Common myths around sleep like snoring is harmless or having a drink helps to fall asleep not only shape poor habits but may also pose a significant public health threat, say researchers.
The claim by some people that they can get by on five hours of sleep was among the top myths researchers were able to dispel based on scientific evidence.
This myth also poses the most serious risk to health from long-term sleep deficits, said the study published online in Sleep Health journal.
"Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood, and general health and well-being. Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health," said study lead investigator Rebecca Robbins at New York University Langone Health.
To reach this conclusion, researchers reviewed more than 8,000 websites to identify the 20 most common assumptions about sleep. With a team of sleep medicine experts, they ranked them based on whether each could be dispelled as a myth or supported by scientific evidence, and on the harm that the myth could cause.
Another common myth relates to snoring. While snoring can be harmless, it can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder.
The authors encourage patients not to dismiss loud snoring, but rather to see a doctor since this sleep behaviour may lead to heart stoppages or other illnesses. The study authors also found sufficient evidence that, despite beliefs to the contrary, drinking alcoholic beverages before bed is indeed unhealthy for sleep.
"Sleep is important to health, and there needs to be greater effort to inform the public regarding this important public health issue," noted study senior investigator Girardin Jean Louis.
Robbins and her colleagues suggest creating a consistent sleep schedule and spending more time, at least seven hours, asleep.