The reality is we are often the biggest culprits of our own sleep deprivation. We find it hard to break bad habits and buy into sleep myths that hinder good sleep. So now it’s time to find out which sleep myths may be preventing you from getting a better night’s sleep.
We need eight hours
There is no ‘magic number’ for sleep. Everyone’s requirements are different (some of us cope far better on less than others). Gauge what you need by how you feel the next day but regularly getting less than six hours a night is not ideal. Research has found that those who frequently get fewer than six hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease, with evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure.
Once a poor sleeper, always a poor sleeper
It is always possible to achieve better sleep. Start by looking at your bedroom environment – is it cool, quiet and dark? Improve ‘sleep hygiene’ by keeping electrical devices like TVs and laptops out of the bedroom. Give yourself time to wind down properly before bed and make sure that the bed you’re sleeping on is comfortable, supportive and less than seven to eight years old. Lifestyle, exercise and diet also play a part in getting a good night’s sleep – for more information click here.
Daytime naps are bad for you
Planned daytime naps improve alertness without necessarily affecting nocturnal sleep. Naps caused by sleepiness may impair night time sleep and always remember that they are not a permanent solution to sleep deprivation.
If you can’t fall asleep at night, sleep more at weekends
Bingeing on Zzs over the weekend and not sleeping during the week – what Harvard sleep expert Robert Stickgold, PhD, calls ‘sleep bulimia’ – upsets your circadian rhythms and makes it even harder to get refreshing sleep. To achieve good quality sleep, regularity of bedtimes is key. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better.
Alcohol makes me sleep better
While drinking alcohol may make you tired and cuts the time it takes to first nod off (and of course drinking a lot will really knock you out), in reality it only leads to fragmented sleep, robs us of one of our most satisfying types of sleep (where dreams occur) and wakes up during the night. Leave an hour and a half to two hours before going to bed so the alcohol is already wearing off.