Episode 20


What To Do When You've Had A Bad Night

Insomnia is an inevitable part of the human experience. So whether you are in the throes of a chronic battle of sleeplessness, experiencing a bump in the road to sleep recovery, or just having a rare one-off bad night, what are you supposed to do?

In this episode, I discuss an appropriate response to the inescapable bad night of sleep.

It is unavoidable that we all will have nights where it is harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up as easily as we would like. But the key to preventing that from recurring or to get out of a rut if it already happens with an undesirable frequency is simple: the routines, habits, and consistent behaviors discussed in every episode. 

Have a bad night? Don't try to fix it, but rather stick to the tried and true behaviors that facilitate healthy sleep. The fundamentals of good sleep health are more important than ever after a bad night and shouldn't be abandoned in the face of the inevitable hiccup. Don't stay in bed extra long trying squeeze out a few extra winks of sleep. Don't try to sleep in much later the next morning. Don't engage in afternoon napping. 

Get up and out of bed at the same time every day, no matter how little sleep you managed the night before. This is crucial to maintain a stable internal clock - sleeping in after a bad night only makes it more likely you have will more subsequent bad nights by misaligning your internal clock. 

Avoid daytime napping, especially in the afternoon. Every little bit of sleep you get partially depletes your natural sleep drive, known as Process S (see Episode 14 to hear how another factor, caffeine, can also effect this sleep drive). When you nap in between your typical overnight sleep periods, you lower your sleep drive and lower the chances that in the upcoming night that you'll be able to fall asleep. In fact, being relatively sleep deprived (like the outcome after a bad night) significantly increases the chances that the very next night you'll sleep more easily than ever - IF that sleep drive is put to good use and not squandered on a daytime nap. Don't snack and ruin your appetite for the main feast. 

You can't escape your biology. So when you have a bad night - which you will! - use your biology to your advantage: strengthen that internal clock to line yourself up for a great upcoming night of sleep, and avoid daytime sleep bouts to maintain that strong biological need to sleep and alleviate that sleep pressure. Bad nights will happen whether you want them to or not, but vaccinating yourself against insomnia with stable sleep habits makes it so much easier to bounce back the next night and maintain that feeling of being well rested.


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