What is the Sleep Deprivation Cycle
The sleep deprivation cycle is the cycle that many of us struggle with chronically – being sleep deprived for days followed by sleep binging, which leads to staying up later and being sleep deprived again. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Does it sound familiar? Are you always wasting your weekend catching up on sleep?
The opposite of the sleep deprivation cycle is consistent, sufficient sleep, as opposed to being deprived of sleep. Sleep deprivation is insidious, and can be summed up in three points:
- Lower quality of life
- Lower life expectancy
- Worse performance in every aspect of life
Here are a number of tips to break the sleep deprivation cycle.
Make Sure Friend are Jealous of How Comfortable Your Bed Is
Is your bed comfortable? How old is it? Is it causing you pain? Your “sleep assets,” or the things you use to help your sleeping quarters be as comfortable as possible, are great tools to help you sleep.
Sleep assets go beyond just your bed. They include things like:
- A good mattress and/or topper
- A comfortable pillow(s) for your head and, often, between your legs
- Good quality sheets
- A comforter that’s in good condition
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a mattress, a couple hundred dollars can go a long way in getting a nice memory foam topper and excellent pillow.
Make Sure Your Room Is Comfortable
The environment of your sleeping quarters is extremely important, in fact critical, to being able to sleep well. All you need is:
- A quiet room
- A dark room
- A clean room
Depending on your existing environment, setting this up might require a bit of work like:
- Using earplugs if you live in a loud area
- Use blackout curtains if you live near city lights or in the far north (like here in Alaska)
- Using essential oils
- Doing laundry more often (clean sheets!)
- Spending money on other items to create a more restful sleeping quarter
Reduce Coffee and Alcohol
This should be rather obvious, but coffee and alcohol are the enemies of quality sleep. Of course, for most of us that means making lifestyle changes! These life style changes usually include:
- Not drinking alcohol right before bed (no night cap), as alcohol produces REM sleep
- Drinking less coffee
- Sticking to drinking coffee in the morning
- Limiting liquids directly before bed
Cutting and reducing coffee is especially hard the first few days, but you will adjust quickly.
Condition Yourself With an Activity Before Bed
A pre-bedtime activity that you do religiously before bed is absolutely essential.
If you are aware of Pavlov’s dog, it’s the same concept. Pavlov’s dog salivated every time it heard the bell ring because Pavlov always fed the dog after ringing the bell. It’s called conditioning. This is the purpose of choosing an activity to do before bed – condition your body to start producing melatonin and mentally slow down. Some proven activities are:
- Taking a hot bath
- Listening to a book, podcast, etc.
- Journal writing
There are many other possibilities depending on your taste and interests.
Avoid Screens at All Costs Before Bed
The blue light from screens delay the release of melatonin, and may even suppress the amount that is released. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep. This rule is especially hard to follow because we are beset by screens:
- Smart phones
Furthermore, there are endless activities to do online with no obvious stopping point, such as a book with chapters. You can scroll through Facebook or Instagram endlessly. You can watch endless YouTube videos. You get the point. The best practice: don’t tempt yourself, don’t expose yourself to blue light.
Be Like a Child – Set a Realistic Bed Time
Set a bed time? Really? We are not children any more. A bed time is a useful tool. It is your way of self-regulating by setting boundaries and rules for yourself.
There’s an important catch. Your bedtime should be realistic. Set one you think you can actually attain. If you are a night owl, set a bed time later.
What If You’ve Tried Everything Without Success?
Of course, there are some sleep conditions that will make it seemingly impossible to overcome the sleep deprivation cycle, in which case you may need external help. These conditions include:
If you live in Alaska and have tried everything to break the sleep deprivation cycle, please contact us.