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April 12, 2024 42 mins

Sleep is one of our most vital functions but how many of us actually know that much about it, the links to our physical functioning, mental health, relationships and overall wellbeing. What about some of the strange experiments they've conducted to investigate dreams or how long we can go without sleep? In today's episode we take a deep dive into the psychology of sleep, including: 

  • Why we need sleep?
  • What actually is REM sleep?
  • The Russian Sleep Experiment 
  • Sleep debt 
  • Sleep as a form of self sabotage
  • Revenge bedtime procrastination 
  • The impact of blue light and screens in the bedroom 
  • How to improve your sleep hygiene and more 

Listen now for when you want to maximise your shut eye! 

Follow Jemma on Instagram: @jemmasbeg 

Follow the podcast on Instagram: @thatpsychologypodcast

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Psychology of Your Twenties,
the podcast where we talk through some of the big
life changes and transitions of our twenties and what they
mean for our psychology. Hello everybody, well, welcome back to

(00:26):
the show. Welcome back to the podcast, my lovely listeners,
new and old. Wherever you are in the world, it
is so great to have you here back for another episode.
I hope you've been well. I hope you've been treating
yourself nicely, pursuing something positive and exciting in your life.
I've been chugging along. I'm in the planning stages for

(00:47):
some pretty fun projects coming out soon that I am
super excited to show with you all. I feel like
some of you have already figured it out. But a
little spoiler. If you're a big journaler or note taker,
I feel like you'll be pretty pumped for what's coming,
which I realize is actually literally a dead giveaway, but
you know what, I can't keep a secret, so there

(01:09):
you go. There's so much in the works at the moment,
and just taking a little moment to say I'm so
grateful for all the support you guys have shown me recently.
In every capacity. The show is reaching so many new people.
There are so many exciting projects in the works that
wouldn't be possible without such amazing loyal listeners. So starting

(01:31):
with a quick shout out to you guys who make
this possible. But let's get into what we're actually talking
about today. Okay, so we're doing a pretty science heavy
episode one I am fascinated by, one I have wanted
to do for ages, and today we're finally getting around
to an old fashioned deep dive, A big deep dive

(01:53):
into sleep. How often do we really think about sleep,
to be honest, other than that it's this like eight hour,
seven hour black hole in our days that we know
we need, that we never feel like we have enough of,
unless you're one of those insane people who can sleep
for five hours. We are told that we should take
magnesium if we want to sleep well, That we should

(02:14):
have a silk eye mask, a nighttime routine, that melatonin
is the key to rest, That we need to listen
to the people who say to wake up at five am,
don't use our phones before bed, lucid dream. You know,
the world has a lot to say about sleep, because
it is really how we spend a third of our lives,
and it has become a huge wellness topic, for sure,

(02:38):
But how much do we actually know you and I
the average person? How much trivia would we have in
our back pockets to do with sleep for something so
vital and genuinely life giving. We're going to talk about
that in a second. Sleep is seen as rather boring,
you know, that's the whole cliche, to be like a snooze,

(03:01):
to be a bore, to be like falling asleep at
your desk at work. You know, I think that sleep
I don't know not to say it gets a bad reputation,
but I don't think we think about it enough. Why
do we really care about the moments we're unconscious? That's
the biggest reasons. You know, nothing's really happening in those hours.
We literally can't remember anything other than our dreams, sometimes

(03:23):
not even those, so it seems rather insignificant. Obviously, I
don't believe that at all. I think that sleep is
so misunderstood, and really it is the key to unlocking
a lot about our life, about the fatigue that we experience,
the motivational deficits we see in other areas of our lives.
It's even linked to being a more kind person, a

(03:44):
less irritable person, and a myriad of health outcomes. You
may not even notice that you are functioning at less
than one hundred percent as a direct result of poor sleep,
especially in our twenties, when there is this whole culture
or i would say expectation around sacrificing sleep and either
overworking pushing ourselves to burn out, or trying to keep

(04:09):
up with a big social schedule or social expectations, trying
to do all the fun things that can't fit into
our daytime hours, and pushing off sleep, hitting snooze as
many times as possible. I'm not going to come out
and say that that is a bad thing to do.
That you need to get your eight hours, otherwise your
world is going to fall apart. More so, just I

(04:30):
want to explore how we can maximize good rest. The
hidden world to do with sleep is so fascinating. So
we're going to talk about why we need sleep, what
happens in your brain as you fall asleep, the myth
of the Russian sleep experiment. I've wanted to talk about
this for ages and then some more kind of nuanced topics.

