From insomnia running in the family to catching up on sleep, there’s a whole roster of sleep myths that aren’t true – and could be the cause of your tiredness.
Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan believes there is a bigger catalyst than excess caffeine or late nights when it comes to poor sleep – and that it’s actually our beliefs rather than our actions that could be the thing keeping us awake at night.
Here, Dr Nerina shares the seven unhelpful beliefs that could be sabotaging your sleep. How many did you think were true?
Sleep myth: “I shouldn’t wake up during the night”
Sleep fact: Sleep studies show that on average, we wake up around 10 times during the night. The theory is that this sleep-wake cycle evolved for our survival and safety – we come into a semi-conscious state to check that all is well and then slide back into sleep.
Ultimately, it’s completely normal to wake up during the night and then go back to sleep.
Sleep myth: “I need to know the time”
Sleep fact: If you wake up the night to check the time, you no doubt start to work out how many hours sleep you have left before you need to wake up – and start worrying about how much sleep you’re missing out on.
Dr Nerina comments: “This is a terrible cycle to get into, as obsessively checking the time will only make you more stressed and less able to drift back off. By all means use your phone as an alarm clock, but fight the urge to check it every time you wake up during the night.”
Sleep myth: “I need 7 or 8 hours of sleep to function”
Sleep fact: Everyone’s sleep requirements are different and it’s counter-productive to focus on getting a set amount. Dr Nerina believes the key is to pay attention to how you feel when you wake up. If you wake up feeling refreshed after five hours you’re probably getting enough sleep for you.
Sleep myth: “I can catch up on lost sleep”
Sleep fact: While you can catch up on your sleep to a certain extent, a few lie-ins at the weekend won’t make up for an out of sync sleep pattern. The key is getting into a regular routine and you’ll reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep – over and over again.
Sleep myth:“Sleep is what happens when my eyes are closed”
Sleep fact: How many times have you sat in a meeting with your eyes open, but glazed over, and been completely oblivious to what’s being said? Or read a book before bed and then re-read exactly the same pages the next night? This is, says Dr Nerina, an early sleep state known as a hypnagogic trance, a vital relaxation state that allows you to consolidate information, learn, and refresh your memory, enabling you to stay sharp and focussed. “You might not realise but by slipping into this trance-like state during the day you could be affecting your ability to fall asleep at night,” she adds.
Sleep myth: “My insomnia is genetic”
Sleep fact: This is a complete and utter myth – no insomnia gene exists! Dr Nerina comments: “It might be hard to hear but you need stop wearing your sleep problems like a badge of honour and believing they’re unsolvable. Everyone can improve the way they sleep. When you start becoming more aware of your sleep, you’ll start to see how any sleep issues are probably due to bad habits that have been passed down through generations, rather than faulty genetics.”