5 Sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making

December 21, 2020 4 mins read
5 Sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making

You have the best of intentions and you’re following all the right advice, but you’re still not sleeping well. Are you sabotaging your sleep without even realising it? Check out these sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making.

1. Not taking sleep cycles into account

Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to perform at their best. If you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, but you still don’t feel refreshed, it could be due to your sleep-wake routine (your bedtime, and the time you wake up each morning).

An adult sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes. In each cycle, there are 5 stages of sleep. Typically, you will need to complete 5-6 full sleep cycles each night for your body and brain to benefit from the restorative powers of sleep.

You may be waking up during the wrong sleep stage (e.g. your alarm wakes you while you’re in deep sleep), which could leave you feeling groggy and unrefreshed. Perhaps your bedtime is too late to allow for enough sleep cycles to occur during the night.

To work out the correct bedtime and wake time according to your sleep cycles, you can use a sleep calculator. You can also calculate your optimal bedtime based on when you need to wake up.

The average sleep cycle for an adult is 90 minutes long, and a typical night includes five to six cycles. Considering this, you can use the following equation:

90 x 5 = 450 minutes, or 7.5 hours
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90 x 6 = 540 minutes, or 9 hours

Once you know how many hours of sleep you need, you can start with the time you need to wake up and start counting back from there to establish your bedtime.

2. Using night mode and thinking it’s not harming your sleep

The blue light emitted from your phone keeps your brain awake. This is because your brain associates blue light with morning sunlight, which signals your circadian rhythm to wake up.

On the other hand, warm light (sunset tones) signals your circadian rhythm to start prepping for sleep. Therefore we can assume that switching your phone to night mode, which has a warm, yellow hue, shouldn’t be harmful to sleep. Or is it?

The University of Manchester has found that night mode can be just as harmful as blue light because the brain is still receiving light signals – and may decipher the yellow colour as daylight and delay the onset of sleep.

3. Skipping your bedtime routine if you get home late at night

When you come home late after a night out, it’s easy to assume that going straight to bed is the best decision for your sleep. After all, you’re up way past your bedtime, so the sooner you the sheets the better, right?

Not necessarily. Keeping up a bedtime routine is important to maintaining a healthy sleeping pattern – no matter how late it is at night. If you haven’t established a bedtime routine yet, these are some soothing options to consider:

  • Use guided sleep meditations to calm you down and help you sleep.
  • Make a cup of herbal tea to soothe you.
  • Do a few light stretches to ease any tension in your muscles.
  • Breathe. Some simple breathing exercises will help you relax and sleep better.

4. Lying in on the weekend to “catch up on sleep”

It’s a hot topic which has many a sleep researcher divided. Can you pay back your sleep debt?

Sleeping in can be a good way to score some much-needed rest, but there are some negative effects too. Many sleep experts will agree that disrupting your sleep pattern (even if you’re only sleeping for an extra hour or two on a Sunday morning) can throw your sleep-wake cycle out of sync. This could lead to sleep deprivation, which has some nasty side effects, like a compromised immune system.

Try to get up at the same time every day (yes, even Saturdays) to keep your body clock ticking in time with your circadian rhythm.

5. Staying in bed when you can’t sleep

When you’re tossing and turning at night, you might think that staying in bed trying to sleep is the right thing to do, but this actually prolongs your efforts to sleep.

How so? The pressure to fall asleep could be keeping you awake. Worrying about being tired the next day because you can’t sleep can cause mild anxiety (which we know is not conducive to peaceful sleep).

Instead of lying in bed trying too hard to sleep, scientists recommend leaving the bedroom for at least 30 minutes. Do something that is not stimulating, like folding the laundry (no TV, no books), or sip on some sleep tea. If you return to bed when you’re drowsy, you have much better chances of falling asleep.

Are you making any of these classic sleep-stealing mistakes? Find the way back to better sleep by establishing a healthy sleeping pattern, putting your phone away, and sticking to a soothing bedtime routine.