Everyone knows that getting enough Zs at night is vital to health, but many parents find it hard to put what they know into practice. There are also many misconceptions about this important topic. Sleep coach and instructor Patty Tucker of the Family Sleep Institute (www.familysleepinstitute.com) sheds light on five sleep myths:
1. Falling asleep very quickly – “before my head hits the pillow” – is a sign of normal, healthy sleep. Not necessarily. Normally, it takes 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. Falling asleep immediately is more likely a sign of sleep deprivation, a signal that your body needs more sleep than you’ve been getting lately.
2. You should be sleeping “like a log,” not waking during the night. Actually, waking one to three times during the night is normal. A night of healthy sleep is composed of four to five sleep cycles. Between each cycle, you may come close to waking or wake up completely. Night waking is only considered a problem if you regularly have trouble falling back asleep again.
3. Sleeping less during the week is OK if you make up for it on the weekend by sleeping in or taking long naps. If your body needs eight hours of sleep and you get only six each weeknight, you’ll be 10 hours in debt by Friday. But trying to make up for that by sleeping in over the weekend will likely disturb your body’s sleep (or circadian) rhythms, making it harder to maintain regular sleep schedules in the future.
4. Over-the-counter sleep aids are safe and effective. Most of these drugs contain an antihistamine, usually diphenhydramine (Benadryl®). From time to time – if you have severe allergies keeping you awake, for example – products like these may be helpful. But using them regularly can rob you of the repairing, restorative sleep process you really need. Antihistamines can also leave you feeling groggy during the day.
5. Six hours of sleep a night is fine for some people. The typical human body requires between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Depending on their ages, kids and teens need from eight to 12 hours. Genetic research has shown that only 3 percent of people truly thrive on six hours of sleep or less. The rest are merely “getting by.”