Common sleep myths debunked!

Plus: How to use perception to combat the effects of stress.

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"The greatest wealth is mental health." - Virgil

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

Tuesday.  81-year-old Martha Stewart will appear on one of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue covers, making her the oldest SI cover model ever. It turns out age is indeed just a number. Regardless of age, though, one thing is incredibly important for everyone. Sleep is something we constantly talk about on the Daily Tonic. That said, do you really need eight hours of sleep per night, or is that just a myth? Let’s dive in.

Seven Hours Is Plenty (And Other Sleep Myths Debunked) 

We all know that a lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. However, many mainstream recommendations surrounding sleep might not be as accurate as you think and could actually do more harm than good.

Contrary to popular belief, no strong evidence supports the notion that eight hours of sleep is the ideal duration for everyone. Studies suggest that most adults in Western societies average around seven hours of sleep per night, which is associated with the lowest risk of mortality. Some people may benefit from more than seven hours of sleep, but those differences will largely depend on age, season, and other factors. 

When looking at a general population, though, seven hours seems to be plenty. But that isn’t the only sleep myth that requires a closer look. 

While some individuals sleep better in darkness and silence, that isn’t the case for everyone. Some people seem to benefit from light and noise. Historical and anthropological evidence suggests that humans have adapted to sleeping in diverse environments, including those with natural light and various sounds. The key is identifying the sleep environment that works best for you. Experimenting with different conditions can help optimize your sleep quality without strictly adhering to the idea of complete darkness and silence.

Research also indicates that prescription sleeping pills may have limited effectiveness and may pose potential health risks. Studies have shown that sleeping pills mainly work through the placebo effect. Additionally, long-term use of sleeping pills has been associated with an increased mortality risk.

While sleep is known for providing physical rest, it primarily restores and rejuvenates the brain. Sleep plays a vital role in memory consolidation and cognitive function. It facilitates the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage and helps clear metabolic waste products from the brain. Understanding the cognitive benefits of sleep can help us appreciate its importance beyond just helping our bodies rest. 

Waking up during the night is also a normal phenomenon observed in various cultures throughout history. In fact, some societies have traditionally practiced a two-phase sleep pattern, where individuals wake up briefly before returning to sleep. These awakenings do not necessarily indicate poor sleep quality. However, anxiety and worry associated with nighttime awakenings can disrupt the ability to fall back asleep, and that is when this can become a problem. 

We’ve all been there. We wake up to use the bathroom and start thinking about our looming to-do list for the next day. Then we begin to stress about the fact that we are not sleeping before such a big day and have trouble falling back to sleep.  So instead, we keep thinking about all the things we need to do, stressing about not sleeping, and so on. 

The key takeaway? It is important to dispel these common sleep myths so that we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and individuality of sleep. Sleep requirements will always vary among individuals. At the end of the day, prioritizing quality sleep over rigid rules is the key to better overall well-being. 

So chill out, read a book before bed, and if you wake up in the middle of the night or can’t fit in eight hours of sleep, don’t sweat it. The stress of not adhering to those strict guidelines will only make it harder for you to get the rest your body (and mind) deserves. 

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Perception Matters 

Stress — especially in the world we live in today — is a common experience for most people, and it can have negative impacts on both the mind and body. 

That said, research shows that perceiving stress as harmful to one's health can be more detrimental than the stress itself. In fact, studies have shown that people who worry about the effects of stress have a 43% higher risk of premature death, while stress alone is not necessarily linked to such an outcome.

To combat this, researchers at Stanford University suggest that it's more effective to embrace stress and change your mindset around it. By viewing stress as a challenge that can make you better, telling yourself that you can handle or learn from the situation, and reminding yourself that everyone deals with stressors, you can reframe challenges, become more resilient, and improve your overall health.

Instead of trying to reduce stress, try shifting your perception and embracing stress as an opportunity for growth and development. You might be surprised by the difference that makes.

Tonic Shots

  • Chocolate milk might soon be a thing of the past. The popular flavored milk is on the chopping block as new school lunch guidelines aim to reduce the amount of added sugar in foods served to children. Read more.

  • Speaking of stress, did you know that it can increase your biological age? Read more. 

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