep,

and waking up frequently at night,

that may be a sign of a sleep disorder,

and that may be a time

to get advice from a medical specialist

Snoring is harmless

That's definitely a myth

When we sleep, our muscles relax,

including the muscles in
the back of the throat

Depending on the size and shape

of the soft tissues in
the back of the throat,

the tonsils,

the uvula, which hangs
from the roof of the mouth,

and the tongue,

as well as the size of our jaw,

the position that we sleep in,

medications we may be taking,

all these factors may interact

to cause some people to
partially, or completely,

collapse the airway during sleep

Partial collapse and
vibration of that tissue

causes a snore sound

So, can snoring be harmful?

If the snoring is actually
more than just snoring

and interfering with our breathing,

and causing oxygen levels to drop,

then we call it sleep apnea

Sleep apnea

is when our bodies experience
repetitive collapse

of the airway during sleep,

causing disruption in sleep
and drops in oxygen levels

If this goes on for a long
period of time untreated,

it can result in symptoms of insomnia,

frequent nighttime awakenings,

waking up tired or foggy-headed,

and daytime sleepiness

Over the long term,

it can increase the chances
of other health problems,

like high blood pressure,


and mood disorders

In the US, about a third
of people with sleep apnea

are not overweight

Sleep apnea is more
common in men than women,

but women can develop sleep apnea too,

especially after menopause

If someone tells you you snore,
or you know that you snore,

and especially if someone has commented

that they've seen you
stop breathing at night,

that may be a sign of sleep apnea,

and you should probably get
that checked out by a doctor

We eat eight spiders a
year while we're sleeping

That is definitely a myth

We eat only five spiders
a night when we're asleep

Just kidding

When we sleep,

we may inhale or microaspirate
stuff that's in our mouth

This is usually not a big problem

We don't swallow or
chew when we're sleeping

as much as we would while we're awake

[dramatic music]

Thanks for tuning in

I hope this information today

will help you get a better night's sleep,

and better health

Sweet dreams

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