As a sleep specialist, I see it all! I tackle the Top 5 Mistakes and blunders that I see Insomniacs and poor sleepers make. I bust the myth that everyone needs seven to eight hours and offer some great sleep tips to help improve your sleep!

About Dr. Liz

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Winner of numerous awards including Top 100 Moms in Business, Dr. Liz provides psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and hypnosis to people wanting a fast, easy way to transform all around the world. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and has special certification in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. Specialty areas include Anxiety, Insomnia, and Deeper Emotional Healing.


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Listened to in over 140 countries, Hypnotize Me is the podcast about hypnosis, transformation, and healing. Certified hypnotherapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Dr. Liz Bonet, discusses hypnosis and interviews professionals doing transformational work

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Hey everyone. Dr Liz, here there is some rain going on in the background so you may hear that. The recording filters may filter it out too, but if you hear it, that’s what’s going on. It’s a really nice sound in my house. My ceilings are almost entirely wood inside, but not a huge layer of insulation before the roofing material on the outside is on it. So the rain sounds really nice in my house, which is good, because it rains a lot in Florida, especially in the summer, and the summer is quickly upon us.

I’m recording this at the end of April 2024. I’m working my way through questions asked during the podcast survey of 2024. And several, several, several people so that would qualify them as many right. Many people asked for more episodes on sleep. Now I have quite a few episodes about sleep, including a free hypnosis for insomnia, so if you search those up on the podcast or on the YouTube channel or on my website, you’ll find lots of information.

I am a sleep specialist and have had an interest in sleep since teenagehood, I would say, when I used to have a lot of nightmares. And then in undergrad I did my honors thesis on anxiety factors and their relationship to nightmares, and then I didn’t pursue a whole lot of training in it in graduate school, but later in my career I became certified in hypnosis for insomnia, which I found immensely helpful immensely. It was a game changer.

And then, a couple years after that, I was certified in cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, cbti, which is what they consider first line of treatment for sleep problems. It’s what the American Medical Association recommends to doctors instead of prescribing sleep medication which is highly addictive and has all kinds of which is highly addictive and has all kinds of side effects as well as effects on REM sleep. And they say, hey, first try to send someone to CBTI and see if that helps and if not, then try a sleep medication. So it’s considered first line of treatment and often people will seek me out to get off of their sleep medications because they really don’t like the side effects or they know that they’re not good to take long term. There’s a relationship to some pretty serious stuff like dementia with some of them, so they want to come off of them and they’ll often see me to help them through that transition, me to help them through that transition.

Enough of training, slash history. Today’s focus is the top five mistakes that insomniacs make. Okay, so if you’re listening to this and you’re a good sleeper, chances are you’re listening for a partner, because poor sleepers almost always partner with like fantastic sleepers, which I always find funny my husband’s a fantastic sleeper. Like fantastic sleepers, which I always find funny, my husband’s a fantastic sleeper. And good sleepers don’t think about this stuff that much. They might have a bad night of sleep and they’re like whatever they go about their day, they don’t typically look for patterns or what they did wrong or what they could do better. They just like go to work and then live their day, live their life, come home and go to sleep their regular time or when they’re tired, that’s it. Or sometimes they’ll go to sleep a little early and it works for them.

Enter the poor sleepers, which sometimes tips over into the category of insomnia. If it goes on too long, if it’s severe, if you’re up for hours in the night, if you’re taking more than about 20 minutes or so to fall sleep, then it tips you over into a different category insomnia. So what’s the first one? Trying to get more sleep because someone said you should, or you read a book or a health article about it? There are lots and lots of, let’s say, celebrity sleep experts that say oh my god, you have to get seven to eight hours of sleep or else this, this and this is going to happen For your brain health. You have to get seven to eight hours of sleep. Ignore them.

I was talking to a close friend the other day who was trying to extend her sleep and I was like what? Like she’s a great sleeper. I’m like are you having problems with your sleep? She’s like no, no, no. But I heard Dr So-and-so say that I really need like eight hours. I’m trying to get that for my brain health and I’m like, oh my God, like no, no, no, don’t mess with your sleep.

If you have good sleep, there is a natural variation that people have anywhere between four hours, which is about the minimum that people operate on, to 10 hours that people need. If it’s going beyond 10 hours, then we start looking at other things. But there’s a natural variation there. When I was in my 20s, I often needed 10 hours of sleep, 9 to 10 hours of sleep. That was my regular. This friend does fantastic on six hours of sleep. Six, six and a half she’s good to go. There are so many people who fall into that category. They do great right around six, six and a half, sometimes five.

