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It seems everyone has advice to share about sleep, it can be hard to know who to listen to so here are some common sleep myths - busted!

Expelling sleep myths

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6 Sleep myths expelled

As someone who focuses on helping people sleep I often find a great deal of misinformation and misunderstandings about sleep. Here are some of the common errors I hear people sharing along with some guidance that you may find more helpful.

You MUST sleep for 8 hours sleep every night.

This first one is probably the most common error I hear being shared by very well- meaning people.
If you aim to consistently get 8 hours of sleep every night it probably won’t do you any harm. It’s a pretty good guideline but it’s not actually quite that simple. It can be affected by the seasons, for example. In the sunny summer months we may need less sleep than during long winter nights. Our individual needs based on our biology as well as impacted by our daily activity levels and routines can have an impact too.

For me personally, I find 7.5 hours the perfect amount generally and that makes sense as a we tend to sleep in roughly 90minute phases so this would mean 5 full cycles of sleep in this time. A great way to identify what’s best for you is to find a week where you don’t have anything else impacting on your sleep and go to bed at the same consistent time with no alarm or external factors to wake you. So long as there are no other factors impacting your sleep at the time this will give you an idea of what is natural for you personally. If all else fails, 8 hours is still a good amount to aim for but don’t stress yourself out about it if you personally feel you need a little more or a little less. And be prepared for it to change slightly with the seasons.

You can adjust and train yourself to function well on less sleep

This myth is potentially harmful. While it may be true that our bodies adjust to the effects of sleep deprivation that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to do so. What really happens here is that you get so used to feeling tired and being impacted by the effects of the lack of sleep that you begin to not even notice how much it impacts you. It’s like the frog in a pot of water. If you slowly heat the water it doesn’t notice that it’s too hot until it’s too late. <5 hours of sleep is not healthy for any human.

It’s the length that counts!

Good sleep isn’t just about how long you sleep for. The quality of that sleep is important too. You could be sleeping for 10 hours a night but if that’s a disturbed and poor quality sleep you’ll wake up just as impaired as not getting enough sleep. Download my sleep guide and/or check out my other blog posts to learn how you can achieve better quality sleep and start feeling refreshed when you wake up.

Weekends are for catching up on sleep

The idea that you can go without sleep through the week and then lay in on a Sunday and magically reverse all the negative effects from that sleep deprivation is probably one of the most common sleep myths. Laying in at weekends can actually make it hard for your body to maintain its natural sleep rhythms leading to a reduction in sleep quality. You can never truly ‘catch up’ on sleep. Once you have had a poor night’s sleep you can sleep more to help you recover but you won’t really, fully undo the damage caused without creating a consistent positive sleep routine.

Sleeping still, means sleeping well

It’s often assumed that people who move around in their sleep aren’t sleeping “well”. This is simply not true. It’s perfectly normal to move around in the night and this is not a sign in itself of poor sleep quality. We go through cycles where at points we will move less and periods of shallower sleep where we are expected to move more. Movement isn’t a problem though restless sleep throughout is a sign that there is something else getting in the way of sleep quality.

Alcohol helps you sleep

Alcohol may lead to you feeling sleepy. Maybe even enough to pass out in a bush, sleep on a cold tiled bathroom floor or fall asleep in the most unimaginably awkward looking position, into which your body wouldn’t normally be able to contort… maybe I’m just describing my own early teenage years… back to the article.

It’s true. Alcohol will make you feel sleepy BUT that doesn’t mean it will have a positive impact on your sleep. When we drink alcohol we sleep poorly. It’s a shallow, easily disturbed sleep and one in which our brain and body are not able to rest and repair themselves in the normal way as you are too busy filtering out the toxin. Alcohol gets broken down by the liver and in the brain itself which is what leads to the cognitive impairments that come with drinking. As fun as that may be in the right context it’s really not good for your sleep. So forgo the nightcap or that ‘just a small glass of’ wine through the week if you value the quality of your sleep.

For more advice and support on sleep head to mindaffinity.co.uk/sleep-better or check out Relax Club to see how that can help you improve your sleep easily.

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