Weve all heard the term Sex Drive before, right? To make sure we pass on our genes and keep the old species chugging along, evolution built in a pretty strong biological urge to have sex.In general, we call strong, biologically-based urges like this drives.
Hunger and thirst are similar drives, for example. But something most of us dont realize is that we also have a drive for sleep. Like consuming calories and making babies, getting some sleep each night is pretty important to our survival, so our bodies come prepackaged with a mechanism to make that happen.
That mechanism is Sleep Drive, and understanding how it works is key to improving your sleep. Before we dive in to the nitty grities, let me explain what where were going with all thisWhat youll get out of this articleI wrote this article because I want to pull back the curtain on this mysterious but powerful force that affects all of us every day of our lives. Despite not getting much popular press over the years, understanding Sleep Drive has been the cornerstone of effective treatment for insomnia and sleep problems for decades now.
And theres no reason more people shouldnt know a bit about it. I have two goals for this article:I want to describe a fascinating and powerful aspect of our sleep that almost no one knows about. Sleep Drive is one of only two truly impactful factors in how well we sleep (Arousal is the other, btw).
If you can understand how it works on a fundamental level, youll never think about sleep the same way again. I want to help you harness this powerful drive to dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. And consequently, everything else in your life, since all of it depends to some degree on getting good sleep.
For example, youll learn why if youre struggling with your sleep, theres a really good chance you should be spending LESS time in bed not more. Intrigued? Skeptical?
Good. Lets dive in. What is Sleep Drive?
Sleep Drive is a measure of a persons biological need for sleep.When we first wake up in the morning, our Sleep Drive is very low. It gradually increases as the day progresses and then quickly diminishes as soon as we fall asleep.
The implication of this is that the longer youre awake, the stronger your drive (or need) for sleep.Adenosine: The Active Ingredient in SleepLets get a little nerdy for a second : The strength of our Sleep Drive depends on a the accumulation of a chemical in the brain called adenosine.Like most chemicals in the body, adenosine serves many functions.
But one of the most important is that it regulates Sleep Drive, and by extension, the feeling of sleepiness and ability to fall asleep.When we wake up after a good nights sleep, our brain adenosine levels are very low. Over the course of the day, however, they gradually build up until they cross a threshold, at which point we begin to feel sleepy and then are able to fall asleep.
Please Note: I use the term sleepy deliberately here because it is technically distinct from the more common term tired. Youd be tired after running a marathon but not necessarily sleepy. When it comes to sleep, its best to reserve the term sleepy for a state of being close to falling asleep, while tired is more general and has more to do with exhaustion, stress, fatigue, etc.
You can always tell, by the way, when youre actually sleepy and not just tired by watching out for the two signs true of sleepiness: The Head Nod and Heavy Eyelids. Other phenomena like yawning, low energy, and feelings of relaxation are often associated with sleepiness but arent necessarily reliable indicators of being truly sleep.All of this means that if you want to feel sleepy, fall asleep quickly, and stay asleep, you need to accumulate lots of adenosine in your brain over the course of the day.
So how do I accumulate more adenosine?The short answer: Be awake for longer.Heres the slightly longer answer:Simply by virtue of being awake and going about your day, adenosine and therefore Sleep Drive will build up.
However, you can increase the overall amount of adenosine thats accumulated by increasing your level of physical activity throughout the day, especially through exercise. If you remember back to high school biology, the body combines glucose and oxygen to form ATP as our muscles primary fuel source. What you probably didnt learn (or forgot) is that as a by-product of the ATP-creation process, your body produces adenosine.
Which means that the more work you make your muscles do, the more ATP and therefore adenosine is going to be produced. In terms of sleep, this means that if we want to build up more Sleep Drive, we have to A) Be awake longer, and B) Move/exercise more.Thats cool.
But how will this help me sleep better?Heres the idea in a nutshell:The longer were awake the more adenosine builds up in our brain and the stronger our Sleep Drive is.The stronger out Sleep Drive, the more sleepy we feel.
The more sleepy we feel, the greater the odds of us falling and staying asleep.Therefore, if we want to fall asleep faster and stay asleep, we need to be awake longer.If youre thinking this sounds a bit paradoxical, you wouldnt be the first:If we want to sleep better we have to stay awake longer?
