Have you ever wondered how much sleep you really need and why? Or if dairy really does help make your bones stronger?

While there are plenty of health messages floating around — some surprisingly true and others completely inaccurate — clinical specialist Dr Ron Ehrlich has helped set the record straight and will have you questioning your sleep patterns.

Dr Ehrlich who has more than 35 years clinical experience said the most common questions he received related to sleep — do we really need eight hours of sleep a night?

In short: Yes.

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He says 90 per cent of people need seven to nine hours sleep and without it, it could increase the chances of certain diseases such as dementia, diabetes and obesity, as well as affecting your sex life.

"Poor sleep affects memory and the chance of getting dementia increases; insulin resistance

increases predisposing to prediabetes, diabetes and obesity," Dr Ehrlich said.

"Sex hormones production is reduced affecting sex life, thyroid hormone which helps regulate metabolism is also affected."

Another common question surrounds dairy, and whether it is important for healthy bones.

According to Dr Ehrlich's research, milk doesn't reduce fracture risk "in fact, dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 per cent."

Dr Ehrlich said it's really important people take their health into their own hands.

"Chronic degenerative diseases such as dementia are affecting us like never before and they are preventable — that's the key," he said.

"Like so many things in life, the change has to come from the ground up. Waiting for something to come from above has too many conflicting interests.

"The time to take control of individual health has never been more urgent."

He said it was about "converting confusion to clarity and information to knowledge and empowering individuals to fulfil their potential."

Dr Ehrlich is the author of A Life Less Stressed: the 5 pillars of health and wellness and host of the weekly podcast Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich — it provides workshops on understanding stress and wellness.

His book explores, why public health messages are so confusing and contradictory looking at the role of the food and pharmaceutical industries; five stresses in life that break us down and the five pillars of health to build physical, mental and emotional resilience.

SIX HEALTH MYTHS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Dr Ron Ehrlich, one of Australia's leading holistic health advocates with over 35 years of clinical experience:

Myth 1. "I don't need eight hours sleep"

This is a big one. A consistently good night's sleep is a function of quantity, getting enough sleep, and quality, breathing well while you sleep. Getting both right improves every health measure, physical and mental. Getting it wrong could shorten your life.

In fact, 90 per cent of people need seven to nine hours sleep. People who sleep for only a few hours usually acknowledge they aren't getting enough sleep.

The most interesting are the people who consistently sleep six hours who share many things in common with people who are sleep deprived.

Poor sleep affects memory and the chance of getting dementia increases; insulin resistance increases predisposing to prediabetes, diabetes and obesity; the hormone responsible for fat metabolism, leptin is reduced, and the hormone responsible for hunger, ghrelin increases.

The production of sex hormones are reduced affecting sex life; the immune system is compromised; the thyroid hormone (which helps regulate metabolism) is affected and chronic inflammation increases.

Myth 2. "Dairy is important for healthy bones"

Strategic sponsorship of respected health organisations has enshrined this myth as gospel. But according to one of the most respected and independent-of-industry nutrition researchers, Dr Walter Willet, head of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says milk doesn't reduce fracture risk. In fact, dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 per cent. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (such as Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.

Myth 3. "Fat is bad":

Answer: This myth changed everything. It really is a double whammy when it comes to 'myths'. Healthy fats are essential to good health. Saturated fat and cholesterol are an integral part of every cell in the body and many important hormones. Healthy fats also keep insulin levels down and reduce chronic inflammation, both of which are the common in almost every chronic disease. Healthy fats stop hunger and actually reduce the likelihood of getting fat.

Myth 4. "Seed oils are a better choice (than fat)":

They are an integral part of an economic model, but not a health model.

They were developed to extend the shelf life of processed food and provide a source of inexpensive fat. Seed oils are hydrogenated to avoid rancidity, but such oils produce trans-unsaturated fatty acids when heated to high temperatures — and these trans fats have been implicated in cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Traditional saturated fats, that have been used for thousands of years are stable when heated. Healthy fats are fundamental to almost every aspect of physical and mental health.

Myth 5. "Salt is bad"

Like cholesterol, salt is an important part of cellular and bodily function. Too much salt in conjunction with processed food is certainly bad. But good quality salt, that contains the 60 trace elements needed for good health, is an important part of a healthy balanced diet.

Myth 6. "No pain equals no disease"

This myth is particularly wrong when it comes to oral health. In fact, over 90 per cent of oral disease, including tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer, has absolutely no pain associated with it. So, if you aren't taking oral health seriously you should. Your body already does.