It has happened to all of us once that we have fallen asleep on the sofa watching a movie and when we move to the bed to continue sleeping, wakefulness has appeared and it has cost us a lot to fall back asleep. It may have been just a few seconds between one moment and another and the dream has been lost along the way, why does this happen?
The reason has to do with the nature of the dream and also with our expectations towards it.
What has to happen for us to sleep
“Sleep is not a voluntary process,” explains Francesca Cañellas, a psychiatrist at the Multidisciplinary Sleep Unit of the Son Espases University Hospital in Palma de Mallorca and member of the Insomnia Working Group of the Spanish Sleep Society, “but something that happens when certain conditions are met”.
One of them is that we have spent some time awake, continues the expert, a time during which the need to go back to sleep accumulates until we reach a sufficient level for us to be sleepy. Another of them is that certain environmental circumstances occur: that it is night, that there is darkness, a comfortable thermal level, that we are lying down, that we feel safe and calm … “This obviously doesn’t have to be this way always, but it’s the general requirements for falling asleep.”
In bed, anxiety about not sleeping prevents us from sleeping
In principle, the bed should be the ideal place for those conditions to be met, and for most people, that’s the way it is. But for other people, especially those who have had sleep problems before, getting into bed is a time fraught with expectations and anxiety precisely because of the anticipated worry of not being able to fall asleep. “They end up creating a negative association between getting into bed and sleeping that ends up being precisely the cause, or one of the causes, of not being able to sleep,” says Cañellas.
The same explained to Maldita.es Olga Mediano, pulmonologist and coordinator of the sleeping area of the Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery(SEPAR): “When a person begins to think that he will not sleep well and the next day he will find worse, that thought generates an anxiety that makes it more difficult to fall asleep”, He assured when talking about some tips in case you wake up in the middle of the night and you have a hard time going back to sleep.
If also before going to bed we have given a little head on the sofa, there is another added difficulty to fall asleep when we get to bed: we have discharged that need to go back to sleep that we had been accumulating throughout the day since we woke up in the morning, so at that time we are no longer so sleepy.
On the sofa we can be more relaxed but beware of the TV
And why on the couch have we had no problem falling asleep? “Because when you were watching that movie you weren’t overwhelmed by not being able to sleep, “Cañellas replies. At that time you were really relaxed and without expectations, in a comfortable and safe place. Practically all the necessary conditions were met to be able to enter that desired but involuntary state.
Almost all of them, because there is one that does not. “Light, in general, inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that intervenes at the time of falling asleep. This is especially pronounced with the blue light emitted by the screens.” That is why, according to the expert, television is not really a friend of sleep, but quite the opposite.
What you can do to avoid it
If this happens to you one night, it can be annoying but unreportable. But if it happens to you it can often become a problem. Here are some tips to fix it.
On the one hand, avoid falling asleep on the sofa, in front of the TV. If you’re watching a movie and notice yourself asleep, turn off the TV and immediately go to bed. If you want to continue watching TV, “sit in a chair or in a less comfortable place until the movie is over,” recommends Cañellas.
In addition, create a basic and fixed routine before bed in which the bedroom is reserved only for sleeping: no work, no computer, no WATCHING TV… “The bed should only be for two things: sleep and sex,” said Irene Cano, a pulmonologist at the Sleep Unit of the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital and member of the Sleep Area of SEPAR (Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery) in the Twitcheria of Maldita.es in which we talk about sleep.
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