(04:51):
Sleep as a form of self sabotage the concept of
sleep debt and sleep hygiene. So much much to be
sad about this topic, I think, without further ado, let's
get into it. Okay, First off, let's cover our basics
what actually happens in our brains and in our bodies

(05:12):
when we fall asleep. I think we all hear about
hitting our REM cycle. That's been everywhere recently, and that's
only one part of it. Actually, when we fall asleep,
when we are actively asleep, we can divide this state
of mind into four stages. Three of those stages count
as non rapid eye movement sleep or stages n our

(05:37):
emmy for sure, and then we have REM sleep, which
stands for rapid eye movement sleep. I don't think a
lot of us know that that's what REM actually stands for,
and it is as it describes. During this stage of sleep,
our brain activity, our breathing, our heart rate, our blood
pressure almost match what they would look like when we

(05:57):
are awake, but we're not, and they all increase. We
become almost temp, temporarily paralyzed, unable to move our arms
or legs. It is not the most RESTful kind of sleep,
which is another big myth and it usually occurs about
ninety minutes after you fall asleep, so it's almost at
the end of a sleep cycle. So a sleep cycle

(06:18):
is where you go from being awake through all the
non rapid eye movement stages of sleep, and then you
end up in rem sleep, and that's where we often
get the most intense dreams because we have the most
brain activity going on, and it's during that stage that
a lot of scientists and researchers believe that we process

(06:38):
our emotions, we fall memories. If you want to learn
about why it is that we dream in particular, especially
in remsleep, we actually have a whole episode on that
called the Psychology of Dreams. It's one of my favorite
episodes ever. But most people assume that dreams are a
product of memory formation, processing all of the thoughts, feelings, experiences,

(07:05):
lashbacks that we haven't worked through during the day. We
still aren't completely sure why some people have more vivid
or memorable dreams than others, because it's so hard to
measure something that we can't always remember, but some factors
include having a greater imagination, also medications, sleep disruptions like

(07:28):
if you're woken up during rem sleep, you'll probably have
a greater recall of your dreams. And then things like
stress and trauma, even grief, make us very vivid dreamers.
We have a lot going on emotionally and mentally during
our waking hours within our lives, and we can't or

(07:49):
we don't always have the brain space to deal with that,
to find a place for those memories and those experiences
in our brain. So it's when we are asleep that
our mind kind of gets to work filtering through all
of that, and uvoila, that is why we dream. Okay,
so we're kind of starting back to front here because
RAM sleep, as I said, is actually the last stage

(08:12):
of sleep, and it occurs after we pass through what
we now know as NR M sleep. So we have
three stages. We have N one sleep, this is the
transition between wakefulness and sleeping. It's characterized by slowed eeve movements,
reduced muscle activity, our heart rate is dropping. Then we

(08:32):
get to end two sleep, there's a further decline in
brain activity, temperature, heart rate, all the things that indicate wakefulness.
And then we have N three sleep. So this is
also known as deep sleep, and this is where our
body really undergoes a lot of the restorative processes for
fixing up everything that's happened within our mind and our

(08:54):
bodies during the day. So the N three sleep, the
one we just spoke about, that is deep sleep. As
we fall asleep, our brain actually remains quite active even
in that final stage, processing information, consolidating memories, keeping us breathing.
Areas like our amygdala and our hippocampus they show the

(09:17):
most amount of activity, and they are the parts of
our brain that help in the creation and storage of
episodic memories, but they also tend to help with core
functions like ensuring we are still alive even though we
are unconscious. So let's talk about why we need sleep.
Wouldn't it be great if we could be operating at

(09:40):
all hours of the day. Imagine how productive we would be,
how much more of the world could be explored, how
many more stories we would have to tell. It is
a nice fantasy, but it is also not how the
human body works, because our body and our mind need
a break. There is not an endless energy reserve that
we can infinitely pull from. Sleep as a biological necessity

