I do not know about you but I am tired of reading endless studies of what can happen if I do not get enough sleep. Everything from Alzheimer’s, to obesity and everything in between. Just knowing all these things doesn’t help me sleep any better, if at all.
So today I want to take a look at a few myths that may be preventing us from getting the sleep we know we need.
If I don’t sleep tonight I will not be able to function tomorrow. Has this happened to you? Your tossing and turning looking at the clock on your nightstand. Your thinking to yourself if I fall asleep now, I will get 5 hours sleep. Then 4. Then 3. Annoying isn’t it. We are afraid we won’t wake up, will fall asleep during the big meeting, I will be so miserable, I will be so tired, and on and on it goes. And perhaps surprisingly, there is a very small correlation between insomnia severity and excessive daytime sleepiness. In fact, most people (myself included) report that after a really bad night’s sleep, the next day may be a little rougher but isn’t the disaster they feared.
I will have to cancel my plans. So you have a 9:00 AM t-time. Relax. This worrying about not being able to do what you want the next morning will increase your anxiety and stress. This will decrease the likely hood of falling asleep. I have found even on 3 hours sleep I can function and have fun. Sure I am tired, but the activity invigorates me, and that evening I sleep great.
Insomnia is going to kill me or make me sick. Unless you have been diagnosed with “Fatal Familial Insomnia” no, lack of sleep will not kill you. As I was discussing earlier every week new research continues to hammer home how bad lack of sleep is. But we are adults. We get it already. Yes, it’s true that insomnia isn’t good for us, but we are trying to fall asleep we do not need to magnify just how bad it is. Studies say I need at least 8 hours sleep a night. Taken from the gurus of sleep hygiene this has become their disciple’s mantra. Actually, I think it makes us sound more like zombies. Each of us is different. Some people need less and some more. Usually, a window of 7-9 hours is recommended. But again this isn’t written in stone. Your body will tell you what it needs.
I have to catch up on my sleep. Actually, this is a no. For example last week I got 3 hours sleep. For some reason, I woke up at 5:30 AM and that was it. I ran my usual morning routine and thought at noon I would take a nap before work. The problem. I am not a daytime sleeper. Research also shows it does not matter how much you try to catch up. If you can’t fall asleep you will become more stressed and the cycle begins again.
I need medication to sleep. Another mantra. I think this comes from the pharmaceutical gurus, I could be wrong. My wife tells me this one. The truth is that we don’t. There are many natural alternatives and teas that can help us fall asleep. When I stopped taking my nightly friend 30 minutes before sleep, yes my body revolted by keeping me awake. But it went away. I think we live in a society that demands instant results. Thus the demand for something that knocks us out. We don’t actually fall asleep. We are medicated, and often times wake up in a fog.
If I try harder I will fall asleep. If we study harder I will get good grades. If I work harder I may get a promotion. But if I try harder to fall asleep, I am guaranteed a night of absolute frustration. It is very counterproductive. Sleep and effort are strange bed-fellows. They don’t like being together. You can try a warm bath if you have a partner ask for a massage. Try a soothing herbal tea. But what ever you do, do not try harder.
I hope that this has been able to help you. You and I both know that sleep is important. It isn’t rocket science. You would think that sleep is a natural by-product for a busy day. It can be. All we need to do is to give ourselves a break and stop harassing ourselves into an obsession. If you are interested in other topics about sleep that you want researching contact me “Eli” at [email protected]