Ever Receive These Bad Sleep Tips?
Updated: Jul 8, 2022
Despite their best intentions, our friends and family don't have all the answers on getting better sleep. Here are three pieces of bad advice and what to do instead.
Bad Sleep Advice #1
"Just close your eyes, that always works for me."
This might be one of the worst things you can do: try to sleep when you're not drowsy. We often have a set time that we go to bed, like, when the show is over, or when your partner goes to bed. But, if you are not sleepy, then this is an exercise in futility. Not only will you not be able to go to sleep, but the frustration will keep you awake a lot longer than if you just got out of bed and did something relaxing.
In fact, a study involving good sleepers showed that when offered a cash prize for the most rapid sleep onset, participants took twice as long to go to sleep as those who weren't offered the incentive.
Instead of "trying" to sleep, get out of bed, do something relaxing like reading, watching a "neutral" television show, practicing yoga, or meditating. When you begin to yawn or nod off, then go back to bed.
Bad Sleep Advice #2
"I always count sheep." Or, "I like to count backward by three."
Most people when they have problems going to sleep or going back to sleep after waking, usually talk about how their minds kick in and start to race. They have a problem trying to shut it off. This advice is usually offered in the hopes that concentrating on something else, it'll force your mind to calm down and relax.
The challenge with this is it actually engages your mind. Counting is boring and your brain wants engagement so it often will look for ways to make it more interesting. As we begin to visualize the sheep jumping the fence and the moon shining above, instead of relaxing the mind, we have turned it back on.
A better option is to take a cue from meditation. Create a one-word mantra, any word that you want, like one, relax, heavy, or sleep, and repeat it over and over while concentrating on breathing deeply into your abdomen. When thoughts begin to invade, acknowledge them and then return to the mantra and breathe.
Bad Sleep Advice #3
"Have a couple of drinks."
I mean, not only is this bad sleep advice but also can lead to serious health problems. But, I guess if you drink enough, you'll pass out and get at least a couple of *good* hours of sleep before waking up. But more than likely, your entire night will be disrupted.
Alcohol suppresses deep sleep and REM (dream sleep) which are the two most important sleep stages. Deep sleep is the time for restoring our muscles, and physical energy and boosting the immune system. REM sleep is necessary for the brain to store information including "how to" and procedural information like when we're learning a new skill.
But this doesn't mean that you can never drink again if you want to get a good night's sleep. Just remember that it takes about an hour for men and an hour and a half for women to metabolize a single alcoholic drink. So having a glass of wine with your dinner before 8 pm is not likely to disrupt your sleep.
So Sleep Tight
Practicing some better sleep habits, like waiting until you're sleepy to go to bed, developing a relaxation routine with deep, abdominal breathing, and ensuring you don't drink too many glasses of wine before bed, will help you get a better night's rest.
Looking for other strategies on how to fall asleep faster? Get my free PDF, 12 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster Naturally.