Tired of being told how to sleep?

Quite frankly, so am I.219530983_d2039757f0_o

So when I woke up this morning to find yet more groundbreaking research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation of America posing the question: How much sleep do we need? – I couldn’t help but scoff. This was undoubtedly to tie in with the fact that it is National Sleep Awareness Week – how convenient. Apparently too little sleep over several nights can leave you feeling tired, with a lack of concentration, depressed and even anxious. Really? Who knew!

Joking aside, somewhat ashamedly, articles like this do attract me, even if they are published with remarkable frequency. They either make outrageous claims like ‘an odd number of hours sleep will ruin your life,’ or ‘eight hours is best but everyone is different.’ – enlightening. Tired as I am of the same old stories…I can’t help but buy into it, in the desperate hope of finding something that will ring true. Surely there must be a formula for the secret to a good night’s sleep. I’ve always been a little too obsessed with my sleeping pattern, borne from an envy of those who receive the optimum amount and swan around bright eyed and bushy tailed and even steer clear of caffeine. Caffeine: sleep’s arch-nemesis yet a productive day’s lifeline.

So as I was standing in the fairly ubiquitous American-style coffee house I attend religiously every morning, I decided I had to share this momentous study with somebody. I looked around to see my fellow worshippers: the same dull, unhappy, nervous and haggard zombies that I see every morning, yet never talk to. The perfect audience. Initially they looked nonplussed, first at my talking, and then at what I was saying: lack of sleep leads to tiredness? Positively unbelievable.

One of the lucky buggers at the front of the queue, however, on taking a sip of his grande soya caramel macchiato, decided to challenge me: a brave move. A courage that only coffee could invoke. It turned out that he had read that too much sleep was bad for you. I read on. It was true, the article said as much: too much sleep had the same negative impact upon you as too little. Truly mind boggling: sleep is something we spend a third of our lives doing and it seems that somehow we just can’t get it right.

So, what is the goldilocks of sleep? How many hours is just right? 

In scouring all the articles, blogs and reports I have stumbled upon in my time, with titles like 32 Solutions for When You Can’t Sleep, Busting Sleep Myths and 10 Sleep Mistakes You’re Probably Making, should I conclude that there is no right answer, or am I merely objecting because they are not telling me what I want to hear? Perhaps I should stick to the good old ‘trust no one’ adage that has done me well thus far.

It turns out that I am guilty of pretty much everything you are supposed to avoid, and justifiably so: late afternoon coffee (in lieu of the elusive nap); meals at dinner time (I had a sandwich at lunch!); a glass of wine (it’s relaxing…and sociable); catch-up sleep (of course I want to lie-in on a Sunday); the snooze button (you can’t take that away from me, I would literally still be in my bed now if it weren’t for that); reading in bed (I mean, come on!). OK, I don’t jump out of bed excitedly in the morning ready to kick start my day (let’s face it, that’s just not my style). If you are like me, then why stress out about trying to change habits that you enjoy or are used to as part of your routine? Surely that potential stress counteracts the benefits received: wide awake – yet miserable.

Why don’t we all just stop worrying and stick to, or find, what works best for us. My coffee shop compatriots (and presumably the coffee shop’s accountants) will be pleased to hear that there is no shame in needing coffee, if it makes your day a little better then enjoy it, as with everything else that adds to your day, ergo life. It really is the little things.

So let’s celebrate National Sleep Awareness Week by recognising that of course sleep is important … but so is our sanity!

Thank you and goodnight.