People who know I’ve written a book on insomnia often talk to me about their sleep. I hear lots of interesting observations, but sometimes people who complain about sleep have mistaken notions about how to improve it.
If you struggle with insomnia, take care to avoid falling into these two TRAPS:
1) Habitually going to bed early in an effort to get more sleep. As a rule, this is a bad strategy for people who have insomnia. A certain amount of sleep pressure has to build up every day before your brain is ready for sleep. Going to bed before your brain reaches this point sets you up to lie in bed awake, which creates anxiety and problems getting to sleep.
A better strategy—paradoxical as it may sound—is to stay up a little later than normal (while still getting up at your customary time in the morning). With the extra build-up of sleep pressure, you’re apt to fall asleep more quickly and sleep right through the night.
2) Sleeping late on weekends to catch up on lost sleep. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule isn’t always possible. Your inclination, after a late night out, is to want to sleep in. Good sleepers regularly catch up on lost sleep by sleeping late on weekends at no cost to themselves.
But people prone to insomnia have to be careful about when and how we catch up on lost sleep. Sleeping more than an hour (some experts say 30 minutes) later than usual in the morning can interfere with circadian rhythms and the build-up of sleep pressure that occurs during the day.
If you need to make up for lost sleep, it’s better to do so by going to bed earlier the following evening rather than sleeping late in the morning.
How do you catch up on lost sleep?