Replace the 8-hour myth with a reminder about core
While sleep-need is
a very individual thing and age is also a big factor, it is generally accepted that adults up to the
age of 65 need 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night, or 7 – 8-hours for those over 65.
Interestingly, the census indicated that Kiwis are generally sleeping less than recommended and
two-thirds of Kiwis in the study reported they often wake-up tired. Perhaps not surprisingly, three
quarters of households with children wake up feeling tired.
However, a preoccupation with the 8-hour myth can cause unnecessary stress and consequent sleep
loss! It’s therefore more important that people start to become educated about core sleep
In sleep psychology we talk a lot about core sleep which is around 5 ½ hours a night. While
this is not necessarily enough sleep to help you feel your absolute best, it is considered enough to
help you function and maintain your daily living. We liken it to eating the amount you need to stay
healthy, as compared to what you might choose to eat with additional treats, desserts, and favourite
foods thrown in!
Try to replace the unhelpful myths around 8-hours of sleep and the idea of ‘sleep
debt’ that this creates, with a focus instead on the benefits of core sleep and the individual
differences we have in our need for sleep. Given that insomnia is riddled with anxiety about loss of
sleep, this can go a long way in terms of helping us feel more positive and less stressed about what
we are achieving!
In addition to a reduced quantity of sleep, Kiwis are also reporting issues with poor quality sleep.
Almost nine in 10 New Zealanders are waking up at least once in the night with 50% of people
reporting that their sleep is commonly disrupted by feeling too hot or having body aches and pains
through the night. Around 1 in 4 Kiwis are also feeling restless overnight due to insomnia, stress
at work, anxiety, or feeling too cold. When awake through the night, we tend to think most
frequently about our lack of sleep or work stress.
It is estimated that our modern environment of artificial lighting and limited sun exposure
means we only experience one hour of natural sunlight on average each day. Similarly, evening
lighting, screens and devices hinder our exposure to true darkness. Given that the accumulation of
our natural melatonin is related to our daily exposure to light and darkness, it is important that
we optimise our circadian rhythm and keep it as regular as we can.
We can best prepare for the next night first thing in the morning by getting straight into the
sunlight (opening curtains, sitting in a sunny spot). Similarly, turning off devices, limiting LED
lighting or using screen filters will also best prepare us for sleep at night-time. If you struggle
with falling asleep, ensure you are maximising your exposure to sunlight early in the day.
Alternatively, if you struggle with middle-of-the-night awakenings try to stay in the light as long
as possible, perhaps taking a late afternoon walk and not closing curtains too early.