A top Australian sleep expert, who once struggled with insomnia so bad it was ‘like torture’, has debunked some of the most common myths about how to get better sleep at night.
‘Most of the information that’s out there is quite strict – do this, don’t do that – to me that actually causes more stress for a lot of people,’ she told FEMAIL.
‘I would say the golden rule is to do what relaxes you. If you’re using your device to do something that relaxes you – great.’
Sleep coach, Elina Winnel, who once suffered from insomnia, has busted some common myths about getting a good night’s sleep saying it’s fine to look at your phone before bed
Before she became a sleep coach, Elina said she struggled for years with insomnia, sometimes going days without a nap.
‘At its worst point I would go for days without sleeping. A typical night was like torture lying there exhausted but unable to drift off,’ she said.
‘People would say “oh you probably did sleep you just don’t remember” – if you didn’t sleep, you know.’
Elina said her lack of sleep was ‘destroying’ and affecting ‘every aspect’ of her life but she couldn’t find any answers.
Expert busts common sleep myths
❌MYTH : Medication will fix my sleep problems.
✅THE TRUTH : Sedatives only address the symptoms, not the root causes of poor sleep.
❌MYTH : What I do in the hour before bed will dictate how well I sleep.
✅THE TRUTH : It is actually both your daytime activities, and your night time physical environment, that determine the quality and ease of your sleep.
In other words, changing stressful thought and feelings to more positive ones, as well as having a supportive and comfortable mattress, are essential components to your sleep.
❌MYTH : Poor sleep is just something I have to live with.
✅THE TRUTH : It is your birth right to enjoy revitalising, sound, blissful sleep. Insomnia and poor sleep are real and legitimate struggles – but there is a solution, and you are worth finding it!
❌MYTH : Poor sleep positions are what cause my night time pain.
✅THE TRUTH : This may be true, but quite often people are sleeping on old or unsupportive mattresses. It can often be this, rather than their sleep position, that is causing night time pain.
Elina said if looking at your phone ‘helps you unwind’ then it shouldn’t affect your quality of sleep but to switch off if you’re using your device for something that ‘stimulates’ you to much
‘Poor sleep affects us negatively physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. When we are sleeping well, we receive deep rejuvenation in all of those areas. It really is a fundamental key to wellness, happiness and vitality,’ she said.
‘All I would read about it put your device away and stop drinking coffee. I saw psychologists, I saw doctors, you name it, I did it,’ she said.
How to choose the right mattress for you
‘A good mattress is extremely important. We spend one third of our life on it! It can either allow or prohibit us from getting into a deep sleep which is critical to our ability to regenerate and prevent aging,’ Elina said.
‘A mattress that supports your body and regulates your temperature will ensure that you are going to have a better, more restful sleep.’
The main qualities to look for in a mattress are:
- Breathable materials and temperature regulating technology. This helps to maintain your body at a comfortable temperature when sleeping and keeps you in a deeper sleeper.
- Ergonomic, zoned support mattresses help to ensure pressure relief and that your spine, hips, and shoulders stay aligned at night
- The body can take up to several weeks to get used to a new mattress so looking for a mattress that can be trialled can be helpful. In-store testing may not be enough to know it’s the right one for you.
- Look into independent third-party reviewers like CHOICE which provides unbiased reviews that undergo thorough testing.
The Sydney sleep coach’s never-ending battle with insomnia lead her to search for solutions, dedicate her life to exploring treatments and study the science behind sleep.
She eventually overcame her insomnia via trial and error using gadgets, installing a strict evening routine, balancing her nervous system, slowing her brainwaves and working on anxiety.
She also studied Meta Coaching, Neuro Linguistic Programing (NLP), Hypnotherapy, Sound Healing, Brainwave Entrainment, Brain Mapping, and various Human Development Frameworks and blogged about her learnings on her website.
She now uses her experience and expertise to help the two thirds of Australians who struggle to get some decent shut eye.
