There are many myths about insomnia and sleep deprivation that aren’t going to help you to get your sleep back on track.
Before you launch off to follow a home remedy for insomnia or interrupted sleep, it pays to check your facts.
There are a few reputable places on the Internet where you can find out what is fact and what is fiction, but you should also consider talking to your doctor about the potential causes and possible treatments to end your period of sleep deprivation.
Belief – Sleeping late will help you catch up
Sleep deprivation isn’t about the number of hours you sleep so much as it is about the consistency and quality of your sleep habits.
Sleeping in for a few days won’t help you restore your energy and awareness, in fact, it may make matters worse.
By choosing to sleep in late you are now creating another abnormal sleep pattern in your life. Too much sleep can make you just as ill as too little.
Belief – Insomnia is all in your head
Insomnia can occur for many reasons. Sometimes it is “all in your head” as you think in cycles and worry about things in your life.
More often, insomnia is caused by diet and other issues such as poor sleep hygiene, chronic pain, medication and poor fitness.
Whether or not the source of your sleep deprivation is from thinking and worrying, all of those thoughts then create a very real physical reaction that can often last longer than then the anxious thoughts.
It is unfair to tell someone they just “need to relax” in order to overcome their insomnia because the pattern may have developed, or complicated, physical issues that need treatment.
Belief – Exercise helps you sleep
Exercise that occurs at least two hours before you are due to sleep helps you fall and stay asleep more easily.
Exercise not only serves as a stress release and to promote cardiovascular health, but it also encourages the lymph system to work well.
All of this means that more waste and toxins are being removed from your body, your metabolic system is kept in balance and the fatigue that arises from exercise helps your body to sleep for recovery.
Belief – Watching a movie or TV show helps you unwind before bed
Unfortunately, watching a movie, TV, or using anything with a lighted screen does not help you relax – in fact, it has the opposite effect.
While the content that you take in can energize the brain and make it busy trying to process it is true, it has more to do with the quality of light that comes from our screens.
That light serves to prevent sleep stages from occurring when they should. Your best habit is to stop watching, texting or searching about an hour before you go to sleep.
Belief – Having a drink can help you sleep
While having a nightcap before bed can relax you and help you fall asleep sooner, it will also prevent you from staying awake.
A glass of wine in the evening or any heavier drinking will also have the same effect.
What happens is that as the alcohol leaves your bloodstream it also creates a neurotoxin release that disrupts your natural brain chemistry.
This can make it harder to stay asleep and disrupt the stages of sleep as well. It can take about 72 hours after drinking to return to a normal sleep pattern.
Belief – Taking naps makes it harder to sleep at night
How naps effect sleep depends on the person. Many people can nap without disrupting the quality of their night’s sleep, but studies have shown that the later in the day you nap the less able you will be to fall asleep.
It has also been suggested that time limit naps (45 minutes or less), the so-called “power naps” can help recharge you during the day and prevent a cycle of exhaustion that then keeps you awake with racing thought.
Belief – You can learn to get by on less sleep
Every so often a fad comes up online in which it is suggested that you can learn to get by with less sleep by training yourself to force REM states.
This is exceedingly dangerous. The body needs a set amount of sleep that will vary according to the individual but only within about a ½ hour of the standard 7 to 8 hours of sleep that is recommended each night.
If you try to force yourself to get by on less sleep you will just create a severe state of sleep deprivation that can lead to physical and/or mental illness.
You will also be putting yourself and everyone around you in danger if you are driving or operating any machinery during this time.
Belief – If you can’t sleep, get up
This belief actually is true, but it does have a restriction. If you can’t fall to sleep within 20 or 30 minutes you should get up and do a relaxing or calming activity until you feel tired again and can try sleeping.
You don’t want to stay in bed and read, and you don’t want to get up and do any kind of complicated or engaging activity.
The two things you are trying to avoid is creating an association with the bed and bedroom with being awake, and to wake yourself up by mentally engaging yourself in an activity.
Belief – You can learn to sleep
Yes, you can train yourself to sleep. By establishing a routine of activities that are calming and relaxing, changing into sleep clothes and keeping a consistent bedtime you can begin to train your mind and body to sleep.
What happens is that the brain takes external signals from what you do to know when it needs to begin transitioning to sleep.
By being consistent about ending your day with the same relaxing activities, and the same time, your brain begins to recognize the signals and transitions to a sleep state more easily.