Building Your New Regular and Robust 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’s easy to adopt unhelpful coping strategies to manage tiredness levels, such as going to bed early, getting up late, or sleeping during the day. Whilst such habits can help in the short term, they can often confuse your body’s internal sleep-regulation, worsening your 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 that 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 to fit this timeframe.
When to sleep?
Your sleep is also regulated by your internal body clock that works to keep you alert all day and then asleep at night. It achieves this by the releasing the sleep-promoting hormone Melatonin at the start of the night, and the waking hormone Cortisol in the morning.
To keep your body clock on time and promote good quality sleep, aim to go to bed and get up at roughly the same every day. 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 shifting forward and disturbing your sleep the following night.
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 in the future.
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. 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.
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