Sleep Myths: Are These Beliefs Ruining Your Sleep?

By Dr. Julie Davelman ~

People have many incorrect beliefs about sleep, and some of these convictions may be effecting how good your sleep is. If your beliefs about sleep are not discussed here, but you want to know if they are myth or truth, comment here, and I will investigate.

Myth: I should be able to fall asleep as soon as I get into bed.

Truth: It is normal to take around thirty minutes to fall asleep

Myth: If I get out of bed when I can’t sleep, I will be even more miserable

Truth: Doing something enjoyable out of bed is more pleasant then tossing and turning.

Myth: Thinking about sleep will help me to fall asleep

Truth: the most common cause of sleeplessness is worrying about falling asleep

Myth: I need to follow specific steps in order to fall asleep

Truth: Only people with sleep problems do things to fall asleep. You cannot “make” yourself sleep.

Myth: I watch the clock so that I know how much sleep I get.

Truth: If you watch the clock when you cannot sleep and calculate how much sleep you will get if you fall asleep now, this is interfering with your sleep. It is hard to sleep and do mental math at the same time.

Myth: I need 8 hours of sleep or I cannot function.

Truth: People’s need for sleep varies. Few adults can produce 8 hours of sleep per night, so this becomes an unachievable goal and leaves the person feeling like a failure.

Myth: I should be able to sleep like I did when I was younger.

Truth: With age, people usually produce less sleep, so they cannot sleep like they had when they were younger.

Myth: To have a good day I must have good sleep.

Truth: Think of a time when you had very little sleep and had an amazing day anyway.

Myth: Not falling asleep is a disaster.

Truth: What is so bad about being awake?

Myth: I need a cigarette before bed. It helps me to relax.

Truth: Nicotine is a stimulant and interferes with sleep. The reason you feel more relaxed after smoking is because the new cigarette reduced the agitation caused by withdrawal and craving.

Myth: I do not drink coffee past the afternoon. It is not affecting my sleep.

Truth: Every person metabolizes caffeine differently. The half-life of caffeine is about four hours. This means that if you had coffee at 3pm, a quarter of that coffee is likely still in your system at 11pm.

Myth: If I wake up feeling groggy, it means I did not sleep enough.

Truth: There is a thirty minute delay in alertness, called sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness. You should see how you feel 30 minutes after waking; this is a much more accurate assessment of how rested you are.

Myth: My coffee wears off by the afternoon, so I need another cup.

Truth: There is a natural sleepiness that occurs midday, “the post-lunch dip,” which lasts approximately 1 hour. If you can make it through this period without doing anything to compensate, you are likely to feel more alert afterwards and you have not done anything to interfere with later sleep, such as drink coffee or take a nap.


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