10 myths about sleep

Sleep is a foundational block of military wellness and health. But only 30% of Service Members get enough of it—with most sleeping less than 6 hours per night. What you believe to be true about sleep will drive your behaviors and sleep habits. For example, if you think you can train your brain and body to endure sleep deprivation, you'll put effort into that. On the flip side, if you’re aware that sleep is essential, you'll make it a priority.

Busting some common myths about sleep can help you change your behavior to improve sleep readiness and performance.

Myth: Many Service Members need no more than 6 hours of sleep.

10 Myths about SleepJust like everyone else, Service Members need 7–9 hours of sleep. While rare genetic mutations allow some to sustain health and performance with less than 7 hours of sleep every night, those mutations only affect 1 in 4 million people worldwide.

Myth: You can train your brain and body to sustain performance with less sleep.

10 Myths about SleepThose who get less than 7 hours per night report increased sleepiness and reduced attention for the first few days of sleep deprivation. Over time, changes in mental and physical capacity level off, and lower performance starts to feel normal. The truth is that sleep-deprived people get used to underperforming—not that they can train to sustain performance with less sleep.

Myth: Stay in bed with your eyes closed if you’re having a hard time falling asleep.

10 Myths about SleepYour brain can learn to associate an environment with a specific behavior, and the goal is to learn and reinforce the association between lying in bed and sleeping. If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, then get up, do something relaxing, and go back to bed when you feel tired.

Myth: A good sleeper can fall asleep anytime, anywhere.

10 Myths about SleepBeing able to quickly fall asleep anytime during the day—even in lighted, noisy, or hot environments—can be a sign of poor sleep. Getting healthy, adequate sleep at night ensures you have sustained energy and alertness levels during the day.

Myth: Caffeine fixes everything.

10 Myths about SleepWhen your duties require you to go more than 24 hours without sleep, 200 mg of caffeine can help you sustain alertness and performance. However, lack of sleep impairs your performance across all TFF domains in ways that caffeine can't help. For example, caffeine won't reverse the impact of sleep deprivation on blood sugar and hunger signals.

Myth: Evening exercise always disrupts sleep.

10 Myths about SleepExercise at any time of the day makes it easier to fall asleep and improves sleep quality. However, vigorous physical activity causes your heart rate and body temperature to temporarily raise. If you exercise too close to bedtime (within 60 minutes), this rise in temperature might make it harder for you to relax and sleep. Figure out how long your body takes to settle down after a workout session and use that as a limit to perform vigorous exercise in the evening.

Myth: A drink or two before bed helps you sleep better.

10 Myths about SleepAlcohol causes you to become unconscious and fall asleep quicker. However, even a small quantity of alcohol consumed close to bedtime reduces sleep quality. Alcohol also makes it harder to spend enough time in the restorative stages of sleep.

Myth: A warm bedroom is the best environment for sleep.

10 Myths about SleepWarm temperatures can help your body relax, but they don't support a good night's sleep. Your internal clock triggers a drop in body temperature around bedtime, helping you fall asleep. Being in a warm bedroom or having too many layers of blankets can disrupt this natural drop in your body temperature and make it harder to fall and stay asleep.

Myth: You’re a bad sleeper if you move or wake up in the middle of the night.

10 Myths about SleepIt's normal to occasionally move during sleep. However, if the movement lasts for a long time or disrupts your or your bed partner's sleep, it becomes a cause for concern. It's also normal to have short periods of wakefulness during the night, but you usually don't remember them. Getting up to use the bathroom and quickly going back to sleep is also part of normal sleep.

Myth: Hitting snooze provides extra restful sleep.

10 Myths about SleepMany people hit the snooze button to get an additional 10–20 minutes of sleep, but it brings no real benefit. It's a better practice to set the alarm at the latest time possible to get 7–9 hours of sleep, so  you can wake up the first time it goes off—and start your day.

Sleep is essential to performance in all Total Force Fitness domains. If you want to develop habits that help you improve your sleep readiness, fall asleep faster, and sustain quality sleep through the night, check out HPRC's sleep hygiene self-check.

