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  • Writer's pictureRMTC Team

5 Myths About Sleep and Mental Health

Couple sleeping

You may find your relationship with sleep and mental health are a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. When one suffers, so does the other, but which one came first? According to Dr. Michael Wainberg, a postdoctoral researcher at the Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics, “The relationship between sleep and mental health is bi-directional. Poor sleep contributes to poor mental health and poor mental health contributes to poor sleep.” (CAMH, 2021).  

For World Sleep Day on March 15, we’re busting 5 big myths when it comes to sleep and mental health.  


MYTH: 8-hours is the perfect amount of sleep for adults  

FACT: A “Good Night’s Sleep” Is Subjective 

Our personal needs for sleep are as varied as how we take our morning coffee. While many adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal functioning, some can function on a mere 6 hours a night or less, and others still may need more than 9 hours to feel their best. Try not to compare your sleep needs to others, adapt with your body as you age, and pay attention to times of day that sleep makes you feel most rested. (Sleep On It Canada, n.d.


MYTH: Being short on sleep by a few hours for one night is no big deal.  

FACT: Grumpy? Check. Confused? You bet. Motivation level? Zero. Physically drained? Without a doubt. 

Even missing an hour or two of sleep can take a toll. You may find a lack of sleep impacts your mood, thought patterns, behaviours, mental health, and your physical energy – even after just one night of poor sleep. (CAMH, 2019). 


MYTH: Coffee keeps you up, alcohol helps you sleep.  

FACT: While coffee (and other caffeinated beverages) can keep you up at night, the opposite isn’t true for alcoholic beverages; they can cause you to have a more disturbed sleep and wake up more often. It can make you fall asleep faster, which may be while the myth of alcohol helping sleep has prevailed. It can also contribute to snoring and apnea episodes which reduces sleep quality not only for yourself but also anyone you share space with, like your partner or a roommate. This loss of sleep is an unnecessary detriment to your mental health!


MYTH: The early bird catches the worm!  

FACT: Following your body’s circadian rhythms can be one of the best ways to align good sleep with good mental health. Not everyone is apt to wake up early, and some are more productive and energetic in the afternoon and evening. Forcing your body into early mornings may cause your mental health to suffer overall as misalignment of sleep patterns and the body’s natural sleep tendencies can lead to increased rates of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.  

This can be particularly challenging for anyone whose life schedule is contrary to their circadian rhythm, like shift workers, for example. Though there is natural change over our lives, our circadian rhythm is genetically determined, and there is little we can do to alter it. Ideally, shift your work and social life to match your circadian rhythm, not the other way around. (Harvard Health Blog, 2020). 


MYTH: Medical sleep aids are the only way to get more sleep. 

FACT: There are many ways to get more sleep and improve your sleep quality!  

Healthy sleep patterns may not come naturally, and they might be a challenge to develop in our ever-moving society, but they can be some of the best keys to keeping a good sleep schedule. Having a nighttime routine with comforting activities like a bath or stretching can help your mental health, as can avoiding screentime for the 60-90 before you go to bed. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, to get your body on a regular schedule.  

For those with more significant sleep issues, therapy can help. A professional can help with chronic insomnia using techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), with a goal to change sleep-related behaviours and thought processes around sleep. Strategies CBT-I can include stimulus control, sleep restriction, relaxation techniques, and cognitive therapy (Columbia Psychiatry, 2022). 


Want more sleep myths and facts? Check out 

With some healthy sleep hygiene, you can improve your sleep quality and boost your mental health as a part of your overall well being.  

Relationship Matters Therapy Centre serves the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, and Guelph area with individual, couples, and family counselling. If you are looking to book an appointment with one of our therapists, you may do so online or contact us via email at or by phone at (226) 894-4112. 



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