- Joshua Tal, PhD, New York City-based sleep psychologist
Different from merely resigning yourself to the reality of sleep deprivation (and then, in turn, fueling a self-fulfilling prophecy), learning not to stress over sleep loss when it happens can actually help minimize feelings of sleepiness the following day. That’s because of the connection between stress and sleep, and the ways in which the former can sidestep the latter.
“When I embrace that on some nights, I’m just not going to get a full night’s rest, I feel better the next day.” —Emma Roberts
“I find that the more I stress out about getting enough sleep or sleeping within a particular window of time, the less sleep I get,” says Roberts, whom I chatted with in relation to her recent partnership with Grove Collaborative. “When I embrace that on some nights, I’m just not going to get a full night’s rest, I feel better the next day than when I’ve spent the previous evening being like, ‘I've got to get to bed,’ ‘I've got to get my hours in,’ and so on,” she says.
And sleep research backs her up: A 2014 study tracking the sleep habits of about 1,800 people in Sweden over the course of 18 months found that among those who reported insomnia at the beginning, worrying about sleep was linked with an increased risk of reporting persistent insomnia at the end of the study. That may be related, in part, to feelings of not being in control of sleep, which can simply cause you to worry more, according to sleep psychologist Joshua Tal, PhD: “And the more you worry about sleep loss [from the previous night], the more likely sleep is to evade you the next night, too,” he previously told Well+Good.
But while you’d be wise not to, well, lose sleep over some instances of sleep loss, a mindset shift is still not a full substitute for getting enough sleep—that is, the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours a night—whenever you can, and making up for it when you can’t. To that end, Roberts is also a big fan of taking a power nap during the day, particularly if you spent most of the previous night wide-eyed.
“For new moms, I suggest taking that nap close to your baby whenever they’re also napping, if you can,” she says (though the nap advice applies whether you’ve lost sleep the previous night due to the cries of a baby or any other reason).
If you can’t seem to fall asleep at your usual time after a few days of off-and-on sleep loss, consider a calming nighttime ritual to move your mind and body into sleep mode. For Roberts, that’s “stepping away from the chaotic energy of my phone” and taking a soothing bath, with all the accoutrement: bath salts, a candle (she loves to burn Grove Collaborative’s synthetic-fragrance-free “Homemade” Soy Candle now that she’s sharing airspace with baby), and a great book.
Carving out this time for herself is one more way Roberts feels less exhausted, too, no matter how much or little sleep she had the night before. “I think it’s mostly about going with the ebbs and flows of your sleep and your rest, and not stressing yourself out about it either way,” she says.
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