The need to sleep seems to polarize our attitudes to time in bed. It’s either wasted time that can be minimized to get more done, or it’s fiercely protected and lamented if lost. Either way, difficulties with sleep are surprisingly common and can interfere with productivity.
Sleep experts believe that many sleep difficulties actually stem from myths and misunderstandings. These myths can lead to stress about sleeping, which brings tiredness and sometimes, paradoxically, sleep difficulties.
So, we’ve compiled seven facts that you should know about sleep:
1. High quality sleep arrives like honey off a spoon — in a giant blob at the beginning. Research shows that the first three to four hours of sleep, which is when you reach your deepest sleep, are usually the most restorative. After that, extra hours are helpful but not as necessary as we like to think.
2. Sleeping is not smooth sailing. It’s a rollercoaster. In a typical night of sleep, we cycle about four or five times, rolling quickly to deep sleep and then back up to light sleep. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and gets shallower (less deep sleep) as we sleep on. In fact, light sleep can become so light that we actually wake and then drift back to sleep.
3. Eight hours is only a rough marker. Different people need different amounts of sleep depending on age, daytime activity and genetic make-up.
4. “I’ll go to sleep early to make up for last night,” — no you won’t. Two to three hours before your normal bedtime and after your normal wake time, our bodies work hard to make sleep unlikely. This period is known as the forbidden zone. It’s the reason that it’s often hard to go to sleep earlier than usual.
5. Hours of sleep missed does not equal hours of sleep needed. You’ve probably noticed that if you miss a whole night of sleep, you can recover from it in fewer hours than you missed. This is because during the recovery night, you get more deep sleep than you would normally, so you need less time to catch up.
6. Get out into that sunshine. We fall asleep when our body temperature is dropping – usually late evening – and wake when we’re warming up in the morning. This is known as our sleep-wake circadian rhythm, and it’s reset every day by exposure to natural light. Make sure you get sunlight during the day and avoid bright lights in the evening. This is especially important for all of us locked up in offices all day!
7. Feeling tired does not necessarily mean you need more sleep. People often confuse tiredness for sleepiness. Tiredness is usually caused by stress or exertion. Sleepiness, however, is that feeling of being able to drop off to sleep at any moment. If you are sleepy enough, your body will force you to sleep (this can be dangerous if you are driving or operating heavy machinery!).
Sleep is important for your health and well-being, and research shows that most of us are getting an hour less than the ideal each night. But for the most part, our bodies know what they’re doing, and we may actually be getting more than we think.
Value your rest-time but don’t add it to your stress list. There’s probably enough there already!
Contact us to help take some of those things off your to do list.
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