While in bed a healthy human goes through a certain pattern of sleeping states known as the sleep cycle. Microsleep Narcolepsy is when the standard sleep cycle is fragmented by Narcolepsy.
A healthy progression looks like this:
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep
NonREM 1 (Light drowsy sleep, brain transitions from alpha waves to theta waves)
NonREM 2 (Theta activity is in full swing)
NonREM 3/4 (Deep sleep or slow-wave sleep, this is the stage when Delta waves occur)
- Children (6-13 yo) – 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17 yo) – 8-10 hours
- Young Adults (18-24 yo) – 7-9 hours
- Adults (25+ yo) – 7-9 hours
Someone with Narcolepsy, however, does not go through the same cycle. We go through periods of microsleep with narcolepsy. Due to the inability to produce hypocretin(orexin) our sleep/wake cycles are forever irregular. For me, it means that I wake up multiple times in the night. For over the past 5 years I have, not one single night, had a healthy sleep cycle (even with a sleep aid like Ambien).
For reference here are snapshots from a sleeping app:
What Microsleep narcolepsy looks like
Notice how the progression doesn’t mimic the first diagram? It’s more of an erratic rollercoaster than a “staircase rollercoaster”.
No matter how long I stay in bed, even if it’s 15 hours, I’ll never feel rested. I’ve tried different sleeping pills, blacking out my room, meditation beforehand. No matter what healthy sleep habits I introduce to my schedule it will never make me feel fully rested after a nights sleep. Some things help for sure, which is why I’m writing this blog, but my brain is no longer capable of going through a “healthy sleep cycle”.
I have found that waking up during the right stage of the cycle helps.
How I time my sleep cycle
As a result of narcolepsy, the optimal amount of sleep I can get is around 7 hours (note this will vary from person to person). I also found that the timing of the sleep is incredibly important as well. I aim for two things in regards to timing:
- Aim to wake up during a specific part of my broken cycle
- Aim for a specific time of day
I’ve tested and tinkered with my sleeping schedule for the past year now. What I aim to do is wake up in-between a sleep cycle and not directly in the middle of one. As of right now, I’m sleeping from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. 7 hours is not usually the recommended amount of time by physicians, but for me, I’ve found that this is right around the time I’ve gone through 5 or so cycles. The reason I go to bed at 10 p.m. will be outlined in the next section below. But I wake up at around 5 a.m. because that’s right around when my 4th or 5th cycle tends to end.
Let’s take a look at my sleeping chart one more time. The optimal times for me to wake up, during this specific night of sleep, would have been at 2:15 a.m. or 4 a.m:
The “Goldy Locks” sleeping time (Aiming for a specific time of day)
“You get amplified benefits by sleeping during the right hours. Consider sleep like investing in the stock market it doesn’t matter how much you invest, it matters when you invest.”
Humans are a part of nature. Our bodies are wired to sleep and be awake in accordance with the sun. Due to all the advances in technology civilization has given us we no longer are dependent on sunlight to operate. This has caused a lot of interference with our sleeping. Naturally, you’re going to get the best sleep during the periods that line up with your natural hormone secretion.
Studies have shown that the absolute best time to be sleeping is between 10 a.m. – 2 a.m. Obviously, you should be sleeping more than just these 4 hours but it’s incredibly important to time your sleep so that it lines up with these hours.
Thanks for reading another article of mine.
Share your sleep cycle in the comments below.