Sleep and youth : five common myths

These are five of the most common myths debunked by Reut Gruber, PhD

Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation

False – Our bodies and brains actually do a lot of work while we sleep which helps us to refuel and stay healthy and happy. Sleep also plays an important role in memory and learning; as we sleep, we consolidate all the information we learned during the day.

Sleep is less important than some of our other important basic needs, like eating

False – Even cutting our sleep by one hour one night has a serious impact on our health, mood, and behavior the following day. Furthermore, a single night of partial sleep deprivation is enough to impair our immune functioning, which heightens our risk for acquiring a virus or illness.

Adolescents need less sleep than younger children

False – While it is true that adolescents tend to get less sleep than younger children and may have a harder time falling asleep, getting an adequate amount of sleep is still just as important for their development and well-being as it is for younger populations.

Sleeping in on weekends compensates for lack of sleep throughout the week

False – Having a consistent bedtime and wake time throughout the week is important to ensure we maintain healthy sleep habits. Waking up early throughout the week and then sleeping in on the weekends creates an irregular sleeping schedule and confuses our bodies. If we do not get enough sleep one night, a better way to compensate for this is a short nap in the afternoon.

Alcohol and other sedatives help us to sleep

False – While alcohol may help us to fall asleep easily and quickly, it actually disrupts our sleep and prevents us from achieving a deep, restful sleep. Sleeping pills can be problematic. If we use them regularly and then stop, it becomes difficult to fall asleep without their use, thus starting a vicious cycle of dependence on them.


Attention, Behaviour and Sleep (ABS) Laboratory

  • Douglas Hospital
  • Dobell Pavillion
  • Brain imaging centre