Sunday, 10 Dec 2023

This is why you can't lie in, even when you're exhausted

Happy Sunday, aka the laziest day of the week. You’re free to do whatever your heart desires, even if that means absolutely naff all.

And for many of us, that means catching up on sleep, and getting in a good old lie in.

Except, we bet we’re not the only ones that opened our eyes this morning, only to find that we’d woken up at the crack of dawn.

With no office or early gym class to get to, you want to be snoozing soundly, but for some reason, your body clock has other ideas.

It’s annoying and exhausting, so why does it happen?

Well firstly, it’s important to know why and how we feel alert, versus when we feel sleepy.

Our sleep patterns are dictated by the circadian rhythm, also known as our body clock. Yep, the body clock is an actual thing: a 24 hour cycle that regulates all biological and physiological processes in the body.

In an ideal world, your circadian rhythm rises in the morning, and after a full day, it starts to dip in the evening, helping you to sleep.

According to The Sleep Charity, the body clock takes its cues from things like lightness and darkness, and temperature – which is why it can be disrupted easily by the clocks changing, or things like jet lag and shift work.

And, if your circadian rhythm is used to waking you up at a certain time, it’s going to stick with it – regardless of the day of the week.

Dr Becky Spelman, counselling psychologist and founder of Private Therapy Clinic, explains: ‘Some people are naturally able to sleep in when they can do so. 

‘However, if you’re not one of those people, it’s very difficult trying to persuade your circadian rhythm to change on Fridays and Saturdays or holidays only.

‘If you’re the type of person who repeatedly wakes at the same time every day, it’s unlikely that you will be able to change this.’

And, it turns out that, in shocking news, lie-ins aren’t actually that great for you anyway.

‘They can disrupt this natural rhythm,’ says Dr Becky. ‘If you sleep until late morning on weekends and holidays, you may then find it challenging to fall asleep at a regular bedtime when you go back to work. This can make it harder to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

‘Lie-ins can also affect your meal patterns, leading to irregular eating habits and potential imbalances in nutritional intake.

‘It can also impact your metabolism and digestion.’

Essentially, if you want to feel well rested, it’s not about ‘catching up’ on sleep at the weekend, but rather, having good sleep habits all week long.

This, of course, can be tricky, especially if you’re used to burning the candle at both ends.

Luckily, there are a few hacks you can use if you want to try and reset your body clock, in the hopes of getting more sleep, every day.

Dr Becky, suggests trying these simple steps:

1. Gradually adjust your sleep schedule. Start by waking up and going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier each day leading up to the weekend, until you reach the desired wake up time.

2. Use light exposure. Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid bright light in the evening, as light exposure can help regulate your body clock.

3. Stay active during the day. Regular exercise or other physical activity can help improve your sleep quality, and make it easier to fall asleep at night.

4. Establish a bedtime routine. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine that helps you wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or meditating.

5. Avoid napping. Resist the urge to take long naps during the day, as this can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. If you must nap, keep it short (around 20 to 30 minutes).

Dr Becky adds: ‘Remember, resetting your body clock can take time, so be patient and consistent with your efforts.’

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