Build Yourself a Regular and Robust Sleeping Pattern
Building Your New Sleeping Pattern
‘Build’ is the penultimate step in The Sleep School’s 5 step process and focuses on establishing a regular and robust sleeping pattern by strengthening the biological processes that regulate sleep.
When you can’t sleep it is easy to adopt unhelpful coping strategies such as going to bed early, getting up late or sleeping during the day in order to manage tiredness levels. Whilst such habits can help in the short term, they can often confuse your body’s internal sleep regulation leading to a worsening of sleeplessness in the long term. Outlined below are a series of helpful ways in which to enhance the biological regulation of your sleep.
How long should you sleep?
How long you sleep is in part regulated by a sleep driver, which monitors how much time you have been awake. It is estimated that on average at least 16 – 17 hours of daytime wakefulness are needed to drive 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. Everyone’s sleep needs are different with some people needing more and some less. You know when you’ve had enough sleep as you wake up feeling refreshed.
Aim to stay in bed for the amount of time you believe your body needs to sleep – if you feel you need 7 hours of sleep, then stay in bed for 7 hours. Avoid getting out of bed too early or lying in for too long as this just confuses your sleeping pattern. Choosing to stay in bed for the same amount of time on a regular basis increases the chance of your sleep expanding into the space.
When to sleep?
Your sleep is also regulated by your internal body clock which works to keep you alert all day and then asleep at night. It achieves this by the timely release of either the sleep promoting hormone Melatonin, at the start of the night or the waking hormone, Cortisol, in the morning.
To keep your body clock on time and in turn promote good quality sleep, aim to go to bed and get up at roughly the same everyday. On the nights where you do stay up a little later, always aim to get up around your normal time as this will prevent your clock from being shifted forward and disturbing your sleep for the night to come.
Stay in bed During the Night
How you respond to night time wakefulness determines not only how awake you become in that moment, but also how likely you are to being awake on subsequent nights.
Accepting that you are awake and that struggling to get back to sleep only wakes you up more is the first step. Choosing to stay in bed awake and resting peacefully can hugely improve the amount of energy you have for living your life the next day.
In addition, mindfully noticing and welcoming any unwanted thoughts and emotional reactions also saves your valuable energy and confirms to your brain that it is safe to sleep, paving the way for natural sleep to emerge on future nights.
If staying in bed is too much at first, then sit on the edge of the bed and practice a little mindfulness instead. Paradoxically, the key to sleep is having an accepting and relaxing attitude towards being awake at night. When you can let go of the idea that you need to be asleep, then you remove the obstacles in the way of falling to sleep.