I had someone in my office. He sleeps about five hours a night and he always has, and it always worked for his lifestyle. He had the type of job where he had to be up at like 4 am. He had to be at work at 4 am, I think, so he was up at 3 am. He’d go to sleep at 2, 1, 12, 11, 10, doing some complex math here on my fingers, you guys 1, 12, 11, 10, doing some complex math here on my fingers, you guys. He’d go to sleep right around 9.30, 10, be up at 3, be at his job by 4, and it worked great for him.

And then he was in because his wife wanted him to go to sleep earlier or something like that, with her, or he didn’t have to be at work anymore. That’s what it was. He didn’t have to be at work anymore. That’s what it was. He didn’t have to be at work anymore at four. It was more like around seven, eight, and he didn’t want to wake up at 3 am anymore and I was like but that’s your natural sleep pattern. If you don’t want to wake up at 3 am, then you’ve got to shift later, and so I said well, you’ve got to choose here. You know like. You can go to bed around 930, 10, wake up around three, have a great time to yourself, reading, workout. He loved to work out in the morning, work out, you know. Whatever you want to do then, or you can go to bed closer to midnight and wake up closer to what like five, 6 am or something. Get ready for your day, get your kids up, whatever that is.

He was trying to extend his sleep and running into all kinds of problems and thought that was a problem. It’s not If you’re on the short side. It’s not a problem If you’re a great sleeper. Don’t mess with your sleep period If you’re a four-hour person. My ex-husband had a good friend who only needed four hours. That’s it His whole life. He had a lot of free time on his hands. Okay, like a lot. We used to all laugh about it. This was far before I was trained in any kind of sleep specialty. We just used to all laugh about it.

First of all, he’s a night owl, so he’d stay up most of the night and then he’d get a good four hours of sleep and go to work. And he’s good to go and it’s like everybody was envious of him. Nobody said, oh my God, you’re going to have so many health problems later in life. No, you can’t tell someone who needs that much to sleep longer. It messes with them. It leads to fragmented, light sleep that’s what we call it where someone’s like waking up a lot and feels restless and maybe they slept you know five hours. They didn’t feel like it was really good sleep, good solid sleep. It’s like, yeah, because it’s not for you, you’re trying to extend it. Don’t do that. Okay, don’t do it. All right, let’s move to the next one, wanting it to be perfect.

Everyone has some bad nights of sleep from time to time. It is nothing to really get concerned about, unless it’s like I said before, when you’re going through a crisis, you’re going to have some bad sleep. Okay, it’s just part of being human, that’s it. Even poor sleepers have a bad night from time to time. But again, they don’t start analyzing absolutely everything and going into like problem solving mode, like a lot of insomniacs or poor sleepers do. Like what did I do wrong? Did I have a coffee too late? Did I do this? Maybe I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have taken that nap. I should keep myself up. Perhaps it’s something I ate Like they don’t do that. No, they’re like oh, I didn’t sleep very well last night. That’s that. That’s it. Nobody has perfect sleep, so stop trying to strive for it.

You do not have to go to bed at exactly the same time every night or wake up at exactly the same time every morning. There’s a range there. It’s about a 15 to 30 minute range. That’s pretty normal for people. Now, related is going to bed early to get more sleep. If you did have a bad night the night before, again, you can do this from time to time. It works well. Do not try to do it all the time.

It’s one of the top mistakes that I see poor sleepers make is they think I need more sleep. I’m so tired. So instead of going to bed around 10, I’m going to go to bed around 830. And then they lay in bed sort of awake because they’re not tired, okay and hoping to fall asleep, wishing they could fall asleep, starting to get anxious and obsessed about oh my gosh, I need more sleep. What if I don’t sleep well tonight? They sort of shoot themselves in the foot, like with this one, because when you’re trying to go to sleep early and get more sleep, you often have a worse night of sleep. So that goes with like going to bed when you’re not tired. Don’t go to bed if you’re not tired, that’s it. If you’re not tired, don’t go to bed. Don’t go to bed early if you’re not tired.

Now, if you are sitting in front of the television or reading a book in the living room or something like that and are nodding off, and let’s say you didn’t have a great night the night before, but you’re like literally nodding off, like oh, your head’s going, boom, boom, your eyes are closing, you have no idea what the last five minutes of that show were. Or you’ve lost your place in the book, like did I read that? Those are sleepiness signs? Go to bed absolutely if that’s happening and you had a bad night of sleep, but also know that your body’s going to do some adjustment so you actually may be awake a little bit earlier than you normally are. So it’s going to do some catch up, a little catch up if you’re missing some sleep.

