The UK is one of the most sleep-deprived
countries in the world, journalist and chronic
insomniac Michael Mosley, says the amount of sleep we
get as a nation has fallen by an average two hours in the last 60
years. There are many sleep queries people often worry about but
what is the truth about sleep?
Silentnight sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan shares the
unhelpful beliefs that could be sabotaging your sleep.
"I shouldn't wake up during the night"
Do you worry about waking up during the night, believing you
should put your head on the pillow and not wake up until morning?
Even if you think you slept through, chances are you woke up
several times during the night without realising it. Sleep studies
show that the average human wakes around 10 times during the night.
The theory is that this sleep-wake cycle evolved for our survival
and safety; we come into a semi-conscious state to check that all
is well and then slide back into sleep. It is completely normal to
wake up during the night and then go back to sleep. Don't fixate on
it being a problem.
"I need to know the time"
This is the single biggest disruptor of sleep, yet for so many
of us it's a habit that's hard to break. If you wake up in the
night and instantly check the time, you're likely to start
calculating how many hours you have left before morning and
worrying about much sleep you're missing out on. This is a terrible
cycle to get into, as obsessively checking the time will only make
you more stressed and less able to drift back off. By all means use
your phone as an alarm clock, but fight the urge to check it every
time you wake up during the night.
"I need 7 or 8 hours of sleep to function"
Do you fixate on how much sleep you are/aren't getting? While
it's important to get enough sleep, there is far too much
significance placed on the holy grail of 8 hours. Everyone's sleep
requirements are different and it's unhelpful to focus on getting a
set amount. The key is to pay attention to how you feel when you
wake up. If you wake up feeling refreshed after five hours you're
probably getting enough sleep for you.
"I can catch up on lost sleep"
Do you go to bed late and then sleep later in the morning in an
attempt to make up for lost sleep? Or sleep more at weekends and
when you go on holiday? This belief that you can catch up could be
seriously damaging your sleep pattern. While you can catch up to
some extent, you can't fully recover. Get into a good, regular
routine if you want to really reap the healing benefits of sleep,
and beat your sleep problems for good.
"Sleep is what happens when my eyes are closed"
How many times have you sat in a meeting with your eyes open,
but glazed over, and been completely oblivious to what's being
said? Or read a book before bed and then re-read exactly the same
pages the next night? This is actually an early sleep state known
as a hypnagogic trance, a vital relaxation state that allows you to
consolidate information, learn, and refresh your memory, enabling
you to stay sharp and focussed. You might not realise but by
slipping into this trance-like state during the day you could be
affecting your ability to fall asleep at night.
"Insomnia runs in my family or my sleep problem can't be
You're not alone if you believe that you are somehow carrying a
'bad' gene that's stopping you from sleeping. But no such gene
exists. It might be hard to hear but you need stop wearing your
sleep problems like a badge of honour and believing they're
unsolvable. Everyone can improve the way they sleep. When you start
becoming more aware of your sleep, you'll start to see how any
sleep issues are probably due to bad habits that have been passed
down through generations, rather than faulty genetics.