Before you make any changes in your sleep habits, it is important that you ask the question, How much sleep do I need each night? Generally speaking, there is no one amount of sleep that fits everyone. Most normal adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. However, some people need only 3 or 4 hours while others require 10 to 12 hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
At this point, it is important set aside any previous notions or beliefs you might have about your sleep needs. These beliefs may be wrong and may hinder your progress. Our first step is to discover the amount of sleep that satisfies your needs and lets you feel alert and energetic during the day. People, like many animals, have powerful internal clocks that affect their behavior and bodily functioning. These clocks seem to work in roughly 24-hour periods and produce 24-hour cycles that govern digestion, body temperature, and the sleep/wake patterns. Although it is believed that different body clocks control your temperature and sleep-wake pattern, these clocks seem to have an influence on each other. This fact is best demonstrated if a person is placed in a place like a cave, away from daylight, external clocks, and all other time of day indicators. In this situation the person will continue to show a 24 to 25 hour temperature rhythm and sleep-wake pattern. In most people, there is a close relationship between the temperature cycle and the sleep wake pattern they show.
Finally, before attempting to change your sleep habits, it is important that you understand the effects sleep loss has on you. This understanding is important because many who have sleep problems make these problems worse by the things hey do to make up for lost sleep. For example, people may take daytime naps, go to bed too early or sleep in following a poor nights sleep in order to avoid or recover lost sleep. Although these habits seem logical and sensible, they all may serve to continue the sleep problems. In fact, these habits are usually the opposite of what needs to be done to improve sleep.
Sleep loss can have an immediate advantage for the following nights sleep. In fact, the drive to sleep gets stronger the longer one is awake before attempting to sleep. For example, a person is much more likely to sleep for a long time after being awake for 16 hours in a row than after being awake for only 2 hours. It is important to remain awake through each day in order to build up enough sleep drive to produce a full nights sleep. Extended periods of sleep loss, of course, may have some bad effects as well. If people are totally deprived of a nights sleep, they usually become very sleepy, have some trouble concentrating and generally feel somewhat irritable. However, they typically can continue most normal daytime activities even after a night without any sleep at all. When allowed to sleep after a longer than normal period of being awake, most people will tend to sleep longer and more deeply than they typically do on a normal night.
Although people tend not to recover all of the sleep time they lost, they do typically recover the deep sleep they lost during longer than usual periods without sleep. Hence, your bodys sleep system has some ability to make up for times when you dont get the amount of sleep you need. For the next several weeks, well track your sleep. When you do, youll begin to notice that you occasionally had a relatively good nights sleep after one or several nights of poor sleep. Such a pattern suggests that your bodys sleep system has an ability to make up for some of the sleep loss you experience over time. Some call this sleep banking and in some occupations which requires an inconsistent pattern of night to day sleep, sleep banking is an option. Although your sleep is not normal when you sleep bank, you can take some comfort in the idea that we now believe, the negative effects of sleep deprivation can be restored. The important point to remember is that you do not need to worry a great deal about lost sleep nor should you actively try to recover lost sleep. Needless worry and attempts to recover lost sleep will only worsen your sleep problem.