25 May The Five Sleep Myths Destroying Your Immunity
How well do you sleep? That’s the most important sleep question you’ll ever answer. The quality of sleep you get is more important than how much sleep you get. There are though, a lot of stories about how much sleep you need. Let’s get rid of those first.
Fact: there is a lot of sleep deprivation in the world. 39.8% Australian adults, or 7.4 million Aussies, don’t get adequate sleep. 20% of Americans have a sleep disorder. 22% of Brits struggle to fall asleep every single night. The biggest misconception about sleep is that the only problem it causes is tiredness. In fact, sleep determines how well your immune system works. Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond. Sleep deprivation is also linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, metabolic disorders, and cognitive impairment. Sleep matters.
The second biggest misconception is that you can’t get too much sleep. There’s an optimum amount of sleep, 7 to 9 hours for adults. The third is that you need less sleep as you get older. From adulthood on, the amount of sleep you need stays constant.
“It’s important to know how much and what kind of sleep you need,” says Katie Mant, “Even more so right now when everyone wants their immune system to be strong and healthy. But there are a lot of myths about how you do that.” Katie knows a great deal about sleep. The UK expat and her husband, Andy have built a multi-million dollar business around helping people to get enough good quality sleep.
Of all the sleep myths, these are the five that the Mant’s says cause the most problems:
Myth #1: Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep. “I’m not going to get schoolmistress-y about this one.” Katie says. “Here’s what Dr Steven H. Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, ‘Not only is that tremendously wrong, but it’s also pretty dangerous. It’s really terrible for sleep’.”
Myth #2: Counting sheep will help you get to sleep. Visualising calming relaxing scenes, like waterfalls do help some people. The boring, repetitive task of counting sheep doesn’t. This was found by researchers at Oxford University in 2001.
Myth #3: Watching TV is a great sleep inducer. “No screen will help you sleep, so reading an e-book, watching movies on a tablet or hanging out on TikTok will do any good either. Screens emit blue light. Blue light inhibits your body’s production of the hormone, melatonin, which regulates both your quality and quantity of sleep.” Myth #4: Your brain rests when you’re asleep. “In fact, your brain does a lot of necessary restorative work as well as processing information. Lying in bed with your eyes closed is therefore not almost as good as sleeping. That’s another myth.”
Myth #5: Your brain and body can learn to function normally with less sleep. “All the research says this is just not true. Not enough sleep can make you less alert and affect your coordination, judgement, and reaction time. If you drive, it can be like driving a bit drunk.”
Katie and Andy became aware of all this when they were on a health kick before their wedding two years ago. They were especially aware that the number of hours they were spending watching screens was likely to be flooding them with damaging blue light. “Like everyone else, we need to use screens to work and we didn’t want to give up watching Netflix or keeping in touch with friends. So we decided to solve the blue light problem instead of avoiding it.” The Mants launched BLUblox (www.BLUblox.com), a range of glasses and a sleep mask that block blue light, which they began selling online throughout the world, at first as a side hustle.
“Two years in, BLUblox was growing so fast we had to give up our full-time jobs to run it. Screens made blue light a problem. We were lucky that we found an alternative to using them a whole lot less.”