(10:04):
is still kind of a mystery, and for something that
every single creature does it's interesting because we don't really
have a consensus as to why we need it. There
are a few theories floating around. Let's talk about them.
The first one is the energy conservation theory. So this
theory suggests that the main purpose of a good night's

(10:26):
sleep is to reduce our energy use during the times
of the day, the nighttime, when it would have been
inconvenient and less efficient to hunt for food. We need
to shut down at some point in the day to
save energy for when we are awake. And because our
brain is the biggest use of energy in our body,
turning it off for a set period of the day

(10:48):
saves us a lot of calories. It doesn't mean that
sleeping less burns more calories. In fact, you're more likely
to hold on to calories if you are not sleeping enough,
because essentially what happened is your metabolism slows down and says, hey, wait,
we're used to having this whole shutdown period where the
brain is doing nothing and we can just kind of

(11:09):
do our thing. Now the brain is staying awake, it's
using so much more energy. Let's slow down. How we
use calories, how we use fat, how we use glucose,
whatever energy store it's pulling from, because we're going to
need more of that because the brain doesn't want to
go anywhere. The brain doesn't want to shut off. So
that's the energy restoration theory. Basically, we conserve energy by

(11:32):
not using our brain all hours of the day. The
other theory is cellular restoration theory, which is the one
I believe most in, I would say, although I'm sure
it's a combination. The cellular restoration theory says that our
body needs sleep in order to repair and regross cells
throughout the body that have been exhausted or stretched during

(11:54):
the day. It kind of also relates to brain plasticity
as well, and there's a theory around that brain plasticity
theory which says that sleep occurs primarily for our brains
to reorganize our neurons and our nerve cells. When you sleep,
your brain's waste clearance system is high. You know, is

(12:16):
well at work there clearing out waste from the central
nervous system and making sure that everything is like almost
doing like a deep clean, like doing like a refresh
before we wake up for the next day. It's getting
rid of all of the excess glucose cortisol neurotransmitters that
haven't been reabsorbed, which build up throughout the day, so

(12:36):
we can wake up with a clean slate and do
it all over again. So research suggests that sleep contributes
to memory function as well by converting short term memories
into long term memories. Now, this is a process that
we call memory consolidation. It's not just about making new memories,
but also clearing out erasing unneeded information that might otherwise

(13:01):
take up space in our minds. So the saying and
the feeling is is that almost all of our memories
are consolidated during sleep. I remember being in high school
and people saying that if you read your notes right
before bed, you would remember them better in the morning.
And this kind of like myth is based off of
this theory that sleep is where we form long term memories.

(13:22):
So if information is processed closer to when we fall asleep,
they'll be processed better. Not exactly correct, but really nice try.
It's more so that our brain receives a whole lot
of information throughout the day, more than it can process
because whilst we are awake, we're also actively filtering through
stimuli in our environment, trying to problem solve. So we

(13:43):
use sleep as basically, you know, as a way to say, okay, enough,
let's shut down. We need some time, we need some
quiet time to do our memory admin It's why our
memory seems to decline or become a lot more difficult,
why we become more forgetful. If you haven't been sleeping
particularly well. Without sleep, our brain health declines significantly, as

(14:06):
does our cognitive and mental and even social functioning during
the day. Sleep also helps us with emotional regulation. I
think we all know that if you've ever had a
really terrible night's sleep and like snapped at somebody, this
explains it. It's the same reason why they tell you
to sleep on something if you're angry, if you're angry

(14:27):
at a partner, at a friend, at a coworker, whatever
it may be. The less sleep you get, the harder
it is to control your emotional state, and the more
irritable you'll become, the more likely you're going to say
things that you don't mean. So let's actually dive into
this further. What is going to happen to you and
I if we don't get enough sleep, well, a whole

(14:50):
range of things. Most importantly, what's going to happen is
we're going to find ourselves in sleep debt. Sleep debt
is when you sleep fewer hours than your body need.
It's basically it it's like you overdraw your bank account.
You're overdrawing the amount of rest that your body needs
to function. Sleep debt is cumulative, meaning that if you

(15:10):
regularly get less sleep than you should, you're going to
have more sleep debt. Here is the scary thing. So
there's an article written by Harvard Health about a recent
paper that was published in the Current Biology Journal, and
it said that we actually can't recover that debt. We
cannot make up our sleep debt for over a weekend

(15:34):
or by sleeping in because what we have done is
disturbed our body's rhythm and given it less than it required.
And it's not very forgiving or understanding of that. That's
especially hard for people who may suffer from things like insomnia,
right they're constantly in sleep debt. Insomnia is this type
of sleep disorder where it's really difficult for people to

(15:57):
fall asleep or stay asleep. And obviously it makes sense
that people who are experiencing this not only are they
super frustrated, because it is a vital human biological bodily
need to rest. But it means that they are increasing
their emotional sensitivity. They're more likely to experience poorer concentration, irritability.

