We’ve all said at least one of these things to ourselves about sleep, napping and ‘catching up’, but actually sleep isn’t something we can bargain with. Let’s bust some of the common myths around sleep…
Myth 1: I can catch up on sleep at the weekend
Reality: When you haven’t been sleeping well during the week, sleeping in at the weekend feels like an easy solution. But it can actually make things worse. Your body functions best with a consistent sleep pattern so try going to bed and getting up at the same times every day (even at weekends). It’s one of the best ways to regulate our circadian rhythm and maximise sleep.
Myth 2: If I can’t sleep, I should stay in bed
Reality: It may seem counter-productive, but the best thing to do if you wake at night and you can’t get back to sleep is get out of bed. This means your brain won’t associate your bed with wakefulness, and you’ll get sleepy more easily. So if you’re not asleep in 20 minutes, it’s important to get out of bed until you feel sleepy. Try reading or listening to some relaxing music, in a low light.
Myth 3: If I nap during the day, I won’t be able to go to sleep at night
Reality: Napping at the right time and for the right duration won’t affect your ability to sleep at night. In fact, it may actually improve your chances of drifting off to dreamland. That’s because being over-tired can make it harder to fall asleep. To get started, try a short, 30-minute nap in the early afternoon.
Myth 4: I must get 8 hours sleep per night
Reality: The amount of sleep we each need is unique. Most of us feel best with somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Some of us can get by with 6-7 hours while others require 10-12 hours of sleep. Find out how much sleep you require by checking in with your energy levels – if you wake up to an alarm or you need caffeine to feel alert, you’re probably not getting the right sleep for your body.
Myth 5: I’m just a bad sleeper
Reality: While some of us may be blessed with stronger sleep systems, we all have the ability to sleep well — we simply need to learn how to let our body do what it’s naturally built for. This means really committing to helpful habits both during the day and in the evenings. That takes awareness and consistency but you will be rewarded with deep rest.
Myth 6: If I can’t sleep, I must try harder
Reality: The paradox of sleep is that it comes when you’re not trying. Instead of getting frustrated, focus on becoming less reactive and concentrate on relaxing instead. Meditation or a gentle sleep story can turn down the volume on busy thoughts and worries, and induces a state of relaxation, which helps you slip into slumber.
Myth 7: Setting up for sleep starts in the evening
Nope! While a soothing bedtime routine is important, the pathway to better sleep begins during the day. Try drinking water instead of coffee when you wake up and get 15 minutes of sunlight (preferably while exercising) to support your body’s sleep rhythms. A regular meditation practice during the day also primes our minds for non-reactivity, which helps us sleep.
What more can I do?
If you’re struggling to get quality sleep, there is plenty you can do. Try following the advice in this blog, and take a look at my class schedule to see if there’s a good one for you. Then, if you really do have a persistent problem that is starting to affect your daily life, please go and speak to your GP.