But it’s typically not going to give you like 12 hours when, let’s say, your normal is eight. It doesn’t usually do that. It may give you another 30 minutes or an hour or something, but you’re not going to gain like four hours and you don’t need to. So know that as well. You don’t need to. Let’s say, the night before you only slept four hours and typically you sleep seven hours. It’s not a one-to-one where your body’s going to be like oh, you needed three extra hours tonight. It doesn’t work that way. We’re not even quite sure why, but it doesn’t work that way. So it may give you another half hour hour, something like that. Any of that is within the range of normal. Okay, there’s nothing wrong with you if that happens.

And do not wake up and think well, now I’m only missing two hours, maybe I can make that up tonight or on the weekend. No, try to stick with your regular habits as much as you can. If your regular bedtime is around 9.30, 10, or between midnight and 1.30 for the night owls or so, or, I don’t know, 8 to 8.30 for those early birds, then try to stick with that. Don’t try to tack on hours before thinking I’ll get more sleep because I know I have to be up at such and such time to be able to get to work. Don’t try to tack it in to the beginning of the night. It can often lead to sleep that’s super light and doesn’t feel like it’s good quality, because it’s not You’re in light, sleep a little bit more than you would want to be. Because it’s not You’re in light, sleep a little bit more than you would want to be. Again, there’s always exceptions to that.

Very occasionally, my husband will have a bad night of sleep and he usually goes to bed around 8.30 because he gets up around 4.30. And it’ll be like 7.30 and he is nodding off and he’s like, oh, I’m just going to head to bed, like I know it’s 7.30, but I’m heading to bed. But he’s like, oh, I’m just I’m going to head to bed, like I know it’s 730, but I’m heading to bed, but he’s not trying for like 630. Okay, no, he’s actually trying to keep himself up a little. He’s like I’m going to keep myself up a little. I hear him say that all the time. It’s like, oh, he’s a fantastic sleeper and he’s figured out yeah, I’m tired because maybe I didn’t have a great night of sleep the night before. I worked a long day, but I’m sticking to my regular bedtime as close as I can get it, so I’ll keep myself up a little. Did I do five? I’m not really sure. If I did, fantastic, here’s a bonus. If I didn’t, here’s the fifth Okay, when you’re trying to get better sleep, not starting with your wake up time, get better sleep, not starting with your wake-up time.

People try to start with their bedtime. They try to go to bed earlier. Does not work. Start with your wake-up time when you’re trying to get better sleep. What we do as specialists is we say, okay, when’s the earliest you have to be up? And for most people they have like three, four, five days work days where they have to be up, and for most people they have like three, four, five days work days where they have to be up at a certain time. Very occasionally I’ll run into someone where it’s like only once or twice a week they have to be up earlier, an hour or two earlier, and sometimes that’s a contract around, like taking care of the kids and taking them to school and giving your partner a break, something like that. Even then, okay, we say what’s the earliest time that you have to be up during the week? And so we pick that time. Let’s pick one right now so that becomes a little more concrete. Let’s say 6.30 am. So if you’re struggling with sleep, you pick 6.30 am and for the next two weeks you wake up at 6.30 am, no matter what’s going on, no matter how you slept the night before, no matter if you were up the whole night and you fell asleep at 5.30 am. Be up at 6.30 am when we start with the wake-up time. Then it begins to reset our clock in a way that’s beneficial for us.

The more that you can get light around that wake-up time, whether it’s artificial or natural, the better. So sometimes it’s still dark, depending on where you live. Go in the bathroom, turn the lights all the way on. If you have a sun lamp, turn that sun lamp on. If you go into the kitchen, turn that kitchen light on. If you can get natural light, fantastic. Step outside, get some natural light or get it through a window. Try to get some light within five, ten minutes of waking up. Most people have to use an alarm to do this. The alarm goes off. You give yourself ten minutes to get out of bed. You get out of bed. So that’s often just one snooze, okay. One snooze is okay. You get out of bed and then you get some light because it’s going to help wake up your system and it’s going to start to help reset your circadian clock.

Now, if you’re trying to move, like shift your circadian rhythm, that’s a whole, nother thing. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about you’ve had, like I don’t know, a week or two, sometimes longer, of really poor sleep and you’re trying to just do a reset here. Start with your wake-up time, then count backwards to like how many hours you typically sleep. So let’s say seven hours. You’re on your fingers. You’re going to count backwards 5, 30, 4, 30, 3, 30, 2, 30, 1, 30, 12, 30, 11, 30 is seven hours. So you’re going to try to go to bed as close to 11 30 as you can, considering it takes about, you know, 20 minutes to settle down and stuff. So that’s really between 11 and 11 30 that you’re getting into bed doing your nighttime routine, reading a little, assuming you’re sleepy, which usually you are. By that point, if you’re trying to do some reset, most people have to like keep themselves up a little, like I talked about before, to hit that time. But go ahead and do that, keep yourself up a little, and then, once you’re sleepy, go ahead and get into bed and then you’re getting up at 6 30 am. If you’re not falling asleep at 11 11 30, within 20 minutes or so, you get back up out of bed until you’re getting sleepy signs and again you’re getting up at 6 30 am. This is an example.