(16:21):
It can even increase our risk factor of things like
chronic diseases like diabetes, like hypertension, like heart disease. I
want to go back there and just correct myself. It's
not that they're choosing this right, It's not that they
are deliberately increasing their susceptibility. It's just that a failure
to sleep has a lot of secondary consequences. It even

(16:42):
contributes to hallucinations or an increase in what we call microsleeps.
So if you've seen any road safety billboards recently, I
think you'll be familiar with this idea, whereby our brain
can flip very rapidly between being asleep and being awake
in a matter of seconds, but that lapse can kind

(17:03):
of be life or death. Our body will start to
shut down when we don't sleep, and it will force
us into a place of unconsciousness because it desperately needs
time to build back up those energy stores, to restore
cells and neural connections, and to just be a functioning organism.
So this kind of brings me to the infamous Russian

(17:26):
sleep experiment. Now, this sleep experiment is very famous, very
well known, I think, but it's also probably not true.
It probably didn't happen. Very sorry to burst the bubble
of my fellow dark history lovers, But despite that, I
do love talking about this urban myth because whoever came
up with it got some things very right about sleep. So,

(17:50):
if you don't know the story, the story goes that
Soviet era scientists created this stimulant which they believed would
enable soldiers to not require sleep for up to thirty
days a month. Let's just pause. Who thinks that that
is possible? That's ridiculous. But, as the urban myth goes,

(18:11):
they tried to test this new gas on five political
prisoners that they had, and they promised that these prisoners
would go free if they survived. They locked these five
men in a little chamber and they started pumping in
this stimulant in gas form. Within a few days, the
men were exhibiting the kind of paranoia and psychosis that

(18:34):
is very typical of sleep deprivation. But as time went on,
they began to act even more strangely. And once the
scientists went in. They found that a couple of them
had died, and the remaining of them exhibited very violent behavior,
had these strange energy bursts hallucinations, and then as soon
as they did fall asleep, they died. Let's just be

(18:58):
clear this did not actually happen, because it would be
physically impossible to stay awake for more than ten days. Actually,
the world record for how long someone has stayed awake
was back in the sixties. It was set by this
man named Randy Gardner. And I think he only lasted like,
I think it was six hundred hours. I don't know.

(19:20):
I think it was like, yeah, maybe, I don't know
how many days it was. Let me, I'll put it
in the notes, because I think it was around six
hundred hours. I think it was like fourteen days. Hi,
this is future Jemma coming back to say it was
actually two hundred and sixty four hours. Let's continue. But
whilst he was doing that, he experienced some insane behavior
and cognitive changes. Now I will say he was being

(19:41):
like heavily supervised by doctors and scientists from Stanford University.
But as time went on, they started asking him to
do these small cognitive tests and each day, they would
ask him to do the same one. So one of
these tests was to start at one hundred and subtract
seven until he got to zero. The first few days
he could do it, he started to slow down. By

(20:03):
the last day, he couldn't make it past sixty five
before he stopped. And when they asked him, they were like, hey,
why did you stop counting? He was like, what are
you asking? What are you telling me? I like, I
don't even know what I meant to be doing right now.
He also forgot his name, he forgot his age, He
even forgot his race. Randy was Caucasian. By the end

(20:24):
of this period, he was claiming that he was African
American and he truly believed it. All of this sounds
like insane, but it did happen. And it's really scary
to me to think about how much we can mentally
decline because of sleep deprivation. For me, I don't think
I can last more than two days. Good job, Brandy.

