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Crash Course: The What, Why, and How of Better Sleep! Part 1

 

Managing sleep during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be challenging. Yet, it is vital that we achieve a state of consistent, high-quality sleep to support both our physical and mental health.

In Part One of this two-part series, we will explore the what and the why of sleep, to help you to better understand the function and components of sleep.

 

The What and Why of Sleep – Understanding Sleep

Several theories outline the purpose behind sleep:

The Inactivity Theory suggests that sleep evolved to help us to stay out of harms way during times when we would be particularly vulnerable (i.e. nighttime).

 

The Energy Conservation Theory describes sleep as a method to conserve an individual’s energy use, particularly during times when it would be inefficient to search for food.

 

The Restoration Theory suggests that sleep is a way that our body can restore and recover from our experiences while we were awake.

 

The Brain Plasticity Theory explains that sleep and brain plasticity play a vital role in brain development, as well as learning and memory, across the lifespan.

 

To further understand and manage sleep effectively, it is important to also identify and understand the fundamental components of sleep:
  1. The Homeostatic Sleep Drive (Sleep Drive) is the sleep energy or sleep
    “pressure” that builds up throughout the day as we exert energy from interacting with our environment. Scientists hypothesize that the build up of sleep drive is linked to the build up of adenosine in the brain. Adenosine is a by-product of energy consumption by cells, which dissipates with sleep (hence, as does sleep drive). A strong Sleep Drive is important to facilitate high quality and continuous sleep!

Here is an analogy: Building strong sleep drive is like completely filling a balloon with air, until it is taut, so that when that balloon is released it spends the most time possible releasing air around the room. Similarly, we want to expend as much energy as possible throughout our day in order to increase the amount of sleep pressure we have to release at the end of the day, so that our sleep is high in quality and continuous.

 

  1. The Circadian Rhythm (Biological Clock) is our individual sleep timing preference and most people fall into one of three broad categories or chronotypes – Advanced, Conventional, and Delayed.

Advanced (Lark) chronotypes are individuals who typically go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. A Lark chronotype, for example, might have a sleep schedule of 9 PM – 5 AM.

Conventional chronotypes are individuals who have a more typical sleep schedule. They might have a sleep schedule of 11 PM – 7 AM.

Finally, the Delayed (Owl) chronotypes are individuals who typically go to bed later and wake up later. An Owl chronotype might have a sleep schedule of 1 AM – 9 AM.

Take a moment to identify your preferred and actual sleep chronotype. Are they the same or different? Being aware of your patterns gives you key information to support optimal sleep.

 

  1. The Arousal System (Emergency Alerting System) is an “Emergency” activation switch in our brain that can override our sleep drive in order to allow us the ability to appropriately respond to dangers. The EAS can be activated by stressors in our external environment (the context or situation you’re in), or your internal environment (your thoughts and/or emotions). An overactive EAS can disrupt the quality and quantity of sleep.

At Synthesis Psychology, we’re working on strategies with clients whose concerns about the uncertainties of COVID-19 are activating their Emergency Alert Systems and disrupting their sleep.

 

 

As you contemplate the what and why of sleep, I invite you to think about the functions of sleep and your own sleep experiences. By understanding your own patterns, preferences, and experiences of sleep, you’re better able to understand the essential components that support getting high quality sleep.

In the second part of this series, we will explore the how of sleep, to help you to consistently get better sleep.

 

 

For more information and immediate support with improving your sleep experience through counselling support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

We have expanded our secure videoconferencing and telephone counselling to ensure you can access support even from a distance. Click on the button below to proceed with a complimentary consultation with a Synthesis Psychology Registered Psychologist or Social Worker.

Contact Us

 

 

By Aaron Telnes M.C.

Registered Psychologist

 

 

References:

The Drive to Sleep and Our Internal Clock. (2007, December 18). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/internal-clock

 

 

Managing sleep during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be challenging. Yet, it is vital that we achieve a state of consistent, high-quality sleep to support both our physical and mental health.

In Part One of this two-part series, we will explore the what and the why of sleep, to help you to better understand the function and components of sleep.

 

The What and Why of Sleep – Understanding Sleep

Several theories outline the purpose behind sleep:

The Inactivity Theory suggests that sleep evolved to help us to stay out of harms way during times when we would be particularly vulnerable (i.e. nighttime).

 

The Energy Conservation Theory describes sleep as a method to conserve an individual’s energy use, particularly during times when it would be inefficient to search for food.

 

The Restoration Theory suggests that sleep is a way that our body can restore and recover from our experiences while we were awake.

 

The Brain Plasticity Theory explains that sleep and brain plasticity play a vital role in brain development, as well as learning and memory, across the lifespan.

 

To further understand and manage sleep effectively, it is important to also identify and understand the fundamental components of sleep:
  1. The Homeostatic Sleep Drive (Sleep Drive) is the sleep energy or sleep
    “pressure” that builds up throughout the day as we exert energy from interacting with our environment. Scientists hypothesize that the build up of sleep drive is linked to the build up of adenosine in the brain. Adenosine is a by-product of energy consumption by cells, which dissipates with sleep (hence, as does sleep drive). A strong Sleep Drive is important to facilitate high quality and continuous sleep!

Here is an analogy: Building strong sleep drive is like completely filling a balloon with air, until it is taut, so that when that balloon is released it spends the most time possible releasing air around the room. Similarly, we want to expend as much energy as possible throughout our day in order to increase the amount of sleep pressure we have to release at the end of the day, so that our sleep is high in quality and continuous.

 

  1. The Circadian Rhythm (Biological Clock) is our individual sleep timing preference and most people fall into one of three broad categories or chronotypes – Advanced, Conventional, and Delayed.

Advanced (Lark) chronotypes are individuals who typically go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. A Lark chronotype, for example, might have a sleep schedule of 9 PM – 5 AM.

Conventional chronotypes are individuals who have a more typical sleep schedule. They might have a sleep schedule of 11 PM – 7 AM.

Finally, the Delayed (Owl) chronotypes are individuals who typically go to bed later and wake up later. An Owl chronotype might have a sleep schedule of 1 AM – 9 AM.

Take a moment to identify your preferred and actual sleep chronotype. Are they the same or different? Being aware of your patterns gives you key information to support optimal sleep.

 

  1. The Arousal System (Emergency Alerting System) is an “Emergency” activation switch in our brain that can override our sleep drive in order to allow us the ability to appropriately respond to dangers. The EAS can be activated by stressors in our external environment (the context or situation you’re in), or your internal environment (your thoughts and/or emotions). An overactive EAS can disrupt the quality and quantity of sleep.

At Synthesis Psychology, we’re working on strategies with clients whose concerns about the uncertainties of COVID-19 are activating their Emergency Alert Systems and disrupting their sleep.

 

 

As you contemplate the what and why of sleep, I invite you to think about the functions of sleep and your own sleep experiences. By understanding your own patterns, preferences, and experiences of sleep, you’re better able to understand the essential components that support getting high quality sleep.

In the second part of this series, we will explore the how of sleep, to help you to consistently get better sleep.

 

 

For more information and immediate support with improving your sleep experience through counselling support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

We have expanded our secure videoconferencing and telephone counselling to ensure you can access support even from a distance. Click on the button below to proceed with a complimentary consultation with a Synthesis Psychology Registered Psychologist or Social Worker.

Contact Us

 

 

By Aaron Telnes M.C.

Registered Psychologist

 

 

References:

The Drive to Sleep and Our Internal Clock. (2007, December 18). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/internal-clock