Is the eight hours of sleep rule a myth?
Sleep. We all know we need it. Most of us feel we don’t get enough.
We’re constantly tired – and tired of being tired – as we struggle to achieve those elusive eight hours’ sleep each night.
But it may be that stressing out about not getting enough sleep is actually what’s making you feel so exhausted, rather than the lack of sleep itself.
According to sleep experts, not everyone needs eight hours’ sleep a night – you just need to listen to your body.
This is just one of many sleep myths many of us believe to be true.
1. Everybody needs eight hours of sleep
MYTH – “Sleep need is like height, we are all different and how much we need is to a large degree, genetically determined,” Dr Stanley says. “Eight hours is an average, not an ideal.
“The amount of sleep you need is the amount that allows you to be awake, alert and focused during the day. If you are feeling sleepy during the day then there is most likely an issue with the quality of sleep that you’ve had during the night.”
2. Quieting your mind is the most important thing to do to get off to sleep
FACT – “In order to get to sleep you need three things: a bedroom conducive to sleep, a relaxed body and most importantly a quiet mind. You can’t go to sleep if your mind is racing and so anything you can do to slow it down will help you sleep.”
“There is no magic way of doing this, you have to find what works for you, be that reading, a warm bath, camomile tea, mindfulness, aromatherapy or listening to Adele. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it stops you worrying about the stresses of the day.”
3. Drinking coffee before bed will keep you awake at night
MYTH – “Some people are very sensitive to the effects of caffeine and for these people it’s important to avoid drinking beverages containing caffeine too close to bedtime – but there is no golden rule about this, just listen to your body.
“For some people the effects caused by caffeine are much lower and may not have any effects at all. If you have been drinking two strong black cups of coffee every evening for the past 40 years and you have just developed a sleeping problem, then it is almost certainly not the coffee.”
4. Exercising before bed will prevent you from being able to get to sleep
MYTH – “Exercising in the evening does not necessarily affect your ability to sleep positively or negatively. What is important is that you wind-down sufficiently after your exercise before getting into bed.”
5. We need less sleep as we get older
MYTH – “Sleep needs become fixed in our early twenties and don’t change that much as we get older. What does change with age is our ability to get the sleep we need. As we age our sleep becomes lighter and less refreshing, so we are more easily woken in the night and once awake there is little pressure to go back to sleep.”
6. Teenagers need to sleep more than adults
FACT – “Teenagers need more sleep because they are going through puberty which causes major physical and emotional changes to occur and sleep is important in these processes. Moreover, teenagers also need to go to sleep later than adults due to a shift in their circadian rhythms.”
7. When I am ill I should ‘soldier on’
MYTH – “When you’re ill your body needs rest to recuperate and fight the infection – being a ‘hero’ and continuing to go to work means that not only will it take you longer to get better but you will most likely infect your colleagues.
“In this cold and flu season, take to your bed, wrap up warm, have a hot soothing drink of lemon, honey and ginger and use a clinically proven product like Vicks VapoRub to ease your symptoms.”
As with everything else, there is no right or wrong sleep routine, just listen to your body and find out what suits you best.