The 8-hours sleep lie, consistency and BLAME
The 8-hours sleep lie by Stephanie Romiszewski, Welcome to the next part of my no-nonsense sleepyhead blog series. Take advantage of everything I have learnt in 15 years of sleep medicine, research and around 10,000 patients with all sorts of sleep disorders. Educate yourself on sleep – the right way.
Don’t even get me started on the 8-hours sleep lie
Let me say this once and for all. Even if we had unequivocal evidence that we ALL need EXACTLY 8-hours sleep EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Which by the way, we don’t… Having that knowledge and taking it verbatim does not lead to the 8-hours sleep every single night that is why I call it “the 8-hours sleep lie”! Everybody is different, every day is different, your life will change and your needs for the way you sleep will change and will be dependent on many factors. The only thing that will come out of having this kind of factual or indeed non-factual knowledge will be, total fear of doing anything that might stop you getting your 8-hours sleep, obsession with routine and a horrific side of self-loathing for not getting it right. That’s what I see in my clinic the most – absolutely no kindness and compassion for oneself or one’s body. Just self-punishment and anger. It is a wonder any of us get any sleep with this kind of attitude around the 8 hours sleep lie.
8-hours sleep lie – Are you consistent?
So when we get to the good advice, what does that mean? We follow that perfectly because it’s the right information? No! It’s impossible anyway. Look at dieting. Those that try and be really really restrictive in a week so they can lose more weight quickly may achieve their goal short term, but usually can’t maintain the physical hard action needed to keep the results and usually go straight back to the way they were if not worse! The joys of being restrictive and ultimately ‘perfect’. We are obsessed with being perfect even though it’s very hard to maintain and doesn’t make us happy.
8-hours sleep lie – Doing things consistently is key
Consistency in my view is doing something more than you don’t. Because that’s how habits are formed. You don’t have to do it all the time, (nor can you, you are not a robot! And life will ultimately get in the way) just more than you don’t do it. If you ‘fail’ or fall off the wagon, you just have to get back on that’s all. One bad night will not kill you (in fact, it could be good for you! But more on that later…). One night off a new sleep routine will not haul you all the way back to square one. However, on the other side of this, you do need to be realistic with yourself. Are your compromises valid and reasonable and still a step towards your goal of sleeping better? Or are you just making it too easy because you don’t want to do it? Any answer is valid and will show you how important your sleep is right now to you. Sometimes it’s interesting how much we are willing to worry and concern ourselves with something yet we are not in the right headspace or time to deal with it. Then let it go for now. Take responsibility and control over your decisions and deal with some of the other stuff that plagues you that you can control.
8-hours sleep lie – The blaming or all the uncontrollable things
This is probably the most interesting concept in sleep and I feel reflects a lot about our own psychology. We are always looking for blame. And, if we can find the blame, we believe it will lead to a solution. What wonderful magical logic. That’s where your critical thinking cap needs to override what might seem ‘logical’ a bit like the logic of taking yourself to a dark room to magically ‘shut down and sleep’ instantaneously. There is no real logic there my friend. Triggers of sleep problems are rarely the reason you haven’t slept for 2 years. And my proof is this – something may wake you up in the night – the dreaded menopausal night sweats, pain, that infuriating pouch we call the bladder, snoring coming from SOMEONE ELSE…. It may wake you in the first instance, but it doesn’t explain the not being able to get back to sleep bit. It also doesn’t explain why months after the original symptoms may be gone or not so bad, the sleep problem remains rife. And lastly, it doesn’t explain why some people don’t have sleep problems alongside these symptoms and illnesses. I think there are 3 things going on here 1. My favourite – the lack of proper sleep education using appropriate language and critical thinking which this blog hopes to steer you towards and 2. It kind of suits us to blame something we have no control over and 3. Its also nice to think that if there is a solution, it’s a more physical practical one like a magic pill rather than anything YOU might have to do yourself which might be HARD before you see results.
8-hours sleep lie – original triggers
I am not saying these original triggers are not valid and real. They most certainly are, and this is why I will never find the solution to the perfect night’s sleep every night – because these things may happen to me and when they do, my sleep will be affected. Cos that’s life I’m afraid. The difference is, and in recent years I have been able to prove this to myself in real life, I know how not to make it habitual. And the simple answer is doing nothing. Or at least, if you have a sleep routine which most of the time you feel is good for you, don’t change it. We will talk about what those things are later – but just know that it is incredibly rare, even when presented with maybe atypical insomnia symptoms in a clinic, that all can be fixed with a ‘magic pill’ treatment (and by that I mean something you didn’t have to do much for) for a random vitamin deficiency, disorder or particular problem causing the sleep issues. It happens, but most of the time whilst the ‘magic pill’ treatment might improve or change the original culprit or trigger, if you have had the sleep issue for long enough that we would say it’s a sleep problem (3 months or more) then its become a habit, and no amount of fixing the original trigger will make it go away. Only you can do it with some effort. Boom!
So now you know all about the 8-hours sleep lie, read the next article in my no-nonsense sleepyhead blog series – a bad night is a good night, sleep debt doesn’t exist and lying in is a luxury