Individuals who suffer from Insomnia tend to hold myths about sleep which may be maintaining sleep problems. For instance, many people believe they need 10 hours of sleep a night or that they need to go to bed at a certain time. These myths can cause harm as you will begin to experience increased frustration if you are unable to achieve these standards. One way to begin healing from insomnia is to begin dispelling the myths we have about our sleep.
Today I want to review the 4 most common myths people have about their sleep:
Myth #1: We Need 10 Hours of Sleep a Night
This is one of the most commonly held beliefs about sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) released recent recommendations of the required hours of sleep based on age range. Adults between the ages of 26-64 have a recommended sleep range of 7-9 hours. These are recommended ranges however, it is also important to note that everyone’s sleep schedule is different and some people may only require 5-6 hours of sleep per night.
When thinking about sleep, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If you feel rested after 5 hours that may be all the sleep your body requires. Try not to compare yourself to other people’s sleep schedules. Forcing yourself to sleep more than your body needs can lead to increased frustration, stress, anxiety, and increased problems with sleep.
Myth #2: Insomnia is genetic
If your parents struggled with sleep it does not necessarily mean you will as well. The development of Insomnia is based on Spielman’s diathesis-stress model or otherwise known as the “3-P” model. The 3-P model described predisposing factors, precipitating life events, and perpetuating factors as integral to the development of insomnia.
- Predisposing (risk factors) for developing insomnia include individuals suffering from anxiety. Women are also more likely to develop insomnia.
- Precipitating (Life Event) include divorce, death of a close friend or family member, travel, or getting sick which disrupt normal sleep patterns. These life events alone may disrupt sleep but they do not cause long term sleep problems.
- Perpetuating Factors are behaviors and environmental factors which prevent you from returning to your normal sleep pattern after a life event. Individuals may develop behaviors to compensate for their lack of sleep including drinking more caffeine to stay awake during the day. In addition, people may spend more time trying to sleep, stay in bed longer, or take more naps which also results in maintaining poor sleep.
Myth #3: My Partner and I Need to Go to Sleep at the Same Time
Many people believe that they should get into bed at the same time as their partner. Have you ever gotten into bed with your partner who was able to fall asleep immediately and you were left for the next hour struggling to fall asleep? If this is you, it may indicate that you and your partner have different natural sleep schedules.
Forcing yourself to go to sleep earlier than your body is ready can cause you to feel frustrated and make it even harder to fall asleep. If you want to spend time with your partner in the evening maybe look for new opportunities to bond before bed including watching TV on the couch together, going for an evening walk, or laying in bed with your partner until they fall asleep.
It is best for you to not attempt to sleep until you feel ready. Use the time while your partner is sleeping to find activities you can do alone maybe find a new hobby or prepare your clothing and food for the next work day.
Myth #4: I Have Tried Everything and Nothing I do Will Improve My Sleep
Trying too hard to sleep may be one of the main reasons you are unable to sleep. The good news is Insomnia is treatable! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is the front-line treatment for insomnia and is grounded in research. CBT-I is a short-term evidence-based treatment which helps individuals examine their behaviors and thoughts which are impairing their sleep. Through the use of sleep consolidation techniques, individuals are able to increase the quality of their sleep and reduce frequent awakenings throughout the night.