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Sleep Myths: Fact Vs. Fiction

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News and...
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BOSTON (CBS) – It is hard to find anyone who thinks they get enough sleep.

There are many myths and old wives’ tales about how much we need, and what will help us get enough.

Many people believe the magic number is 8 when it comes to the number of hours of sleep we need each night.

That is not necessarily true according Dr. Daniel Buysse, a sleep expert. “People vary in terms of how much sleep they need.”

Dr. Buysse says a healthy range for adults is between 6.5-8 hours a night.

People wonder if they can catch up on sleep. That’s true, but only to an extent. “You can catch up on sleep for some sleep that you’ve lost, but you will never make up for an entire night of lost sleep.”

Another myth: If you sleep a lot, you’re more likely to be overweight. One person on the street buys that premise, saying, “They’ve eaten so much, it just makes you more tired.”

That’s false, according to Dr. Buysse. “There’s actually quite a bit of evidence linking very short sleep to obesity.”

Now does it matter what time of day you sleep? People who work overnight say it can be a challenge to get enough sleep. “I try to go to sleep at 1, 2 in the afternoon, but it doesn’t work,” said one woman who works on the night shift.

Dr. Buysse says our biological clocks program us to want to sleep at night.

Many people believe a glass of wine will help them wind down and get to sleep. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep more quickly, it can cause problems later in the night.

“It doesn’t last very long, and people then tend to wake up and have insomnia in the middle of the night,” explained Dr. Buysse.

What about taking a nap, is that a good idea? One man was clear, saying “The afternoon nap is essential.”

It is important to keep them in moderation, however. Too much sleep during the day will make it harder to sleep at night.

Here’s one last question: If you’re in bed but wide awake, are you better off lying there, or getting up until you’re sleepy? Experts say it’s better to get out of bed, do something else, and then try again.

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