When I can’t solve a problem (like how to sleep through the night), I find myself making up lies (I call them reasons) why the problem can’t possibly be me. Here are three lies that many of us insomniacs tell ourselves.
First lie: I only need (three, four, five) hours of sleep.
Occasionally, we hear about a famous person (e.g. Jon Gruden) who really doesn’t need more than a few hours of sleep and decide we must likewise be like that. This is generally a lie.
Here’s the test.
After two consecutive nights of getting your four or five hours of sleep and not having had a nap, go into dark room in the afternoon and lay down on a couch. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and close your eyes.
If you fell asleep before the fifteen minutes were up then you need more than four hours of sleep.
Second lie: I can get more done if I only sleep five hours of sleep.
The science says you are wrong. In fact, the science says that if you are sleeping less than five hours per night, you are essentially working hungover with the same slow response time from the brain experienced by alcoholics in their daily work.
For years, I forced myself into a midnight to five-thirty routine in the name of cutting into my to-do list. The problem is that after about twenty-minutes, I was wandering the web because I didn’t have the focus to do anything other than that.
Third lie: I will never be able to sleep again.
We were designed (or evolved depending on your point of view) to sleep.
In addition, sleep is a habit, a series of interactions with environment, and a series of choices. Therefore, it can be changed.
For me, the starting point in figuring out sleep problems (non-sleep-apnea related) is to journal.
Right down each night if any of the following apply when you wake up at night:
When you went to bed
When you woke up
Feeling cold (all or part of your body)
Feeling hot (all or part of your body)
Need to urinate
Room too loud/quiet
Start to write down the conditions that are causing you to wake up so you can start to address them.
The first things I noticed is that my legs would be cold because I had a shirt and socks on, but shorts (change made was to sleep in underwear so body could self-regulate better).
Second thing was that I woke up thirsty (change made to put water bottle next to bed).
Third thing was occasional bad breath in the middle of the night (box of mints on nightstand).
What do you notice when you wake up in the middle of the night?