People so pick the time that works for you. Often people will pick an earlier bedtime and they’re not sleepy and then they’re hanging out in bed doing nothing watching TV, reading or sometimes just staring at the ceiling. Not a good plan. Pick your wake-up time, stick to it consistently for two weeks Once your sleep is better. It may take longer than two weeks, but once your sleep is better then you can start flexing that wake-up time a little bit. I do this myself.

I went through a period recently of just not great sleep and I knew my wake-up time was varying anywhere from like 6.30 to 8. That’s way too long. Um, eight, that’s way too long. Okay, we went about a 15 minute window for your wake-up time, not an hour and a half. I knew this as a specialist, but I kept justifying it to myself like, oh my god, I’m so tired, though. No, I need some extra sleep.

I was having some headaches and very occasionally I’ll take a muscle relaxer for the headache, which will put me to sleep, but it makes me sleep longer, like it knocks me out, basically, and it makes me sleep a good I don’t know two hours longer if I just let myself go. Now. I know that’s not natural sleep, it’s due to a medication, but it’s so hard to wake up, like I can’t set the alarm and then just turn it off. It’s like that’s not great either. I don’t use those very often because I know they’re addictive and I’m not going down that path, but very occasionally I’ll use one. So this was happening and it happened for a couple weeks. I wasn’t taking the muscle relaxer for a couple of weeks, but I had a couple weeks of variation in a couple of nights. Within those two weeks or so, I took a muscle relaxer here or there and so I thought, oh no, all right, back to the reset.

645,. I got to be up, because that’s when I have to be up to be able to take my daughter to school. So then I did that on the weekends, even though she had a day off. She had couple days off in there. She’s always getting some kind of day off, whether that’s official or not official. Okay, but um, not meaning not that she’s skipping school, but sometimes she needs like an extra day at home and she’ll tell me that, or she’s been having some like lady problems and so I let her stay home occasionally for that, all kinds of stuff Anyway, regardless of whether she was going to school or it was the weekend or whatever that was.

I was like nope, I got to be up at 645. That’s it Start my day. If I need a nap later, I can take a nap later, but I got to start my day. If I need a nap later, I can take a nap later, but I gotta start my day at a regular time. And that immediately, pretty immediately, improved my sleep. Like we are talking, within a couple of days. My sleep improved once I started doing that. So it can be very quickly that your sleep improves.

Typically when I’m working with someone, it’s anywhere from three to five sessions, sometimes a little bit longer, but sometimes it’s two sessions and they’re good as well, so it can go either way a little bit longer or a little bit shorter. I mean it’s typically not just one session, because we do a lot in that first session and we’re scheduling a second so that we can troubleshoot, see what worked, adjust where we need to adjust, give more education. I do a lot of education in that first session, far more than I’m doing here, and I’m also doing history in that first session as well. So I’m trying to get a good idea about what’s going on. I’m looking at data from, like, the first phone call. I ask people to start tracking their sleep temporarily. I don’t want them tracking forever Nobody should be tracking forever but I want them temporarily tracking their sleep so that we can see what’s going on. We get a good idea of number of wake-ups when they’re trying to go to bed, when they’re trying to fall asleep, when they’re getting up in the morning. So we’re looking at that data. We’re doing quite a bit in those first one or two sessions.

But anyway, my point is you can do some of this on your own. If you start with the wake-up time, the effect on your sleep is pretty quick, it’s pretty fast, and if it’s not, then I would say, yeah, see a sleep specialist, okay, one in your area. You can contact me. I work all over the world. I just worked with someone in France. I don’t typically do Australia because the time difference is just too much with my schedule. I think Australia would work if I worked at night, like evenings, nights, but I typically don’t. I only do like one evening and that’s booked. But anyway, europe, north America, south America, all of that works. Asia Australia not so much. So you can reach out to me if you need a little bit more help with this. All right, everyone, I hope that helps. I hope I covered five. Pretty sure I covered five, maybe six, maybe seven, who knows? I hope I covered five. Pretty sure I covered five, maybe six, maybe seven, who knows? I hope you have a wonderful and lovely night of sleep tonight, peace.

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