It’s mid-afternoon – the time of day where we often hit the wall. But if you’ve ever told yourself an excuse as to why that happens – “I exercised too close to bedtime” or “I took a nap and am now tired because of it” – cheer up. It turns out sleep science is much more straight foward than we thought! Here are nine myths about sleep – and nine ways to improve your night of rest:
Myth: “I don’t need as much sleep as others.”
FACT: Less than one percent of the general population fits into the “short sleeper category.”
The Fix: If you wake up at the same time every day without an alarm clock, then you might be a natural short sleeper. Otherwise, you need to start sleeping longer and find an ideal number of hours that works for you.
Myth: “I’m more tired after I nap.”
FACT: A snooze of 20 minutes helps almost everyone, even if there’s a brief minute or two of grogginess after waking up.
The Fix: To avoid sleeping for too long, find a place comfortable but not too comfortable, like a cushy chair.
Myth: “I work out at night, and that keeps me awake later.”
FACT: Research has shown that even the most vigorous exercise keeps very few people up, and actually helps more people fall asleep faster.
The Fix: Move your workout time elsewhere in the day and see what happens. If it doesn’t change your sleep patterns, then you know something else is weighing on you.
Myth: “My boss is boring. That’s why I keep nodding off in meetings.”
FACT: We are naturally more tired in the afternoon, but it shouldn’t be enough to put you out! More than likely, you’re running a sleep deficit – an accumulation of undersleeping time that is weighing you down.
The Fix: Chronic sleep interruption problems might require a more long term solution, but for many one really good night’s sleep will keep you up even through the slowest PowerPoint presentation.
Myth: “I go to bed earlier to battle insomnia.”
FACT: That only will intensify your tossing and turning.
The Fix: If you’re having problems sleeping try going to bed an hour later, so that you’re more tired and will fall asleep faster. That way, your mind will only associate bed with sleep, rather than with lying awake and counting sheep.
Myth: “Skipping a little sleep can’t be that bad.”
FACT: Even missing 90 minutes of sleep can impair your alertness the next day by nearly 33 percent.
The Fix: If you miss several hours of sleep, call in sick (if you can). If not, at least keep active throughout the day, even if it’s just walking up and down the stairs a couple of times to keep the blood flowing.
Myth: “I’ll catch up on sleep over the weekend.”
FACT: Kid’s soccer games, breakfast/brunch outings, traveling, early football games … who are you kidding?
The Fix: If you really have to skip some sleep during the week, give yourself some time on the weekends to nap. Even if you don’t sleep in, an hour of rest in front of televised golf can help you catch back up.
Myth: “I’m a night owl, but I still get all the sleep I need.”
FACT: Night owls are three times more at risk for depression that those who sleep in the evening hours.
The Fix: Start shifting your sleep earlier, but don’t do it all at once. Set a bedtime of 15 to 30 minutes earlier each week, and progressively get your schedule back in alignment.
Myth: “I’m nowhere close to in bad enough shape to take sleeping pills.”
FACT: Sleeping pills are best used before serious symptoms of insomnia set in, as there’s a less likely chance of addiction.
The Fix: Don’t be afraid of Ambien and other sleep pills. If you need them, take them.
How many of these have been problems for you? And how did you solve them?