(20:46):
However many days he did it. It was definitely more than me.
When I flew to New York last year, I'm so
bad at sleeping on planes, so I was awake for
over twenty four hours I couldn't my eyes couldn't focus,
got like a terrible blood nose, the first I've ever
had in my life. I was so irritable. I couldn't
make sense of my surroundings. I was like, didn't know

(21:08):
what I needed to do. Eventually, I fell asleep on
this couch that I found in a shopping center before
I could check into my hotel. So I think that
that really highlights the dangers here, right, you know, And
a couple of days where we get six seven hours,
it's not going to kill you. You will be in
sleep debt. But when we consistently pursue sleep deprivation, we

(21:30):
are going to see very real physical, emotional, cognitive, and
mental consequences. So that's one side of an extreme spectrum
ultimate sleep deprivation from our friend Randy and our Russian friends.
Maybe maybe not. But we can also oversleep, which has
its own set of health risks. There is a nice
sweet spot for how much sleep we should be getting,

(21:52):
and like anything, sleep can be used as a form
of not self harm, but self sabotage. So I want
to talk about that after this break, as well as
kind of getting into the interactions between sleep and mental health.
We'll be back in just a second. The interactions between

(22:16):
sleep and mental health are a endless and be very
well documented. They are also multidirectional, meaning that sleep impacts
our mental well being and our mental well being impacts
our sleep. Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining mental health.
It's not to say that it is a cure. More
so that just the quality and duration of sleep directly

(22:40):
impacts our emotional regulation. As we've spoken about our cognitive
functions and our ability to filter through our thoughts. So
research indicates that consistent, insufficient or poor quality sleep can
actually contribute to more intense mental health stemactoms. This is

(23:01):
particularly when it comes to things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder.
These kinds of conditions seem to really suffer when we
have less mental energy, i would say, or less restorative
time to allow us to function at our best and
to manage the ways that our emotions are more complex

(23:22):
because of these conditions. Additionally, it's interesting because if you
do have one of those mental health conditions, you're also
more likely to experience disruptions in sleep patterns, so you're
kind of locked into this like terrible cycle. Insomnia was
something we spoke about before, and insomnia can be a
symptom of anxiety, even depression. Oversleeping can be a sign

(23:45):
of the extreme fatigue that we also see with depressive
episodes or symptoms. We can also use sleep as a
form of self sabotage. So self sabotage refers to an
intentional action that kind of undermines our ability to accomplish
our goals. Now, these are goals that we want to accomplish.

(24:07):
There is just some part of us that maybe doesn't
think that we're worthy, That maybe is scared of what
would happen if we did that, maybe is procrastinating or
getting weighed down by insecurity, perfectionism, self doubt. When we
decide to sleep in stay in bed, you know, indulge
in a dysregulated sleeping habits and sleeping pattern, this might

(24:31):
indicate that there are other areas of our life that
we are dissatisfied with, and so sleep becomes a way
of allowing us to switch off and allowing us to
almost get in our own way in a sense. So basically,
what I'm trying to say is sleep is a way

(24:51):
for us to feel like we're doing something productive. Right,
we feel like we're resting our body. Sometimes we really
do need that if we're burnt out right and we
have been chasing a goal for a long time. But
on the other end of the spectrum, it can also
be this way of self sabotaging, of being almost self destructive.
So if you want a good but non scientific book

(25:12):
about this, there is one that went particularly viral on
TikTok recently, and it was called My Year of Rest
and Relaxation. I read this quite recently. It basically tells
the story of this woman. I would say she's a
very unlikeable as protagonist, but she believes that if she
sleeps for a whole year, she'll somehow fix everything in
her life. But she also believes that she'll be able

(25:35):
to ignore her problems. This book is great, and it's
not obviously about sleep. It's about the things that happen
in the moments that she is awake that contribute to
her wanting to rest. But I think that things are
a lot easier when we are unconscious, right, No wonder
we use sleep as a form of avoidance from the

(25:57):
problems that we face when we're awake. There is an
the concept I want to talk about here called revenge
bedtime procrastination. This is a Chinese concept whereby when we
don't have much control over our daytime life, we refuse
to prioritize sleep in order to regain some sense of
freedom during those late night hours. So this is actually

(26:18):
quite common amongst high schoolers, for example, who have to
go to school for a set period of every day,
but also people in their twenties and their thirties who
are working really long, exhausting corporate jobs, service jobs, sacrificing
their personal lives for their careers and for a service
to others, and they kind of quote unquote get back

