Thursday, November 12, 2015
It goes without saying that sleep is vital to our health, both physically and mentally. While we all know the feeling of being a little grouchy and slow the day after a terrible night’s sleep, persistent insomnia can cause much more serious health problems.
There are many myths surrounding sleep, such as how much sleep we need, the best ways to get to sleep and which sleeping positions will help you get a full night’s sleep. But how much of this is true? We are all unique and, therefore, how much sleep we need and the methods best suited to help us get to sleep are as unique as we are. There are no hard and fast rules for sleep which will work for everyone, but there is general guidance we can follow to help wake up well rested and ready to face the day ahead.
Here, we look at some of those myths surrounding sleep and get to the truth behind a good night’s sleep.
It has been said many times that adults should get 8 hours of sleep every night; no more, no less. Despite this, most adults get an average of 7 hours, and many people over the age of 50 sleep less than that. The amount of sleep we need varies very much depending on the individual. It is often said that Margaret Thatcher ran the country sleeping only 4 hours a night.
Sleep deprivation can have a big impact on people’s lives, affecting a person’s emotional state and causing them to have “micro-sleeps” during the day and even delusions. While it is important that we get enough sleep, there is no set amount of sleep which is the same for everybody. Some people can function perfectly well on fewer hours of sleep while others need a lot more. Don’t limit how much you sleep, if you need extra rest. While on the other hand, don’t worry if your body doesn’t seem to need those extra hours in bed.
There is a school of thought that believes you must set yourself some bedtime rules, in order for you to be able to go to sleep quickly and stay asleep all night. Also known as sleep hygiene, this involves creating a sleep-conducive atmosphere in the bedroom, following a set routine before bed and even extending those rules out into the rest of the day by determining what foods to eat or avoid.
However, the placing of too many bedtime rules can, in fact, hinder sleep and exacerbate the problem as people focus too much on why they aren’t sleeping. This creates a vicious circle of not sleeping, leading to stress and worry, which in turn causes problems sleeping.
There is a myth that says that the position in which you sleep can affect how much you sleep and how good a rest you actually get. In honesty, as long as you are comfortable, your sleeping position shouldn’t affect your sleep at all. Again, it all depends on the individual. Some people prefer to sleep on their back while some lie on their side. In reality, you will move around a lot in your sleep anyway, so the position in which you fall asleep won’t necessarily be the way you sleep all night. People with back problems or pain may benefit from the use of pillows to support their legs during sleep to alleviate pressure on the spine.
Many people work late into the night or spend their evening watching TV or playing computer games. This does not give the brain time to wind down, so when you go to bed it is still buzzing with information. Smartphones and mobile devices also play a large part in this. Before you go to bed, give yourself some quiet time to allow your brain to slow down and prepare for sleep. A good tip is to write down any things you need to do the next day so that they are not whirring around in your head as you try to sleep. Avoid food or drinks high in caffeine or sugar before bedtime so that your body is not full of excess energy. Ensure your bedroom is quiet and dark with no distractions to give your mind time and space to sleep.
If you are struggling with sleep, it may be tempting to self-medicate with sleeping tablets. However, this is to be avoided. You never want to start a course of any medication before consulting a doctor. Talk to our GP about any sleep problems you are experiencing and she will be able to offer proper advice and treatment if necessary. You can find more information here.