Exactly, heres how it worksThe Paradox of Sleep RestrictionThe term Sleep Restriction sounds a little horrifying at first blush, but its actually a good sleepers best friend. Heres why:By intentionally staying awake longer (i.e.
restricting our sleep), we can increase our Sleep Drive and therefore our chances of falling asleep quickly and staying asleep throughout the night.Lets use an example:Suppose on a normal day you wake up at 7:00am and get in bed at 11:00pm. That means you have 16 hours of Sleep Drive built up when you get into bed.
Now this may or may not be enough Sleep Drive to result in your feeling sleepy and being ready to fall asleep. And if its not, youre going to stay awake in bed. Not good.
But suppose you had to work late and didnt get home until midnight and then didnt get into bed until 1:00? Now youve had 18 hours to build up Sleep Drive and your odds of exceeding the sleepiness threshold are much higher. Which means youre more likely to fall asleep quickly after getting into bed, and to sleep soundly through the night.
Sleep Restriction is just a way of intentionally doing what happened here by accident. By deliberately staying awake longer and restricting your time in bed, you allow more sleep drive to build up before getting in bed. Which means that when you do finally get into bed, youre that much sleepier.
By trading of a little bit of sleep quantity, we can dramatically improve our sleep quality. Before we go any further, a couple of clarifications about Sleep Restriction:Typically, only mild amounts of Sleep Restriction are necessary to increase Sleep Drive. If you generally need 7 hours of sleep each night, Sleep Restriction might involve cutting your time in bed down to 6.
5 or 6 hours. Most guidelines recommend not going below 5. 5 hours per night.
Sleep Restriction is not something you need to do forever. Sleep Restriction is most useful as a way to temporarily increase your Sleep Drive in order to more effectively get rid of old unhelpful sleep habits (e.g.
: worrying in bed) and build new more effective ones (e. g. : falling asleep immediately).
Once your sleeps back on track, you can stop restricting.It sounds paradoxical, but most people who are having trouble with their sleep should probably try a mild course of sleep restriction. Simply cut back on the amount of time you spend in bed by a half and hour each night for a week and see what happens.
Note that while you can restrict your sleep on either end (i.e. going to bed later or waking up earlier), its often a good idea for most people to start with staying up a little later in the evenings since most of has more rigid schedules in the morning and more flexibility in the evenings.
If you do this consistently for a week or so, you should start to notice that you are more sleepy when you get into bed and possibly that you wake up less often in the middle of the night and are able to fall back asleep more quickly. Remember, the whole idea behind Sleep Restriction is to temporarily trade of some sleep quantity for increased sleep quality. Youre going to feel more sleepythat means its working!
Once youre consistently falling asleep quickly and sleeping through the night, add back the hours you removed.Disclaimer: If youre struggling significantly with sleep issues, including insomnia, talk to your medical provider and consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), which is the consensus treatment of choice for insomnia and similar sleep problems recommeded by the major medical associations. Wrapping UpSleep Drive is the bodys natural need for sleep which gets stronger the longer were awake.
One of the simplest and most powerful tools for improving your sleep quality is to try some mild Sleep Restriction. By going to bed slightly later and waking up slightly earlier, you increase your Sleep Drive and consequently your chances of falling asleep quickly and sleeping soundly though the night. Want to learn more about how to eliminate insomnia and get better sleep?
Check out my FREE eBook, Sleep Pitfalls: 10 Mistakes That are Ruining Your Sleep and How to Fix Them For GoodThis story is published in The Startup, Mediums largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 318,120 people.Subscribe to receive our top stories here RELATED QUESTION I didn't get Google Glass Explorer Edition. Is trying to learn Glass dev without the hardware a futile effort?
No, you can still learn the fundamentals of Glass development without the hardware. There are three main approaches for accomplishing this: 1) Visit the Mirror API documentation, get into the playground, and start hashing up some code. Download the PHP, Java, and Python library, whichever you're most comfortable with.
Familiarize yourself with the jargon and converntions (timeline, bundles, menus, etc). Read the support documentation (second link below) to see how the Glass hardware actually functions. Build some apps to this specification.
Soon enough, you will find a friend with hardware to t