January 21, 2018
  • View as SlideshowTest Your Sleep Smarts

    Despite decades of research, scientists still don’t understand exactly how sleep benefits us. The best guess is that it enables the brain and central nervous system to work properly. Researchers are finding that sleep affects nearly every bodily system, and that poor sleep can harm health in many ways. Even if you’re a good sleeper, learning more about sleep may help you stay that way. This quiz will test your sleep savvy and help fill you in on the ABCzzz of sleep.

  • woman with insomnia image

    How many people suffer from insomnia?

    (a) 5 to 10 percent

    (b) 10 to 20 percent

    (c) 25 to 33 percent

    (d) 33 to 50 percent.

  • man with insomnia image

    Answer: (c)

    Estimates vary, but perhaps one-quarter to one-third of all adults—and half of those over 65—regularly suffer from insomnia, and nearly everybody has it at some time. In addition, some people get inadequate sleep because they try to squeeze in more time for work or play, while others are forced to do so by circumstances. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans say they get only a few good nights of sleep a week.

    Learn more about insomnia—and its risks

  • girl sleeping image

    How many stages of sleep are there?

    (a) three

    (b) four

    (c) five

    (d) six.

  • father putting son to bed image

    Answer: (b)

    Sleep consists of four stages, which you cycle through usually four or five times a night. Perhaps the best-known sleep stage is called REM, which stands for rapid eye movement. This is when you dream.

    Learn more about the stages of sleep (also known as sleep architecture).

  • woman asleep image

    Which sleep-related hormone is known as the darkness hormone?

    (a) estrogen

    (b) testosterone

    (c) vitamin D

    (d) melatonin.

  • sunlight image

    Answer: (d)

    A key player in our sleep/wake clockwork is the hormone melatonin, which is produced at night by the pineal gland in the brain and promotes drowsiness. Light, especially blue light from the sun, suppresses this “darkness hormone.” This is one way daylight contributes to alertness, and why darkness at night increases sleepiness. In contrast, vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin”—though it’s actually a hormone that the body produces, starting when skin is exposed to sunlight.

    Learn more about melatonin.

  • nightcap image

    True or false:

    A nightcap (or two) will help promote good sleep. 

  • empty wine glass image

    Answer: False

    Alcohol is a false friend for people trying to get a good night’s sleep, especially when it’s consumed in excess. It helps you fall asleep quickly and deepens sleep initially, but later it disrupts sleep and causes middle-of-the-night wake ups. Overall, it produces unsettled sleep and alters sleep phases, including reduced REM sleep, the restorative phase when you dream and your memories are consolidated.

    Learn more about alcohol and sleep

  • man not sleeping image

    If you can’t sleep, you should

    (a) get out of bed after 10 minutes

    (b) get out of bed after 20 minutes

    (c) get out of bed after an hour

    (d) stay in bed.

  • woman reading in bed image

    Answer: (b)

    That’s what most sleep experts advise. After 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you start to feel sleepy.

    Get 14 more pointers for better sleep

  • nurse checking blood pressure image

    Poor sleep can cause or contribute to which of these problems?

    (a) impaired immunity

    (b) hypertension

    (c) diabetes

    (d) obesity

    (e) cognitive impairment

    (f) depression.

    (Hint: there’s more than one correct answer.)

  • college student asleep at library image

    Answer: All

    Chronic poor sleep is associated with these and many other serious health problems. Such associations do not prove cause and effect, of course. Shorter (and longer) sleep can be the result of various health problems and can worsen pre-existing health problems, resulting in a vicious circle.

    Here’s more about how poor sleep affects your health.

  • sleeping pills image

    The active ingredient in most over-the-counter sleeping pills is:

    (a) the decongestant pseudoephedrine

    (b) the antihistamine diphenhydramine

    (c) a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).

  • woman taking sleeping pills image

    Answer: (b)

    Nonprescription sleep aids, such as Sominex or Unisom, contain a “first generation” antihistamine (diphenhydramine or doxylamine), which causes drowsiness. Nighttime pain relievers (such as Tylenol PM and Advil PM) and cold remedies (such as Nyquil) also contain such antihistamines to promote drowsiness.

    Learn more about over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills.

  • cpap sleep apnea machine

    Which self-help steps are advisable for sleep apnea?

    (a) Losing weight if you’re overweight

    (b) limiting or avoiding alcohol, especially in the evening

    (c) taking sedating medications

    (d) avoiding heavy meals in the evening

    (e) quitting smoking

    (f) sleeping on your side, not on your back. (Hint: there’s more than one correct answer.)

  • man snoring

    Answer: All but (c)

    Sedating medications such as narcotics, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs, and some antihistamines can worsen sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by frequent stopping of breathing during sleep, often followed by choking and gasping to recover, repeated many times at night. 

    Learn more important facts about sleep apnea

  • couple watching tv at night

    True or false:

    You need less sleep as you get older.

  • older couple sleeping image

    Answer: False

    As you get older, you need as much sleep as ever. But older people tend to sleep less soundly and wake up more often—and their deep sleep stages usually become shorter.

    Learn more about sleep and aging

  • party at night image

    True or false:

    You can make up for a “sleep debt” by sleeping longer on weekends.

  • sleeping late image

    Answer: True

    It is possible to catch up on your sleep and pay back your “debt,” especially if it’s a small to moderate one. But sleeping far longer every weekend to make up for sleep deprivation during the week is not wise in the long term since it throws off your circadian rhythms (that is, your body clock). If nothing else, if you sleep until noon on your days off, you may have trouble falling asleep those nights.