Sleep science

The 7 Sleep myths that are killing your sleep

If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you’ll know that the first instinct is to look at what could be the cause of your bad sleep?

For some it will be stress, for others; pain or illness… There are many possible original causes of our bad sleep.

Whatever the original cause, there is one aggravating factor that exists in practically every case of insomnia…


The things we have been told about sleep are absolutely the biggest reason some people go on to suffer from a chronic sleep problem.

We wanted to share 7 of the biggest sleep killers we hear on a daily basis:


1. We don’t all eat the same

Adults should consume 2,250 calories a day. 

However I am sure you’ll agree that this number will be different depending on gender, weight, bodyweight composition, activity, temperature, and a whole host of other factors.

Which brings us to sleep….

The average amount of sleep needed by the average human is 8 hours.

But that doesn’t mean YOU need to sleep 8 hours.

What you may need can be VERY different. And it can also vary from day to day based on a whole host of factors.

You might need 7 hours sleep tonight while you’ll need 8 hours next Monday.


2. Relaxation will lead to sleep

For many people, this myth is creating more anxiety than it is relieving.

Relaxation only leads to: relaxation.

It does not and can not lead to sleep. The only thing that can lead to sleep is sleep drive. So when people fall asleep, it is their sleepiness that is leading them to sleep with the relaxation helping relax them.

Of course that story doesn’t sell as well.

If you do not have that sleepiness, you will not sleep.



3. Fatigue is the same as sleepiness

So many people often confuse the two.

If you suffer from any sleep problem it is vital that you distinguish the two.

Firstly, you need to understand the feelings of fatigue: those exhausted feelings, those weird and wonderful symptoms that you might be experiencing. Some people get sensitive skin. Some people get headaches. Some people just get a brain fog. Some people just feel like they need to rest all the time. 

Sleepiness is different.

It is something that is built up from not sleeping.

The typical feelings that come from sleepiness are literally dozing off… You struggle keeping your eyes open, your head feels like it weighs a ton…

Any kind of dozing off on the sofa, or on your daily commute will “deflate your sleepiness”.

Do that regularly and you will lose the ability to build up that sleepiness, all important in helping you fall asleep and maintaining your sleep throughout the night.


4. Alcohol can help sleep

While a glass of wine will initially help relax, after an hour the contrary happens.

As your body metabolises the alcohol, you get a kind of stimulating effect.

Typically this means that you would drift off to sleep easily but then as the alcohol is metabolised you will have a rebound that will agitate your sleep and make it difficult to stay asleep.

On top of this, alcohol actually alters the architecture of your sleep in a similar way to sleeping pills.

And of course, alcohol can be addictive. So depending on alcohol to help you fall asleep means you go from one problem (chronic sleep problem) to two (dependence on alcohol AND a chronic sleep problem).



5. You should follow sleep hygiene

These are just general guidelines aimed at improving sleep. They are NOT rules to be followed religiously.

Just like relaxation, without a healthy sleep drive these will NOT lead to sleep. This is especially true for anyone suffering from a chronic sleep problem.

Too often people believe that taking a warm bath before going to bed, or putting a few drops of lavender on their pillow, will suddenly make them sleep.

They won’t! 

They’ll help you relax. If you have a good “amount of sleepiness” then yes, you’ll drift off to sleep.

But without it, you’ll relax a while… Until you don’t fall (back) asleep and the anxiety builds up…



6. Once it’s chronic, it’s for life

At least 30% of adults will experience a bout of insomnia at some point in their life. For 10% of us however, this will lead to Chronic Insomnia.

When insomnia is becomes chronic it becomes more difficult to treat. Of course, it would be ideal to prevent the problem becoming chronic in the first instance.

This is easily achievable with some sleep education.

The myth that chronic insomnia is incurable is just that: a myth.

It is very curable!

And while you would be right in believing sleeping pills will not fix the problem (only treat it temporarily)… We aren’t talking about sleeping pills here.

There is a treatment available that will fix insomnia even in complex cases where insomnia is linked with another health condition.

That treatment is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia (CBT-i, not to be confused with CBT) and it will fix Chronic Insomnia.

The therapy isn’t easy, but if you follow it rigorously and you complete it, it will fix your insomnia.



7. An hour out – an hour in

Have you ever gone to bed a couple of hours earlier because you lost 2 hours sleep the previous night?

Not going to sleep earlier because you were falling asleep, unable to keep your eyes open another hour, but actually getting into your bed a couple of hours earlier to recuperate?

You see, that’s not the way it actually works.

It’s not because you lost an hour that you need to sleep an extra hour.

Our sleep is made up of several sleep cycles. In each cycle, you will go through 3 different stages of sleep. Each one of these stages will have mental and physical benefits. All stages are important. But not all cycles are the same.

In the beginning of the night for example, you could have a lot more of a particular stage of sleep and only a little of the other two. Then, later on in the night that could shift.

The body will naturally move the composition of the cycles depending on what it needs.

And when you have a sleep debt, your body will manipulate what stages of sleep you need at that time, rather than making you go through all the different stages in the same way as it normally does.

Although you think you need to recover a 2 hour sleep debt with 2 hours sleep, this body adaptation allows you to recover with less.

We hope that these clarifications will allow you to understand your sleep better. Whenever you’re doing any kind of research around sleep, always look at the science.

Don’t just jump on to the first article you see. Look at Google Scholar and find fact and evidence based research.