“I’m fine off of just six hours of sleep…”
The notion that you can operate off of less than eight hours of sleep is a myth and the final excuse I’ll address this week. To address this excuse, I’ll use a few quotations from Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep.
Sleeping fewer hours in a day shouldn’t be a badge worn with pride among friends; but instead, a sign of premature, short-minded thinking that is hurting you in more ways than you think.
However, the few who spend enough time in bed to even have the opportunity to sleep enough, may still struggle generating the recommended eight hours. And here’s why:
Why You May Struggle Sleeping
Earlier Circadian Rhythms: A quite interesting phenomenon is that your circadian rhythm varies depending on your age.
For example, children have very early circadian rhythms (generally around 7:30 p.m.). But as they move into their teenage years, it swings drastically to a very late rhythm beginning around 11:30 p.m. Then, after the teenage years, it starts to drift back to an earlier time (9:30 p.m.) as we become parents. And then the elderly have circadian rhythms that return back to their youthful years around 8:00 p.m.
You may struggle sleeping because you’re trying to go to bed too early (teenagers) or going to bed too late (you).
Effects of Certain Medications: Sleeping pills may help you fall asleep faster, but they actually do more harm than good — the main contributor is that they blunt your deep sleep. Other medications you are taking may have a similar effect.
However, “prescription melatonin has been shown to help boost the otherwise blunted circadian and associated melatonin rhythm in the elderly reducing the time taken to fall asleep and improving self-reported sleep quality and morning alertness.”
You may struggle sleeping because of the pills you’re taking.
Effects of Medical Conditions: Many chronic illnesses negatively affect your deep sleep. Even being overweight can cause sleep issues, such as sleep apnea. Simply eating better and exercising daily can avoid diseases that will prevent you from sleeping.
You may struggle sleeping because of your habits when you’re awake.
Weakened Bladder: If you’re waking up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you’re fragmenting your sleep. You may not think you can do anything, but simply drinking less in the evening has proven to do the trick. The fact that the older you get, the weaker your bladder gets, doesn’t help. But you can still do something about it.
You may struggle sleeping because you’re eating or drinking too late into the evening.
Afternoon Naps: You have two main drivers that determine when and for how long you stay asleep — your circadian rhythm and sleep pressure. Sleep pressure is the amount of adenosine build up in your brain (the more build up, the more tired you become). Caffeine is effective simply because it blocks the receptors in your brain from determining how much adenosine build-up you actually have.
Naps release that sleep pressure, and if performed too late in the day, will combat your circadian rhythm and make it increasingly more difficult to go to sleep on time. In general, naps are great for your health — but refrain from taking them past 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon.
You may struggle sleeping because you’re napping too late in the afternoon.
Health requires good sleep and “individuals fail to connect their deterioration in health with their deterioration in sleep, despite causal links.”
“Any individual, no matter what age, will exhibit physical ailments, mental health instability, reduced alertness, and impaired memory if their sleep is disrupted.” Issues of dementia, alzheimer’s, and depression are also causal links to poor sleep.
Sleep often and sleep enough. Don’t excuse yourself.