Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Rebecca Robbins: All right.

  • "Many adults need five hours of sleep or less."

  • Now, this is a myth.

  • "Loud snoring is annoying but mostly harmless."

  • David Rapoport: Loud snoring is actually a sign

  • that there is a blockage in your throat.

  • Robbins: "Your brain and body

  • will adapt to less sleep."

  • This is a myth.

  • I'm Dr. Rebecca Robbins.

  • I'm a postdoctoral research fellow

  • at the Brigham and Women's Hospital

  • and Harvard Medical School.

  • Rapoport: And I'm Dr. David Rapoport.

  • I'm a professor of medicine

  • at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,

  • and I run the research program in sleep.

  • Robbins: And we're here today to debunk

  • some of the most common myths about our sleep.

  • "Watching TV in bed is a

  • good way to relax before sleep."

  • Now, this is not something

  • that we would necessarily recommend.

  • If you turn the television on and if it's close to you,

  • that's a source of bright-blue light.

  • So, bright light is one of the strongest cues

  • to our circadian rhythm.

  • It kick-starts our body and our brain

  • to become awake and alert in the morning.

  • It's called a zeitgeber,

  • the strongest input to that circadian,

  • the awake phase of our rhythm.

  • Rapoport: "Drinking booze before bed

  • will improve your sleep."

  • So, this is a very commonly used tactic

  • for people who have trouble sleeping,

  • and they have a drink.

  • It's a drug.

  • It's very much like a sleeping pill.

  • And it is true that it will help you get to sleep,

  • as long as you don't drink too much.

  • One or two drinks, perhaps.

  • What you do, however, is it disrupts the normal sleep.

  • It suppresses REM sleep,

  • which is a normal part of your sleep

  • that comes on a little while after you go to sleep,

  • typically 30 to 60 minutes later.

  • And then, when it comes

  • that the alcohol has gotten out of your system,

  • then the REM comes back perhaps at the wrong time,

  • perhaps too strong, and it disrupts things.

  • And so basically it is not generally recommended

  • that alcohol be used as a sleeping pill.

  • "Lying in bed with your eyes closed

  • is almost as good as sleeping."

  • I think that one's pretty definitely not correct.

  • Sleep is a very specific process

  • that your body goes through.

  • The most common myth, if you will,

  • that we got rid of in the scientific field 50 years ago

  • is that sleep was like, you know, taking your car

  • and putting it in the garage and turning off the key

  • and leaving it there,

  • and then you come back the next morning

  • and it just is parked.

  • Sleep is not like that at all.

  • Sleep is a very active process.

  • When you go to sleep, you enter one stage.

  • A little while later, you enter another stage.

  • It gets progressively deeper.

  • You then have the REM sleep,

  • and then you wake up momentarily,

  • and that whole cycle takes an hour

  • to an hour and a half, and then it starts again,

  • and it happens three to five times in a night.

  • And if you disrupt any of that,

  • something happens, and the next morning you feel it.

  • You don't feel rested.

  • Now, we don't understand how that actually happens

  • or why that happens, but we do know it does happen.

  • So when you're lying in bed, none of that is happening.

  • If your eyes are closed and you're not asleep,

  • it just doesn't count.

  • Robbins: Next.

  • Rapoport: "If you can't sleep, you should stay in bed

  • and try to fall back asleep."

  • If you don't fall asleep,

  • we generally recommend that you not stretch it out

  • and stress yourself out by just trying.

  • And there's probably nothing

  • that can prevent sleep

  • as well as, "I've gotta go to sleep."

  • [Robbins laughs] "I've gotta go to sleep."

  • "I've gotta go to sleep." Robbins: "I need to!"

  • Rapoport: You can feel your pulse

  • and your blood pressure going up.

  • So what we try and do when

  • we work with somebody

  • who has this problem with insomnia

  • is exactly the opposite of that.

  • We try and tell them, relax, don't worry about it.

  • Stay in bed for a little while and see what happens.

  • But don't try to go to sleep, just relax.

  • And if you can't relax and if you don't go to sleep,

  • it's probably better to get up

  • so that you don't associate the bed

  • with a stressful situation.

  • Robbins: All right. "Many adults need

  • five hours of sleep or less."

  • Now, this is a myth.

  • We have scores of epidemiological data

  • and data from the sleep lab to show

  • that five hours is not enough

  • for the vast majority of adults.

  • There may be some individuals

  • that maybe do OK on six hours,

  • but much less than that really is a myth.

  • Now, you might hear people brag about this,

  • saying, "Oh I get five, I'm just fine."

  • But by and large, we do see those people

  • likely making up for lost sleep on the weekends

  • or in power naps, for instance.

  • So, for the vast majority of us,

  • the recommendation really is seven to eight hours.

