People like Margaret Thatcher, who said she only needed around four hours sleep a night, have given rise to the belief that perhaps we might be able to exist on less sleep per night. However, we now know that this is down to a rare gene, found only in a tiny percentage of the population. Most of us need between seven and eight hours of consistent, good-quality sleep each night and teenagers need between nine and ten.
Insomnia sufferers are also not helped by the number of myths that abound around sleep, for example that waking at night is not a good thing, whereas it is actually quite normal.
There is also a common belief that you can just ‘catch up’ on missed sleep. However, research has shown that after, say, a weekend where you have slept for longer, that sleep debt accrued in the week will still catch up with you.
Another misconception is that older people need less sleep. Medical and ageing conditions may interrupt sleep but it does not follow that as you age you need less sleep than when you were younger.