Top 6 Medical Misconceptions

The truth is, an amazing number of our ideas about health are misconceived or simply wrong. Here's a handful that have turned out to be off the mark.

from What Works, What Doesn't

MYTH #5: Sleep Isn’t That Important

Given the hectic lives we lead today, eight or nine hours of sleep may seem like a delicious indulgence we just can’t afford. But research suggests that if you’re concerned about your health, you can’t afford not to get enough shuteye.

Sleep does far more than give you the energy you need to get through the day and help you cope with stress. For one thing, it helps you keep your weight in check. Studies suggest that sleep deprivation leads to increased levels of the hormone grehlin, which triggers hunger, and decreased levels of leptin, which signals fullness. The result: You eat more.

Lack of sleep also affects the immune system. Rats deprived of sleep die, most likely because of an immune system breakdown that allows an influx of deadly bacteria. Sleep deprivation may also increase levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body, and inflammation is now known to contribute to a host of serious diseases, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer.

If you “forgot” to get enough sleep last night, you may start forgetting other things, too.

Failing to log enough pillow time can contribute to depression, make high blood pressure worse, and even raise your blood sugar. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who slept five or fewer hours per day were nearly a third more likely to develop diabetes than women who got a more reasonable amount of sleep.

Finally, during sleep, the body appears to repair damaged brain cells and “reorganize” the brain, possibly affecting learning and memory. If you “forgot” to get enough sleep last night, you may be forgetting other things, too.

Next: MYTH #6: The Placebo Effect Is Negligible

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