  • Rapoport: This is a real problem

  • that the sleep field has been trying to address,

  • and that is that not sleeping has been perceived

  • as a macho thing.

  • It proves how great you are,

  • it proves how manly you are in some cases.

  • Sleeping is actually good,

  • and you should sort of be proud of the fact

  • that you sleep to your need.

  • Robbins: "Your brain and body will adapt to less sleep."

  • Rapoport: That sounds like yours.

  • Robbins: No.

  • This is a myth.

  • We see that, just like good nutrition

  • or a great, healthy diet is so important,

  • we similarly have a diet that we need

  • our brains and our bodies to be at their best.

  • Rapoport: There are actual, formal studies

  • that have tested

  • how people perform with lack of sleep

  • and how they think they are performing.

  • And it turns out that we basically are really lousy

  • at saying how sleepy we are.

  • So you know you feel bad

  • when you haven't had enough sleep,

  • but you have no idea how bad you are,

  • and your performance keeps deteriorating

  • the more you don't sleep

  • or restrict your sleep over multiple days,

  • and you think, "Oh, I've settled in.

  • I have a little headache, and it doesn't really bother me.

  • I'm doing just great."

  • And what is actually happening is

  • you're performing less and less well

  • on the various things that we can test,

  • including driving simulators.

  • You're falling asleep for three or four seconds

  • continuously, without knowing it.

  • Robbins: All right. "It doesn't matter

  • what time of day you sleep."

  • Rapoport: If you look at our biology,

  • we have, inside our brain, a clock.

  • That clock is set to say,

  • "This is a good time to sleep."

  • And then at another time it says,

  • "This is a good time to be out."

  • Sleep is timed.

  • It doesn't just happen.

  • And even if you don't sleep for the whole night,

  • you'll be more and more sleepy all night long.

  • But in the morning, you'll get a second wind,

  • and that's because the clock says, "Up, time to be up."

  • It doesn't matter that you didn't sleep,

  • it's time to be up.

  • As Rebecca said, we've gained an incredible ability

  • to not abide by that rhythm.

  • And the problem is that people think

  • that they can get away with things

  • that our biology just won't let us do.

  • Nurses have been most studied for this,

  • and firefighters and emergency workers

  • and people who live on ships.

  • They all pay a price, epidemiologically.

  • We've shown higher heart disease,

  • more tendency to gain weight,

  • and a variety of malfunctions and difficulties

  • as time goes on.

  • You can do it, but it's gonna cost you.

  • Robbins: "Exercising within four hours of bedtime

  • will disturb your sleep."

  • Rapoport: What we give as advice is that

  • about an hour before sleep,

  • you wanna try and avoid active kind of things,

  • and exercise certainly is one of them.

  • On the other hand, there are people who exercise

  • close to sleep and do very well.

  • So I don't think we should say, you know,

  • if you're somebody who

  • exercises regularly in the evening

  • and you sleep beautifully

  • and you feel rested the next morning,

  • that you should give up exercise,

  • 'cause I think that would be a bad bit of advice.

  • You'll gain weight,

  • you'll lose the toning that you've gotten,

  • so on and so forth.

  • On the other hand, if you haven't been doing it,

  • I probably wouldn't start exercising at night.

  • And if you're having trouble with sleep,

  • that's one of the first things we look at,

  • after drugs like caffeine, to try and get rid of.

  • Robbins: All right. "Remembering your dreams

  • is a sign of a good night's sleep."

  • Rapoport: I think that there is a huge variation

  • in how much people remember their dreams.

  • Some of it has to do with when you wake up.

  • If you wake up during REM sleep,

  • you almost always will remember a dream.

  • Some of us don't remember anything

  • at all about our dreams,

  • and it doesn't seem to harm them.

  • But it's not a true thing

  • that just because you don't remember your dreams,

  • that you're not having good sleep.

  • What tells you you're having good sleep

  • is how you feel the next day.

  • Robbins: Now, if you're waking up with nightmares,

  • that could be a simple sign

  • that maybe your bedroom is too hot

  • and you need to turn down the temperature.

  • 'Cause a hot bedroom environment unfortunately

  • can create fragmented sleep

  • and cause you to wake up often from nightmares.

  • Now, "Eating cheese (or other food) before bed

  • causes nightmares."

  • Rapoport: I don't think I'm aware of any particular food

  • that will do that to everybody,

  • but it's very clear that being uncomfortable

  • will precipitate both bad sleep and waking up

  • and maybe even nightmares.

  • So, imagine somebody with irritable bowel syndrome

  • who knows that whenever they eat, whatever,

  • gluten or some specific food, spicy foods,

  • it upsets their stomach when they're awake.

  • Well, guess what?

  • If they eat it before they go to sleep,

  • it'll upset their sleep,

  • and it may