Would you be willing to undergo nearly 24 hours of sleep deprivation if by doing so you could learn to fall asleep more quickly?
This is pretty much the bargain you make if you undergo Intensive Sleep Retraining (ISR), a treatment developed in Australia to help people with insomnia learn to fall asleep more easily. The idea behind ISR is that trouble falling asleep is mainly conditioned, involving negative beliefs about sleep, and worry about sleep loss, and poor sleep hygiene. The goal is to get rid of these impediments and make it easier to fall asleep.
A polysomnographic technologist says insomnia sufferers can achieve the same results using a new iPhone app.
When you lose out on sleep—due to insomnia or for any other reason—it can handicap your performance the next day, as some Olympic athletes will attest.
But while some people are seriously compromised by sleep loss, others are remarkably resilient. Just as we humans differ in our ability to get to sleep and stay asleep at night, so we function differently after sleep deprivation.
During Sleep restriction therapy for insomnia, I discovered less can be more. I sleep better when, instead of going to bed with the first yawn, I postpone going to bed until I’m good and tired.
I rediscover this every time I fly out west. As long as I don’t stray from getting up at my usual time in the morning (which, on the west coast, means getting up well before dawn), postponing bedtime actually has a positive effect on my sleep.
Researchers at UC Berkeley have shown that sleep deprivation amplifies anxiety in people prone to worry. In a study written up in Science Daily, the researchers found that a single sleepless night greatly ramped up neural activity in two brain regions associated with the processing of emotion.
When it comes to sleep, I’m convinced that quality is more important than quantity. Hands down, I’ll take 5 ½ hours of sound slumber over restless dozing that stretches out for 7 hours.
So I have mixed feelings about sleeping pills. Many meds invented to give us more sleep degrade the Zzzz’s we get and can actually worsen insomnia.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed often has to do with being short on sleep, and in recent years scientists have begun offering theories about why this is so.
Rosalind Cartwright’s research suggests that one function of sleep is the down-regulation of negative emotion so we can wake up in a happier frame of mind.
I get a serious case of the munchies when I’m feeling sleep-deprived. A few short nights is all it takes to propel me to the places where the good stuff is. I break into the chocolate, corn chips, cheese, and salted nuts with the zeal of a wild pig rooting for truffles, and I eat and eat.