BUST­ING THE MYTHS AROUND SLEEP

From sleep ex­pert Dr Shane Pas­coe

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page -

DR SHANE PAS­COE, PSY­CHOL­O­GIST & SLEEP EX­PERT

How did you sleep last night? Are you tired all the time? Does it take you a long time to get to sleep as your brain thinks about lit­er­ally ev­ery­thing as your head hits the pil­low?

For most sleep-de­prived adults, the ques­tion is - how do the things we think about and the things we do, in­flu­ence our sleep?

In a new book, Sleep Bet­ter, my­self and re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Gra­ham Law ex­plore the myths sur­round­ing the vexed is­sue of sleep - or lack of it. Here are the com­mon­est myths and how to com­bat them for good night’s shut-eye.

Myth: I should have eight hours’ sleep ev­ery night

Truth: Sleep is as in­di­vid­ual as you are

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion recog­nises the grow­ing prob­lem of poor sleep and rec­om­mends peo­ple get eight hours each night. How­ever eight hours is not for ev­ery­one – you need what you need on a given night. Adding the stress of worry about hav­ing too much sleep or more likely not enough, doesn’t help. Take a more sci­en­tific ap­proach: start writ­ing down what you no­tice about your sleep, the amount, any dis­rup­tions, and the qual­ity and work it out for your­self.

Myth 2: Rou­tines are for ba­bies

Truth: Struc­ture does help

Ac­tiv­i­ties that are a reg­u­lar part of your day (like sleep) should be done at roughly the same time ev­ery day, in­clud­ing week­ends. Ex­po­sure to light and when we eat meals for ex­am­ple, are im­por­tant sig­nals for our body to reg­u­late it­self ef­fec­tively. Jet lag and shift­work can make a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on these pro­cesses.

Myth 3: I tried mind­ful­ness once, and it did not help me to sleep

Truth: Try med­i­ta­tion more than once – it is bet­ter than sit­ting there do­ing noth­ing!

Re­lax­ation tech­niques, yoga, and mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion are all ef­fec­tive ways to sleep bet­ter. These tech­niques also pro­vide another sig­nal for your day, help re­duce stress and make you to feel bet­ter.

Myth 4: My tele­vi­sion helps me to sleep

Truth: Your bed is just for sleep and sex, not screens

You do not need a TV, your lap­top or smart­phone in bed. Ex­po­sure to screens that pro­duce blue light dis­rupts your body clock by sup­press­ing mela­tonin, a hor­mone as­so­ci­ated with sleep which is pro­duced more at night and turned off by the morn­ing light. Don’t con­fuse your body and just use your bed for sleep and sex and not screens.

Myth 5: There must be some­thing wrong with me if I sleep more than my friends

Truth: You need to ac­tively man­age worry in bed

If you wake in the mid­dle of the night and strug­gle to re­turn to sleep with worry, change your rou­tine. Take your at­ten­tion, which you’re in con­trol of, take it away from the worry. Let your mind ac­cept this worry as nor­mal for you right now, that it will pass, and that you have sur­vived with lim­ited sleep for a day bef ore. This bad night’s sleep will help the chances of go­ing to sleep the next night.

Myth 6: A psy­chol­o­gist will not help me to sleep

Truth: Poor sleep, anx­i­ety, and de­pres­sion of­ten go to­gether

If poor sleep has been a prob­lem for you for more days than not over the past three months, then as a good rule of thumb, it’s likely you have an es­tab­lished sleep prob­lem - see your Gen­eral Prac­ti­tioner.

Anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion also are both causes and are im­pacted by poor sleep. Ask for a re­fer­ral to a psy­chol­o­gist at your GP visit if anx­i­ety and or de­pres­sion are a prob­lem more days than not.

Myth 7: I’d be in trou­ble with­out my snooze but­ton

Truth: The alarm clock has come a long way but is not the an­swer

Avoid the snooze but­ton as that ex­tra sleep may lead to a feel­ing of grog­gi­ness and make the prob­lem of get­ting up that much harder. An alarm kick­starts the body in the morn­ing and go­ing back to sleep via a snooze but­ton is work­ing against these pro­cesses.

Some smart­phone apps claim to mea­sure your sleep pat­tern and use your pre­ferred wake-up time to man­age when you wakeup to pre­vent grog­gi­ness. Best to mea­sure how this works for you and work out if you need to then carry on us­ing a tra­di­tional alarm and get­ting up at the time it’s set.

Sleep Bet­ter cov­ers 40 myths of sleep. These myths form the ba­sis for most sleep be­hav­iours and are of­ten the root cause of poor sleep. News­cas­tle-based Dr Pas­coe has nearly 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence help­ing adults with a va­ri­ety of is­sues of­ten in­volv­ing sleep prob­lems ev­ery day. With chil­dren aged 6, 5 and 2, sleep is the one area of Shane’s life that in­flu­ences all oth­ers.

Dr Shane Pas­coe is the au­thor of Sleep

Bet­ter, which cov­ers the 40 myths sur­round­ing sleep. For more go to: www,pas­coepsy­chol­ogy.com

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