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Sleep Myths Debunked

Apr 22, 2019 2:11 pm

A panel of 10 sleep experts studied 20 common sleep myths and found little or no evidence in support of these beliefs.

Sleep issues are highly prevalent among US adults, but few admit to it or do anything to manage it. 

A list of 20 potential myths underwent an Internet and medial literature review followed by a a Delphi process with sleep experts (n = 10).  Myths were scored  using a "falseness" Likert scale from 1 (“not at all”) to 5 (“extremely false”).

Specifically they analyzed myths about sleep duration, sleep timing, sleep behaviors, daytime behaviors affecting sleep, pre-sleep behaviors and brain function during sleep.

Mean expert ratings of falseness ranged from 2.5 to 5.0 (extremely false). Half of these myths were deemed to be quite false with scores > 4.0, including:

  • 5.0 for “during sleep the brain is not active” 
  • 4.75 for "Being able to fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” is a sign of a healthy sleep system"
  • 4.63  for debunking the statement that “many adults need only 5 or less hours of sleep for general health”
  • 4.63 for "Many adults need only 5 or less h of sleep for general health."
  • 4.63 for "Your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep"
  • 4.63 for "In terms of your health, it does not matter what time of day you sleep"
  • 4.63 for "Lying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping"
  • 4.63 for "If you have difficulty falling asleep, it is best to stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep:
  • 4.25 for "Although annoying for bed partners, loud snoring is mostly harmless"
  • 4.13 for "Adults sleep more as they get older"
  • 4.13 for "Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep"
  • 1.71 (SD = 0.49) for the statement that “remembering your dreams is a sign of a good night's sleep.”


This expert review suggests there are many areas that may benefit from public health education to correct myths and promote healthy sleep.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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