(26:42):
at the system in the evenings to steal some of
that personal time. Now, this idea of procrastination makes it
sounds like we are doing things we have perhaps put off,
and doing them when we should be sleeping. Not always
this not always the case. Sometimes we are just doing
things simply for our pleasure and we feel like we
need to do them right, Like rearranging your bookshelf at

(27:05):
like three am online shopping, cleaning out all your bathroom
cabinets spontaneously, doing like an extravagant makeup look before you
fall asleep. All of this is taking from our sleep,
but it's depositing time back in our leisure bank, which
we may be you know, gravely missing because of how
much our waking hours are taken up by work or

(27:26):
other responsibilities. It's interesting because this is being reported more
and more, especially as studies are showing that around sixty
percent of us are getting less than the recommended seven
to eight hours. We're averaging about six hours at the moment.
Averaging means that there are a lot of us who
are getting less than that, And the biggest contributors to

(27:47):
this lack of sleep that we are enduring as a
society are stress, busy work schedules and school schedules. People
are spending more time at work, more time studying, more
time working than ever before. Then also things like pollution, noise, pollution,

(28:08):
sleeping environment, and responsibilities that just come with life. You know,
our lives are increasingly busy and we are overstretched. We
need to juggle work, life, friends, relationships, family, fitness, well being,
eating three meals a day, keeping our houses clean, just
keeping up with our own needs. And I think in
a world that is steering more towards the glorification of

(28:30):
hustle culture, sleep is seen as a luxury, even sometimes
as a point of laziness. This whole narrative that to
rest is to not be self disciplined, to not be
committed to your job, to school, or to your life.
I think it emits a huge part of the narrative,

(28:52):
which is that sleep gives life, and rest is truly,
truly important for us to restore connections, restore our energy levels,
restore our celves, and actually function optimally. So that brings
me to this concept of sleep hygiene and how we
can get more from our sleep, how we can avoid

(29:15):
those nights when you desperately want some shut eye, like
you crave it, and you just won't stop tossing and turning.
Our quality of sleep does have a lot to do
with our choices and behaviors, from consuming caffeine too close
to our bedtime, even exercising in the evenings, or breaching
a point of exhaustion that is so extreme that our
body actually starts to go in the opposite direction. It

(29:37):
starts to pump us with adrenaline and cortisol to keep
us awake so that when it's time to sleep, we actually,
like physically can't. But the biggest devil of all of
them in the discussion at the moment is our phones
and using our phones before bed, our phones, social media, websites,
whatever you are on literally floods our brains within information

(30:00):
and bright lights, sounds, activity, and of course, as a result,
it floods our brains with neurotransmitters, which keep our mind
active when we want them to be winding down. The
reason this happens is because screens emit blue light, which
can interfere with our body's natural production and release of melatonin. Melatonin,

(30:23):
of course, is the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep
wake cycle. Blue light is particularly bad in this situation
because it tricks our brain into thinking that it's still daytime,
so we should be awake, we should be alert, we
should be ready to go. Exposure to screens before bed
suppresses the release of melatonin, so it makes it more

(30:46):
difficult to fall asleep, But then it bumps off our
sleep wake cycle, so we wake up later as well.
So this really disrupts our body's circadian rhythm. It leads
to sleep disturbances, it leads to revenge sleep sleep debt,
and it just impacts our overall ability to sustainably function

(31:09):
in our lives, in our relationships, in every facet of
what we do. So if you want better sleep, your
first step is to create a screen free bedroom or
space for yourself. So, according to the Sleep Health Foundation,
it's really important to actually train your brain to link
your bed with sleep and sleep only, So if possible,

(31:34):
you want to avoid bringing anything into your bedroom that
makes you feel like you are not resting. So that
doesn't mean that you can't be on your phone or
your laptop in your room. You know. I know a
lot of us live in sharehouses or live with our parents,
and we don't necessarily want to be doing everything that
we do on our laptops and our phones and our iPads,

(31:54):
like in the living room or in the dining room,
but try and keep it out of your bed. That
is the space you want to associate with rest, not
with alertness. So I started doing this recently. Oh my goodness,
it's like lights out for me as soon as I'm
in my bed, because that is a space now that
I only use for one activity, and that association means

(32:17):
I'm better able to just switch off. My brain. Is
cute to knowing that this is the time to sleep.
If you feel like you hate going from like being
immediately on in your life to like immediately off and
having to go into bed, turn the lights off, and
just like lie there and pretend to be asleep before
you actually fall asleep. You can present yourself with alternatives.

