This is a guest post by Sarah Cummings
As children, we were lead to believe that bedtime stories were A Good Thing. Which, more often than not, they were. They led us into some wonderful dreamscapes, filled with princesses, talking animals, and rainbow-colored streets. The better the story, the sounder the sleep.
Of course, sometimes an over-zealous parent’s tale might lead to us having nightmares; those witches or monsters might break out of the story and into our slumberland. So sometimes a bedtime story could have its pitfalls!
Sleep-related myths have a dark side, too. Because there are a whole host of new ‘bedtime stories’ that affect our adult lives, making our sleep cycles run less smoothly than they should.
Here are a few of these myths that could be affecting your sleep:
Myth #1: We Need Less Sleep as we Get Older
This is a very common belief and one that simply isn’t true. Adults are recommended to have 7–9 hours of sleep per night. And while our sleep patterns may change with age, the amount of sleep we need does not. Older people tend to wake more often during the night or to find themselves unable to sleep past dawn – and this lost sleep remains unaccounted for during the day.
So quit making excuses about how you’re getting older and therefore need less sleep. Instead, rediscover the joy of napping! If you’re sleeping less at night, take time out in the day for even a 15-minute snooze. There’s a reason why they call it a ‘power nap’, after all…
Myth #2: Counting Sheep is the Best Way to Fall Back Asleep
Mr. Bean counting sheep
There are differing opinions on this but some research suggests that this method can actually be more distracting than relaxing. Instead, focusing the mind on gentle images or peaceful thoughts can be more effective – if this is something you can’t conjure up yourself, try a guided meditation.
The consensus seems to be that if you wake up during the night and still can’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes, don’t just lie there in frustration. Counting sheep with a tight jaw and anxious mind, while checking the time every 5 minutes isn’t exactly going to send you to Sleepytown! Instead, move to another room and listen to some relaxing music, or turn on the light and read a book. Then go to bed again when you actually feel sleepy – you’ll find that sleep won’t elude you for very long afterward.
Myth #3: Alcohol Aids Sleep
That glass of wine, pint of beer or tumbler of whiskey may have a sedative effect – but it won’t give you a better night’s sleep. Sorry.
Because, while alcohol can make you feel lovely and drowsy and help you to fall asleep quickly, the sheen wears off soon after. This is because the alcohol is metabolised by your body during the night, meaning your sleep gets lighter and lighter and your chances of waking up are actually increased. Furthermore, you’ll probably need to get up for the bathroom a couple of times with all that extra work your kidneys need to do. So what starts as a nice, ‘conked-out’ feeling becomes a tossing, turning, head-thumping nightmare. Ouch.
While we are doing all this myth-busting, here’s a non-sleep related one – lightning can indeed strike in the same place twice, just ask this guy. Ok, now back to sleep myths…
Myth #4: Teenagers are Lazy
If you can remember being a teenager, or happen to have one yourself, you might think that this myth has a lot of truth in it! Because all they want to do is lie in bed. That’s laziness, right?!
Image: Tackle Extra
Well, actually, they may have science on their side here. Around the time they hit puberty, a change occurs in their body clock which delays their circadian rhythms by up to 3 hours. Yep, 3 hours! So they may not be able to physically get to sleep until say, 1 AM. If they then follow the 7–9 hours of sleep rule, they may not even think about getting up until 10 AM, long after they should be up, fed and in school.
Thus, if they appear tired and irritable in the morning, cut them some slack – they’ve probably only had half a night’s sleep. If they can get into a habit of having a nap during the day, say when they get back from school, you’ll find them a lot easier to be around!
There are more myths about sleep that could be affecting your own nighttime rest. But here’s one truth that remains undisputed – we all need our sleep as sleep deprivation has all sorts of physical and mental consequences, from diabetes and depression to heart disease and obesity.
On the other hand, getting enough, good-quality sleep makes us healthier, happier and more successful people in every aspect of our lives. So it’s something we simply can’t afford to cut corners on! For tips on getting a better night’s sleep, whether it’s advice on meditation or on choosing the perfect mattress, check out what The Sleep Advisor experts have to say. Don’t let common myths get in the way of your sleepy time and you’ll have much sweeter, longer dreams as a result!