A bad night’s sleep is good for you – sleep debt doesn’t exist – lying in as a luxury
Welcome to the next part of my no-nonsense sleepyhead blog series. Take advantage of everything I have learnt in 15 years of sleep medicine, research and around 10,000 patients with all sorts of sleep disorders. Educate yourself on sleep – the right way.
Your body is remarkable. When you can’t sleep there is often a reason, but not one that necessarily needs correcting. It could be you got more sleep opportunity than you needed the night before (by lying in for example), it could be the glass of wine, it could just be that your feeling preoccupied and dare I say it… stressed from one of the many worries and concerns that plague us (the irony that sleep can be one of them!). Anyway, my point is actually that it doesn’t matter. Accept it – that’s all you can do. Worrying makes us feel bad, willing sleep to come makes us more awake and when we arise in the morning we compound the poor night by catastrophising about being fired for performance caused by sleep problems even though nobody has ever noticed your performance on a ‘bad’ night versus a ‘good’. There are a bunch of insomniacs out there who don’t come to see the likes of me because they don’t perceive themselves to have a problem. Just a short broken sleeper living their best life. Anyway, I digress. The point is when we have a poor sleep our bodies will compensate if they need to. What I mean is, if I do absolutely nothing but stick to my standard routine – no lying in, no napping, no going to bed early, no interference, the likelihood is the sleep quality will go back to normal. Have you ever noticed the night after the night you had a few too many drinks with some pals, always feels good?
Sleep disorders – Sleep debt is not a real thing
Well, it is, but it is not a quantity debt per se, but a quality debt first, and maybe a little dribble of quantity debt – sometimes. What am I saying? When we don’t get the sleep we need, the next time we do get sleep, because your body already has a greater need for certain aspects of your sleep that it feels are missing, it will increase the various stages of sleep you need to compensate and here is the crux of it… Not with more sleep, just with different sleep. In sleep medicine, we often impose sleep restriction to boost the quality of one’s sleep. If your body needs more sleep it will, but if you find yourself lying in, going to bed early or napping and it makes your nighttime sleep worse, chances are you didn’t need to do those things… You just needed to let your body do what it already knows how to do. Fix itself without your interference. How cheeky we are to think we can do it better than our bodies can!
Sleep disorders – Lying in as a luxury
It stands to reason then, that perhaps social norms have dictated to us that lying in is THE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE AND DOWNRIGHT LUXURIOUS THING TO DO because we assume we are always needing to play catch up – never pausing to reflect that perhaps it is that very catch up behaviour that makes you feel so rubbish and yucky when you want to feel alert and ready. It makes me laugh that we eye the early morning runner with suspicion but its more socially acceptable to lie in a dark room for hours on end at the weekend (the irony that going to work is the only thing that gets us up in the morning…. Living my best life!). Who do you think feels better?!
Why do we view not sleeping as so bad? I think this has a lot to do with loneliness and the fear of doing something that goes against our social norms and indeed your partner lying asleep peacefully next to you. Oh, the bitterness we can sometimes feel for them! But why? Creatively speaking some of the best composers, philosophers, music artists and geniuses of our time had their light bulb moments in the hours we are meant to sleep. I’m not saying we all need to be night owls and screw healthy sleep practices altogether (far from it I believe everyone bar the tiny exception, can be morning types IF they wanted to), but if the odd poor night plagues you, or even the many – why not turn it into something else other than the terrifying, lonely and negative experience that it currently is that makes it WORSE. After all, it is not the lack of sleep that imposes the loneliness and feelings of doing something wrong and being ‘the only one up in the world’ – it is us…judging ourselves.
So the point is this – so far – you can’t control your sleep and it is not supposed to be 8 strong hours every night because we are variable creatures taking part in the ups and downs and non-predictable nature of this beautiful thing called LIFE! When that means a ‘bad’ night sleep… it can help reset your sleep and boost the quality- if we stop trying to compensate for it. Perhaps we can write a piece of music and make our millions in the meantime. Fabulous.
Read on the next article in my no-nonsense sleepyhead blog series – The fear of sleep deprivation and the sensitive sleeper…
Remember Sleepyheads – if you want some support for chronic sleep issues or sleep disorders, contact now for treatment. Alternatively, if you want to fix sleep yourself for good, why not do my DIY sleep course online?