‘People are gradually waking up to the importance of sleep,’ she said.
‘Clients come to me and say ‘I can’t sleep! I’m not stressed’ and it’s about helping them to become aware of what their true stress levels are and to learn to shift that.’
Below, Elina busts some sleeping myths and shares some facts about how to reduce stress levels to help you wake up feeling rested each morning.
MYTH – DON’T LOOK AT YOUR PHONE BEFORE BED
‘People say don’t use devices before bed it’s not true,’ Elina said.
Elina said if looking at your phone ‘helps you unwind’ then it shouldn’t affect your quality of sleep but to switch off if you’re using your device for something that ‘stimulates’ you too much.
‘If social media relaxes someone – great, but if social media gets someone all wired then that’s not good so you can use devices say for example to do meditation or watch a chill, relaxing show that’s fine,’ she said.
‘The one thing with devices is to block out the blue light because that suppresses our melatonin production.’
FACT – BALANCE YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
‘I have so many clients that say ‘I’ve tried everything, I put my devices away, I can’t drink coffee, I still can’t sleep’ and then when they start working on their nervous system that’s when they start to see a difference,’ Elina said.
She explained there are two branches of the autonomic nervous system – the stress response and the relaxation response – and it is vital to have balance for the best night’s sleep.
‘A lot of people don’t realise how wired they are during the day – stress isn’t bad, it’s just about having balance,’ Elina said.
Elina explained there are two branches of the autonomic nervous system – the stress response and the relaxation response – and it is vital to have balance for the best night’s sleep
A good way to tell if you’re stressed is to place your hand on your chest and another on your belly to see where you’re breathing.
If you feel your breathing pattern most on your chest this may be a sign of too much stressed and you should focus on the things that make you feel relaxed, whatever that may be.
‘Prioritise a bit of doing nothing, a bit of chill time and connection and laughter playfulness to help relax us,’ Elina advised.
MYTH – DON’T WATCH TV BEFORE BED
Like with your phone, Elina said if watching television at night makes you feel dozy, it can be useful to help you drift off at night.
‘TV actually puts us in a bit of a hypnotic state – a lot of people say they’ll sit on the couch, they’ll watch TV and they’ll start falling asleep,’ she said.
‘So TV can help some people fall asleep but again it’s about watching something that’s maybe a little bit boring or a nice relaxing drama or comedy and not a murder show or something that has you on the edge of your seat.’
The bad news for coffee lovers is that the beloved beverage can in fact keep you up at night if consumed a few hours before bedtime
FACT – KEEP COFFEE TO A MINIMUM
The bad news for coffee lovers is that the beloved beverage can in fact keep you up at night if consumed a few hours before bedtime.
‘Coffee stays in our system for many hours. As a general rule, it is helpful to avoid coffee intake in the afternoon, and especially from 3pm onwards,’ she said.
‘There is a small percentage of people who appear not to be affected by a late evening coffee, however most people will benefit from cutting back.’
Elina said while coffee is a major focus when thinking about sleep deprivation, it is just one of many factors that can contribute to a restless night.
‘Where the myth sits around coffee is on the importance of coffee intake. It is often the first thing people will speak about in relation to sleep, however, there are other factors which are significantly more important, such as having a well balanced nervous system,’ she said.
MYTH – YOU SHOULD GO TO BED AT THE SAME TIME EVERY NIGHT
While our bodies like to have regular cycles, Elina said, life changes and demands can often make it difficult to keep a strict routine.
‘If we have consistent sleeping and waking times, it trains our internal body clock. It may help us fall asleep more easily, and wake more easily,’ Elina said.
‘However, if keeping to a regular sleep schedule creates stress for a person, for example, due to life demands, then having some flexibility in sleep schedules can be helpful.’
The sleep coach said it is important to weigh up the benefits for your individual situation and routine.
‘It is similar to having a strict diet. Eating healthy food can be good for us, but being too strict about it can cause stress, in which case the gains may not outweigh the benefits,’ she said.