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Saturday, 28 June 2008

Does It Really Matter If I Can't Sleep?

I've not been sleeping well recently. I've started to keep a sleep diary of when I go to bed, whether I wake in the night, when I get up, etc, to see if there's any pattern to the problem. So far, I ain't seeing anything obvious, though. :S

I read somewhere recently that, on average, humans need no more than 6-8 hours' sleep and oversleeping can cause as many problems as not getting enough sleep. However, I seem to have been getting around 6-8 hours' sleep recently, and this is clearly not working for me. I think I usually prefer 8-9 hours' sleep, although I can't say for certain how long, because I usually take a while to go to sleep. I often find that if I aim for 10 hours, I actually sleep for a lot less than that but tend to get whatever the right amount of sleep is for me.

However, this problem of not getting to sleep got quite bad a while back, which is why I started the sleep diary. I found I was actually getting to sleep gone midnight, but this should not have been a problem as I was waking up at 7:30am, thus getting the 6-8 hours apparently required. But when I woke, I felt incredibly tired. Now, my sleep diary indicates that my sleeping pattern has altered, but the change has not affected my energy levels. I seem to drop off to sleep quite quickly at night, and I'm sleeping straight through until morning, but I still wake up feeling exhausted.

Today I've decided to do a little research... Wikipedia's article on sleep suggests that sleep is controlled by three distinct functions in humans: the circadian clock, homeostasis and willed behaviour. According to Wikipedia, the circadian clock is "an inner time-keeping, temperature-fluctuating, enzyme-controlling device" and homeostasis "regulates [the body's] internal environment so as to maintain a stable, constant condition" - and it is these two that tell the body when it needs sleep.

Also, apparently it is not just a case of getting "enough" sleep, but also sleeping at the right time, as decided by the circadian clock. Well, in that case, my circadian clock is well and truly jiggered - it's certainly not set to British Summer Time, nor anything like it!

If you, like me, are either having trouble sleeping or simply curious about this topic, you could try the BBC's Personal Sleep Profiler to find out more about the issue and get tailored advice on optimising your sleep. I decided to give it a go, and found the questions were quite good.

However, my profile said that I was ok because I'm not sleepy during the day, which I'm not. I'm not particularly sleepy at night, either, but I AM always tired in the mornings! It also told me to try caffeine when I'm tired, but, strangely, I can't drink coffee (nor eat chocolate, usually) in the morning when I've just got out of bed - I need to wake up first (but then, coffee seems to affect me differently to everyone else as it makes me sleepy).

Also, why not try the BBC's Daily Rhythm Test? This is supposed to tell you about your circadian clock, and when it's best for you to sleep. I found this more informative as it shows what I've often suspected; there's not a lot I can do about it, though, as my waking-up time is determined by when I have to get to work, and this isn't flexible. Oh well. At least my suspicions about how my body works best have been confirmed, I s'pose.

Any suggestions for how I can sleep better, peeps?

FairyJo! x

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