How to Sleep Better: 10 popular myths debunked

There is nothing better than a good night’s sleep. You wake up refreshed and ready to conquer the world and you certainly don’t need a cup of coffee to keep you from nodding away during the day.

If you are like most people, you think that you need at least eight hours of sleep to avoid the doldrums. Not so! According to the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, requiring eight hours of shuteye is only one of 10 myths about how to sleep better.

How to sleep better – reality versus myth

Myth 1: To sleep better, we should sleep at least eight hours every night.

Reality

Actually, our personal sleep needs can vary from person to person. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, when healthy adults are given unlimited opportunity to snooze, they on average get between 8 and 8.5 hours a night. Most adults seem to need about 7 hours to avoid sleepiness, while others need 9 or more. Newborns doze off between 16 and 18 hours a day, and children in preschool sleep between 11 and 12 hours a day. School-aged children and adolescents need at least 10 hours of sleep each night.

Myth 2: It’s ideal for everyone to always sleep non-stop through the night.

Reality

No, occasional awakenings are in fact normal for some. According to the National Health Institute (NIH), a healthy 70-year-old may wake up several times during the night without it being due to disease.

Myth 3: I can and must make myself sleep.

Reality:

No, we simply can’t control the process of falling asleep, but you can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

Myth 4: To eventually sleep better, I should stay in bed and rest if I can’t sleep.

Reality:

No, according to the NIH, if you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Try something else, such as reading, watching television, take a bath, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.

Myth 5: I’ll have a terrible day if I don’t sleep.

Reality:

No, not necessarily. We are very resilient and can adapt. For example, the Center for Sleep Research, University of South Australia, conducted a study in 2008 which looked at alertness and vigilance of coastal pilots, and with work periods way beyond 24 hours with just some occasional naps, their  performance remained sustainable.

Myth 6: Good sleepers fall asleep quickly.

Reality:

It’s actually normal to take up to 10-20 minutes to fall asleep, as an average. As well, falling asleep in less than 5 minutes may indicate that a person could be suffering from a sleep disorder, according to the FDA.

Myth 7: Good sleepers don’t dream.

Reality:

Dreaming nightly is an essential part of good slumber. We also dream mostly during REM sleep and which is when we have the deepest, most restorative sleep, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Myth 8: It’s best to get up and be productive if I can’t sleep.

Reality:

No, being productive at night typically disrupts sleep.

Do this instead: Find something that occupies your time but gives your brain a break, such as a soothing bath, a boring book or TV. Taking care of your taxes, on the other hand, may keep your mind working and alert worrying. Also, light disrupts the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep in your brain.

Myth 9: It’s normal to sleep less as we age.

Reality:

Well, it’s common but not inevitable or healthy or normal. Older adults need about the same amount as young adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But seniors tend to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier they they did in their youth. As well, Older people may nap more during the day, making it harder for some to fall asleep at night.

Myth 10: It’s comforting to check the time when we are sleepless.

Reality:

Actually, clock watching makes it harder to go back to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, many people who have a sleepless night can relate to the obsession with staring at the clock and watching the sleepless hours go by. For someone with insomnia, watching the clock can become a routine. Move your clock to somewhere like under your bed so it’s not in view, because if the alarm is set, there’s no need to know what time it is.

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