5 things you might (wrongly!) think are affecting your sleep

While some things do bump up your risk of not getting enough shut-eye, there are a handful of common culprits that don’t deserve their sleep-stealing reputation.

In Australia, 60 per cent of adults experience at least one sleep problem several times a week, so it’s not surprising that almost one in two of us aren’t satisfied with how much sleep we’re getting.

But, if you’re wondering what does – and doesn’t – impact your ability to get a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed, you might be surprised.

5 sleep myths busted by the experts

Blue-light exposure close to bedtime

In 2001, a study showed that exposure to bright blue light at night delayed a person’s body clock, making them fall asleep much later.

Ever since, the blue light that screens emit has been labelled “bad” for sleep.

But internationally recognised sleep scientist and WINK Sleep director Professor Michael Gradisar says the blue light given off by screens isn’t anywhere near bright enough to have that effect.

“What we found is that, at most, it takes an extra three or four minutes to fall asleep if you’ve been looking at a bright screen with maximum blue light emissions versus a dim screen, where blue light is dramatically reduced by the use of an app, before bed,” Prof Gradisar says.

Not getting an early night

A new University of South Australia study shows going to bed too early might even have a negative effect on sleep.

“Interestingly, simply making more time for sleep predicted more restless sleep,” study lead author Dr Lisa Matricciani says.

As for what does promote better sleep, the study suggests how you spend your daytime hours matters.

“We found that if children and adults increased moderate to vigorous physical activity, they would feel less tired, have less troubled sleep and better-quality sleep,” Dr Matricciani notes.

Using screens before bed

Even with the blue-light issue put to bed, you might still think pre-bed screen time is too stimulating for sleep.

While research shows people who are susceptible to “flow” – where they become deeply immersed in what’s happening on screen and lose track of time – do get less sleep, your sleep won’t suffer if you stick to your regular bedtime.

“If you do that as an adult, then you can use your devices right up until your actual bedtime without affecting your sleep – just don’t go past it,” Prof Gradisar says.

Reading in bed

You might have heard that “bed is for sleeping”, not awake-time activities.

But when it comes to reading a book, research shows people who do that in bed at bedtime enjoy improvements in sleep quality.

Again, the trick is being mindful of your bedtime – study participants could only read for 15-30 minutes before going to sleep.

Never being able to sleep in

Think this is why you’re always tired?

For good sleep, it’s actually best to avoid sleeping in.

“If you sleep in later, you can start pushing your circadian rhythm out, delaying your sleep-wake phase,” sleep practitioner and Nigh Nigh sleep consultancy founder Deb Herdman says.

Then, when you have to get up early again, you’ll find it challenging to fall asleep at a time that allows for enough hours of sleep to wake up feeling rested when your alarm goes off.

“So, going to bed and getting up at the same time is good advice to help people who are typically good sleepers maintain their sleep,” Deb says.

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Written by Karen Fittall.