They say that a change is as good as a holiday… but sometimes it just upsets everything. With routines and habits comes security. You get yourself into a good routine and a habit and you’re chugging away at life and everything has it’s own pace and is seemingly rhythmic in it’s regularity. It’s hard to lose your way when you have these markers and checks that you have placed in your own weekly schedule that supports your regularity and function. Wednesday is laundry day, Saturday is bathroom day, Friday is groceries day. And then along comes a long weekend and all of a sudden you are thrown into a tizzy as the supermarket closes, the greengrocer goes on a holiday and your favourite coffee shop deserts you and denies you 4 days of sanity and that daily dose of warm, blanket-laden love that oddly you have come to rely on to start your day and ease into your own fabulousness.
One of the harshest realities of a change in the routine is the partaking of social actiivities. All of a sudden you have time to be going out and catching up, indulging in food nights and dressing up in crazy outfits to enjoy a party evening with friends in random cloistered locations. And you don’t have any excuses of being committed to working schedules that saying no is tantamount to stealing lollipops from children in the eyes of your companions. And in all this frivolity and heightened enjoyment, you completely upset your routine and you’re out until 1am without realising out, or you’ve been away from the house for 9 hours in the day and the laundry is still sitting in the basket and the bathroom has taken on the look of a Backpackers Dormitory over a music festival weekend.
In amongst all this state of neglect - your sleeping patterns have been deprived of their clockwork schedules and when it does come time to be responsible and go back to work, you are faced with the reality of being up at 1am on the Sunday evening, trying desperately to force yourself to be tired and to fall asleep. Tossing, turning, standing on your head, reading, grasping at old lectures on historical legislative journals… anything to get your head to nod and your eyes to close.
Sleep deprivation is a conundrum of debate. How much sleep can you ‘lose’ before you actually begin to eat away at your well being? Can we regain lost sleep? Do we have to regain it before midnight? A few hours of lost sleep over a night or two is not too damaging and the idea of having a ‘sleep bank’ that we can make deposits and withdrawls from is not necessarily a truth. Sleep deprivation also depends on the amount of hours that you have lost and this can have a large effect on whether you actually do need to reclaim these lost hours or just rejuvenate your routine. Losing an hour because you simply have to stay up and watch that second episode of Game of Thrones, is not going to result in a sleep deprived body. However, having this occur over consistent evenings (just as well GOT is only 6 eps) or a consistent block of sleep that is lost say in an all night session followed by a quest to see the sunrise the next day can have more impact on you.
Erasing a sleep deprivation cycle is not as easy as having one big long 12 hours snooze fest. It’s a gradual and consistent action that unfortunately your body will regulate of it’s own volition. Consistently having a week long session of getting an extra hour or two is the way to claw back a few lost hours. And the body deals with this the best. A ‘recovery cycle’ of sleeping patterns involves trying to key into your natural sleep patterns. That can be as simple as going to sleep when you are tired and waking up without an alarm clock. If you have the capacity for this indulgence then it is easy to claw back your hours of lost snooze naturally, but it does mean committing to a few easy tasks.
pre bed routine of reading or music and avoiding light stimulation (that means no screens)
avoiding stimulating beverages or food after 3pm - carbs, coffee, sugar
avoid day naps - more than 20min naps plays with your body’s natural circadian rhythms and can upset your sleep patterns when you do retire
REM sleep is an all important stage of sleep to avoid losing out on as this is a vital factor of our brain and body affecting memory, learning faculties and mood balances. REM makes up about 25% of our sleeping time and occurs in the body when the brain sends signals to the cerebral cortex (where memory storage is affected) and also signals the spinal column to shut off movement of the body. Disruptions to REM sleep can have an impact on recalling information learnt in the day as the signals to the cerebral cortex are interrupted and the banking of memory can be affected.. It can also affect our regulatory systems of emotional stimulation as the impulses that normally affect the cortex can become lost. Hence the ‘cranky individual who hasn’t slept’ is the usual state and occurence when REM sleep is deprived or lost.
The interesting factor is that REM sleep is not a big bank of time that occurs at around 2-3am but moreso short spurts throughout the evening. REM sleep is also not the all important DEEP SLEEP that we need. REM is quite active and is often where we encounter our dreaming state. Your body and brain is quite active during REM sleep and the other cycles that occur in sleeping patterns are actually the important deep sleep that we all need to feel rested.
When we sleep, we sleep in cycles and REM sleep can be achieved 70-90minutes into our first 2 hour of shuteye. Our sleep cycles rotate throughout the evening and roughly we have 5 cycles that each have their time (5-15min each stage) with REM being short in the beginning and deep sleep being long which then changes as each cycle moves through the evening. It is this rotation of sleeping patterns that can be importnat as if you have not committed enough time having multiple cycles within an evening, this affects the all important DEEP SLEEP that is needed for that rejuvenation and feeling rested.
it is important to ensure that we give each of our sleep cycles their natural time to do their function. And unfortunately you cannot train yourself out of this. Some people claim that they can ‘train themselves to only need a minimum amount of sleep’. The science claims this is false as the reality is that the more tired we get, the less tired we feel. However this constant state of deprivation will begin to eat away at your reserves and all sorts of issues can occur out of this.
So can we be catching up on sleep debt? Well yes it does make sense that if you lose a bank of time in sleep, you can recall it. Again this cannot occur in the one big session and has to be plugged back in small chunks to retrieve the lost sleep and time spent in sleeping cycles. But it is important to give time and thought to reclaiming hours spent ‘in the sack’ if you have been a bit light on the resting and heavy on the carpe diem.