(32:40):
I think reading before bed is amazing obviously, but also
sleep podcasts are a great help. There is one show
that does this so well called what's it called? Okay?
It's called Quiet Bedtime Stories and Meditations, and they have
this episode called King Kojata. I don't know when I
found this show, but oh I found this episode. This

(33:02):
episode is amazing, but it honestly lulls me into such
like peaceful rest. I'm gonna be honest, I've never made
it past like the first ten minutes. And it's a
really great thing to add to your routine when you
aren't someone who can immediately relax as soon as your
head hits the pillow. So let's talk about some other tips. Firstly,
I love this one. Create an environment you actually want

(33:24):
to be in, one that is cool, one that is dark,
one that is quiet, one that is comfortable. I will
never understand people who can sleep in like a boiling
hot room, you know, I need it to be like
fifteen degrees celsius in order for me to fall asleep.
I like to have one too many blankets. I like

(33:44):
to cocoon myself into like a little burrito. It also
really makes the difference to like get nice bed sheets,
because you want your brain to be like, this is
a comforting, cozy, peaceful space. I enjoy being here. You know,
you're stained white bed sheets from your first year of UNI,
which are like weirdly itchy. They might be the economic choice,

(34:06):
but I don't think they're conducive to restfulness. This is
such like an adult thing to say. But honestly, I
think I turned twenty four and I immediately have like
a sheet preference and a mattress preference. And now if
I'm on a firm mattress, it's not happening. You know,
I get it. It's really giving Princess and the pea,
But honestly, sleep is an investment, and as is your mattress,

(34:27):
your memory from pillow, your cotton sheets. My mum always said, like,
sleep is not about being cheap, and I didn't really
understand that when I was younger and broke, but now
I do, And it doesn't mean that you need to
spend like an insane amount of money that is out
of your budget. You can get secondhand really good mattresses,

(34:47):
you can find really good sheets that are on sale,
or I just think it's an important thing. You'll have
it for a long time and it will contribute to
you just feeling more alive and your waking life. So
also try and be consistent with your sleep schedule. I
know this is really hard, especially in our twenties, but
at least doing it during the week is important. Your

(35:10):
body circadian rhythm functions. They're set on a loop and
typically they align with sunrise and sunset, or when you
tell your body to switch off and then seven eight
hours after that point. Being consistent with when you fall
asleep during the week, even on weekends, if you can
helps kind of train your brain into being like, all right,

(35:32):
this is the time when we switch off, same time
every day, no surprises. It's really very valuable. There was
a study published in the National Library of Medicine from
two thousand and nine. It highlights that irregular sleep patterns
can alter our levels of melatonin. It can alter the
signals that are telling our brain to sleep, and what

(35:54):
that will mean is that no matter how hard you try,
you're not going to get to sleep unless you're melatonin
has been released and is present in your body because
you can't physically shut down. You can take a supplement,
but you can also produce it naturally. So I think
it may just be the case that your melatonin release
is being delayed by poor sleep habits and routine, and

(36:16):
you can get back onto a normal sleep routine by
remaining consistent. So even if you get to bed by nine,
nine so early, maybe it's not for some of you.
Let's say ten, put it in even ten, you're in
bed by ten, but you find yourself like tossing and
turning till twelve. Good, stay in bed, don't go on
your phone. Sooner or later, your body is going to

(36:38):
get trained to be like, no, this is our bedtime. Now,
this is when we're hitting the hay. On that note,
try and expose yourself to sunlight or the outdoors immediately
after waking, normally within the first hour, because again, this
is going to help your body clock, switch off production
of melatonin and reset you to a regular pattern. You know,

(37:02):
humans are meant to be outdoor creatures, not indoor creatures.
We used to live our lives and our waking hours
by the sun until Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
Not just kidding me, like, in all seriousness, I think
the best way to do anything for your health is
to do it the way that has been done for
generations and generations, meaning that the best way to get