Published on: March 1, 2023

CHAMP wants to know:
How useful was the information in this article?


plus icon minus icon

Akerstedt, T. (2003). Shift work and disturbed sleep/wakefulness. Occupational Medicine, 53(2), 89–94. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqg046

Becker, M. H. (1974). The health belief model and sick role behavior. Health Education Monographs, 2(4), 409–419. doi:10.1177/109019817400200407

Bhattacharyya, N. (2015). Sleep and health implications of snoring: a populational analysis. The Laryngoscope, 125(10), 2413–2416. doi:10.1002/lary.25346

Bixler, E. O., Vgontzas, A. N., Lin, H. M., Calhoun, S. L., Vela-Bueno, A., & Kales, A. (2005). Excessive daytime sleepiness in a general population sample: the role of sleep apnea, age, obesity, diabetes, and depression. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90(8), 4510–4515. doi:10.1210/jc.2005-0035

Carskadon, M. A., & Dement, W. C. (1981). Cumulative effects of sleep restriction on daytime sleepiness. Psychophysiology, 18(2), 107–113. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.1981.tb02921.x

Ebrahim, I. O., Shapiro, C. M., Williams, A. J., & Fenwick, P. B. (2013). Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(4), 539–549. doi:10.1111/acer.12006

He, Y., Jones, C. R., Fujiki, N., Xu, Y., Guo, B., Holder, J. L., . . . Fu, Y.-H. (2009). The transcriptional repressor DEC2 regulates sleep length in mammals. Science, 325(5942), 866–870. doi:10.1126/science.1174443

Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., . . . Adams Hillard, P. J. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), 40–43. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010

Jagannath, A., Taylor, L., Wakaf, Z., Vasudevan, S. R., & Foster, R. G. (2017). The genetics of circadian rhythms, sleep and health. Human Molecular Genetics, 26(R2), R128–R138. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddx240

Luxton, D. D., Greenburg, D., Ryan, J., Niven, A., Wheeler, G., & Mysliwiec, V. (2011). Prevalence and impact of short sleep duration in redeployed OIF Soldiers. Sleep, 34(9), 1189–1195. doi:10.5665/sleep.1236

Mysliwiec, V., McGraw, L., Pierce, R., Smith, P., Trapp, B., & Roth, B. J. (2013). Sleep disorders and associated medical comorbidities in active duty military personnel. Sleep, 36(2), 167–174. doi:10.5665/sleep.2364

Ohayon, M. M. (2005). Prevalence and correlates of nonrestorative sleep complaints. Archives of Internal Medicine, 165(1). doi:10.1001/archinte.165.1.35

Ohayon, M. M. (2008). From wakefulness to excessive sleepiness: what we know and still need to know. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 12(2), 129–141. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2008.01.001

Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1). doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-14

Pietilä, J., Helander, E., Korhonen, I., Myllymäki, T., Kujala, U. M., & Lindholm, H. (2018). Acute effect of alcohol intake on cardiovascular autonomic regulation during the first hours of sleep in a large real-world sample of Finnish employees: observational study. JMIR Mental Health, 5(1). doi:10.2196/mental.9519

Robbins, R., Grandner, M. A., Buxton, O. M., Hale, L., Buysse, D. J., Knutson, K. L., . . . Jean-Louis, G. (2019). Sleep myths: an expert-led study to identify false beliefs about sleep that impinge upon population sleep health practices. Sleep Health, 5(4), 409–417. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2019.02.002

Somers, V. K., White, D. P., Amin, R., Abraham, W. T., Costa, F., Culebras, A., . . . Young, T. (2008). Sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 52(8), 686–717. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2008.05.002

Trauer, J. M., Qian, M. Y., Doyle, J. S., Rajaratnam, S. M. W., & Cunnington, D. (2015). Cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic insomnia. Annals of Internal Medicine, 163(3), 191–204. doi:10.7326/m14-2841

Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., . . . Tasali, E. (2015). Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 11(06), 591–592. doi:10.5664/jcsm.4758