How The Secret to Sleeping Better Could Be Less Time in Bed
Online mattress company, Leesa, asked Professor of sleep medicine, Paul Gringras, for his evidence-based advice on getting a great night’s sleep. Here, he talks about the cause of the problem and how to solve it.
We’ve all been there – sometimes sleep just won’t come, however tired you feel.
The Cause of the Problem
You are exhausted after a stressful day and need to be up early. The more you worry about not sleeping, the harder it is to fall asleep and the more alert you feel. Every little sound seems to act like your personal alarm clock – even your own breathing. Problems falling or staying asleep – Insomnia – can creep up slowly and cause a vicious cycle that’s tough to break. It’s really common and it can be very serious, causing physical and mental illness.
Part of the problem is that we have been taught (incorrectly) that it’s all about the number of hours you sleep. This is wrong for three reasons:
1. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep
The ‘normal’ range is very wide and people focus too much on the ‘average’ which is misleading as you are more likely to be above, or below this number.
2. Focusing on the right number of hours of sleep becomes part of the problem, not the solution
People have a tendency to wake, see they have had two hours less sleep than their ‘ideal’ and then without realising it spend the next day trying to spot symptoms of tiredness. The heightened awareness about number of hours of sleep can make it harder to fall asleep the next night – and so on.
3. It should be sleep quality, not sleep quantity that becomes the focus
Six hours of deep restorative sleep will beat ten hours lying in bed tossing and turning.
Learn good habits: The human brain is amazingly adaptive, and when important tasks become automatic we call them good habits. But we are equally good at learning bad habits. It is very easy to associate bed as the place where you lie awake and worry about not getting enough sleep. You need to learn a new habit – that your bed is a place where you can fall asleep within half an hour, resulting in a deep, restorative and refreshing sleep.
Don’t waste time tossing and turning – get out of bed: If you are focusing on sleep efficiency you need to get out of bed if you have not fallen asleep within 30 minutes. Plan this in advance. A different room, with a nice chair and a good book. Things like books, music, meditation we call ‘sleep aware’ activities. No smartphone, iPads or TV – they will all switch off your bodies natural sleep mechanisms.
Another version of this is actually to shorten your time in bed and see what happens to your sleep efficiency.
Visit Leesa’s blog for more information and advice: www.leesa.co.uk
Disclaimer: Sleep is a rapidly evolving area of research. Because new research findings come out on a daily basis, make sure you check back often for the latest information. Although Professor Gringras always tries to be comprehensive and accurate, his posts on the Leesa blog express his personal views based on the newest research and decades of experience treating patients with sleep disorders. Please remember that this is general information and it does not, in any way, replace advice from your own health care professional.
Leesa is an online mattress company that provides three layers of high quality foam which deliver cooling bounce, contouring pressure relief and core support for amazing sleep, night after night.
The company also gives back: for every 10 mattresses sold, Leesa donates one to charity, and also plants a tree for every mattress it sells.