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A sleeping student after making common sleep mistakes.

9 common sleep mistakes to avoid

3 min read
  • Phones, AI & technology
  • Sleep

Chances are you’re not getting enough sleep. Despite sleeping for about 20 years over a lifetime, most of us are rubbish at it and although we all know we need to sleep, a lot of people make sleep mistakes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people have a bad night’s sleep in the build up to a big event. So what are the 9 most common sleep mistakes people make?

Why sleep matters

There has been a lot of research done on the power of sleep. Scientists have found that those who sleep better at night:

Sleep is important for everyone. Teachers, reportedly, only average about 6 hours sleep a night (well below the recommended average of about 8 hours). Students who sleep better have been found to get significantly higher grades (about half a grade’s difference). Likewise, athletic performance decreases if athletes don’t get enough sleep, as their reaction times are significantly reduced.

We have blogged previously on sleep, suggesting 6 ways to help you nod off quicker. But what are the most common sleep mistakes that people make, which stop them getting a good night’s sleep? How many of these do you do?

9 sleep mistakes

  • Watching TV right up until bedtime – Watching TV is the most common reported activity before bed for under-18s and leads to going to sleep laterThe Sleep Foundationrecommends not having a TV in the bedroom as it can hinder the quality of sleep.
  • Going to bed at different times each night – Different bed times each night confuse your body’s internal clock and disrupts your sleep patterns. It is difficult to get a consistent night’s sleep with an inconsistent routine.
  • Waiting to fall asleep before going to bed – Have you tried the pillow test? If you fall asleep within 5 minutes of your head hitting the pillow, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. If you find yourself consistently falling asleep on the couch, it is a good indicator that you need to start going to bed earlier.
  • Napping for too long – The research still isn’t clear when is the perfect time for a nap, although anything over thirty minutes can leave you feeling groggy for quite a while before you feel the full benefits. If you nap for too long before your normal bed time, you won’t feel tired again until very late into the night.
  • Staying in bed when unable to get to sleep – If you can’t fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and do something that occupies your brain without stressing out. Sleep expert, Professor Richard Wiseman, suggests working on a jigsaw.
  • Being on your phone in bed – Melatonin (the sleep hormone) gets released when it is dark. If you are on your phone or tablet in bed, your brain is fooled into thinking the bright light means it is day and stops melatonin being fully released, keeping you wide awake.
  • Drinking tea/coffee/coke/energy drinks late at night – These sorts of drinks are high in caffeine, which increases your alertness. They often take at least twenty minutes to kick in, meaning that if you drink them before bed, you will feel more awake at the exact time you want to be falling asleep.
  • Spending hours online killing time even when tired – This is a really easy habit to fall into. If your body is tired, it means it is telling you to go to sleep. Don’t waste time doing things that aren’t important. Videos of baby pandas sneezing on YouTube will still be there tomorrow.
  • Overthinking what you have to do tomorrow – When in bed, it is tempting to overthink what you have to do the following day. It is very easy to fall into the trap of dwelling on the possible consequences of if it all goes wrong. This can make you stressed, keeping you awake late into the night.

For more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep to avoid these sleep mistakes and to learn about the hidden benefits of sleep, head over to our handy guide.

Boost your students’ motivation with training that introduces them to the seven key habits of successful people.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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