Blog: How well did you sleep last night?

Hello

I hope you are all well and had a great weekend.

I took a timeout for this weekend. I had no plans as I had kept 14 days clear just in case I had to quarantine on my return from Gibraltar (which I thankfully did not have to).   Last week was difficult one, so taking time for myself was much needed.

I also mentioned that a new external website is coming.  I am happy to confirm that Better Days Wellbeing will be launching on 30 October.  I’ll post here when we are live.

Last week was a perfect storm of exhaustion, anxiety and stress. I used my weekend to try and bring down my levels under all three categories.

I feel like I am starting the week in a better place.

To fix a sleep pattern is simple in approach, but also difficult to implement.  If you have built up a significant sleep debt, the only way to fix it is more sleep.  It’s a fairly simple approach of allowing more time in bed (there is a big difference between time in bed and length of sleep).

Last week I reached the point of exhaustion, so on Friday I implemented a process to fix my sleep.  I start on a weekend, I stayed up on Friday night until I felt sleepy and went to bed.  I then set no alarm.  Its not abnormal when attempting to recover from an exhaustion episode to sleep for 10 hours +.  I got into bed around 1am and slept until 12:45.  I was weak and shaky by Friday afternoon, but I kickstarted the recovery process.

I follow this same process on Saturday night, entering bed at 12:15 and sleeping until around 11 am. I am now feeling less shaky and more functional.  I followed this with exercise yesterday. 

For the next seven days I will be extending my time in bed from eight to nine hours each night.  This is to allow my body more time to rest.

I refer to time in bed not time to sleep.  If an average human needs eight hours sleep, you need to allow more time than that in bed to sleep.  It takes an average human around ten minutes to fall asleep.  Allowing more time in bed increases the chance that you are going to sleep for longer.  If you restrict the time you have in bed, well you are going to sleep less than that time.

How much sleep you need is a personal thing.  For me its 7 hours and 30 minutes.  I figured this out during lockdown:

  • Going to bed at 00:15 with an alarm set for 08:15 (eight hours in bed)
  • Used a sleep tracker app (several available on android and iPhone)
  • I identified it takes me around 20 to 25 minutes to fall asleep
  • I wake on average 13 minutes per night (which is natural)

I have now leaned I need around 7 hours and 30 minutes sleep.  So to fix my sleep pattern I need to extend my time in bed by one hour, this is to try and lower my sleep debt.

You will never actually know what time you fell asleep.  You fell as sleep so wouldn’t see a clock at that point. So if you get asked how much sleep you have had, you can only truly answer how long you allowed in bed, unless you have used a sleep tracking app.

One final point.  Many of us worry about waking up frequently in the night. Humans naturally wake up in the night, even when sleeping well.  You may not even be aware you woke up sometimes.

Historically humans do not sleep in solid blocks.  It was often the case that a human would have a longer period of time designated for sleep, but humans would naturally get up during the night, not just wake. Tasks or actions would be taken away from the bed, then an individual would return to bed to sleep further.  There is a lot of historical documentation to support this.

So if you wake up a lot in the night, it is very normal, in fact it is only in more recent times that humans have seen a shift in society where we are expected to have sleep as a single block of time per day.

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