(37:26):
quality sleep is to align your body to how evolutionarily
and biologically you were kind of evolving and developed to
seek rest. I think it comes a lot easier when
we do that. Another tip, exercise more, but try not
to do anything intense before bed. I think it's a

(37:46):
double edge sword exercise. Obviously increases exhaustion, but it also,
you know, means that our bodies kind of are flooded
with a lot of activity, a lot of adrenaline or
a penephroa, and a lot of dopamine that can keep
us awake for longer. Now, there has been studies into this,

(38:08):
and there was one by Harvard Health published a few
years back. And your average evening workout is not going
to hurt you too much. But if you're doing a
full on, heavy cardio hit workout burning hundreds thousands of
calories an hour, like thirty minutes before bed, coming home, showering,
and expecting yourself to fall asleep. I don't think that

(38:30):
you're going to get to that level of deep sleep
that we need for restoration any quicker. So it's important
to make exercise a component to you know, actually use
the energy stores that your body wants you to use
throughout the day, but try not to do it too
close to when you really want to like be asleep,

(38:50):
be dreaming, be counting sheep. Final tip, try and avoid alcohol.
I know that alcohol helps us fall asleep quicker, So
if you are someone who is dealing with insomnia, there
is a huge urge just like have a nightcap. But
alcohol is an inhibitor or a downer. That's what causes
us to feel sleepy because it increases GABBA, which slows

(39:14):
down the specific signals in our central nervous system. But
as the alcohol is metabolized and processed, it causes an
additional spike in glutamate. Now, glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter,
so your brain is basically switching back on as the
alcohol wears off at like three four am in the morning.

(39:35):
This may be why you might notice, like after a
heavy night of drinking. All you want to do is
have a sleep in and you're waking up at seven
am kind of cursing the sun, can't get back asleep.
It's because your brain is trying to level out the
gabba that it received from processing and metabolizing alcohol by
spiking the glutamate to get that balance back to kind

(39:58):
of a nice homeo point of hay rohomeostas is a
point of normalcy. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, those are our big
sleep no nos. I also just want to say, don't
get too caught up and worrying about when you'll fall asleep.
Just stay kind of focused on being present in your

(40:18):
body and relaxing. I know it can be stressful, and
yes I've spoken a lot about the harms of not
getting a good night's sleep. Don't let that become an
anxiety for you. Don't let that become a point of fixation.
Your body will do what it needs to do naturally
unless you do have a sleep disorder. So if you
are consistently experiencing terrible sleep, you're waking up in the

(40:40):
middle of the night, that is your opportunity to go
and see a doctor. But eventually you will fall asleep.
Eventually your eyes will close, Eventually your brain will shut down.
We spoke about those experiments before, right, our bodies cannot
stay alert and functioning at all hours of the day.
So it's going to do what it needs to do

(41:01):
biologically and evolutionarily, and just like forward survival, and it
will make you fall asleep. There's no need to stress.
There's no need to stress. You're going to be okay this.
You cannot stay awake forever, I promise. I really hope
that you enjoyed this episode. It's a bit different, definitely.
It was science heavy, but we've never spoken about it before,

(41:23):
so I thought it deserved a spot on the podcast
feed if you want to come back and listen, If
you want to check out our episode on dreams, it's
literally the Psychology of Dreams by the Psychology of your twenties.
It's a great companion episode to this one, again, one
of my favorite episodes that we've ever done. Make sure
that you share this with someone who you think might
need it. We all have that friend who's up till

(41:46):
three am and then is up again at seven am.
Don't shame them, but maybe give them a little nudge
in the Sleepiness Direction. If you want to see more
behind the scenes, you want to follow along with the
podcast along with me, you can follow us at that
Psychology podcast. You can also send episodes suggestions over there.

(42:06):
We read every single one even if we can't get
back to you, and we definitely take on board your suggestions.
I love seeing our community grow over there, so get
in touch, say hi, We would love to see you.
Make sure you're following along on Spotify or Apple podcasts
wherever you are listening right now, and give us a
five star review if you're feeling it, if you're feeling
especially generous. All right, we're going to head off, but

(42:30):
until next time, sleep tight and be kind and gentle
with yourselves.
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