Sleep Cures from Mother Nature
How to Think Yourself to Sleep
Myth: If I didn't sleep well last night, I should catch extra zzz's whenever I can.
Why It's False: "Getting up three hours later gives you jet lag, like flying from new York to L.A.," says Jack Edinger, PhD, of Duke University Medical Center. So don't take a nap or sleep in on weekends.
What Is True: Naps can be healthy if you don't have insomnia. If you do they'll make it worse by leaving you less tired at night. No matter how tired you are, don't nap, and always get up at your regular time.
Myth: Everyone needs eight hours of sleep; I don't sleep that much so I must have insomnia.
Why It's False: Worrying about insomnia can make it harder to sleep -- or get back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.
What Is True: Anywhere from six to nine hours is normal. If you feel rested, don't worry about how much shut-eye you're getting. And know that an occasional sleepless night is not harmful and doesn't mean you have a serious issue.
Myth: Even though I can't sleep, lying in bed at least provides some rest.
Why It's False: "Spending a long period lying awake in bed can make your bedroom feel like a torture chamber, as you get more and more frustrated about not sleeping," says Dr. Edinger.
What Is True: If you wake up for longer than 15 to 20 minutes, get up, go to another room and do something until you feel sleepy (see "Your Anti-Insomnia Kit"). Then go back to bed. This teaches you to associate sleepiness with bed and gives you tools to resolve your problems.
Myth: I know I won't be able to sleep tonight.
Why It's False: This expectation makes you anxious, setting you up for a bad night and a vicious cycle of expecting the worst and therefore being unable to relax while in bed.
What Is True: Knowing you will get up and do something enjoyable if you can't sleep helps you stop associating being unable to sleep with anxiety and unhappiness.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2008.