Less than 5 hours is OK and 4 other sleep myths that are 'serious risk to your health'

COMMON myths about sleep pose a serious threat to our health, according to a new study.

Scientists say the idea you can get by on less than five hours of shut-eye or having a nightcap helps you nod off are widely held misconceptions.

In fact, they claim that not only do these beliefs shape poor habits, but they may also pose a significant public health threat.

Researchers from NYU School of Medicine 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.

Study leader Dr Rebecca Robbins, an epidemiologist at New York University's (NYU's) School of Medicine, said: "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."

1. You can get by on less than five hours sleep

Famously, Margaret Thatcher claimed she could get by on just four hours of sleep a night.

But the idea you can get by on five hours of sleep was among the top myths researchers were able to dispel based on scientific evidence.

They say this also poses the most serious risk to health from long-term sleep deficits.

Dr Robbins said: "We have extensive evidence to show sleeping five hours or less consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences."

These included cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and shorter life expectancy.

She instead recommends that everyone should try and get a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

2. Snoring is harmless

Another common myth relates to snoring, which many probably think is harmless.

But researchers say it can also be a sign of sleep apnoea – a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing starts and stops over the course of the night.

The team said patients shouldn't dismiss loud snoring, but rather to see a doctor since this sleep behaviour may lead to heart stoppages or other illnesses.

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