7 Things a Sleep Scientist Wants You to Know About Getting Better SleepNone By Jared Minkel, Ph.D.
One of the most important scientific findings for sleeping better is what we sleep researchers call the “two-process model.” Many of the best recommendations for sleeping better are based on them, so it will help to understand how they work together.
Are You Feeling the (Sleep) Pressure Yet?
The first part of this process is sleep pressure. The longer you're awake, the more sleep pressure builds up, trying to put you to sleep. This is why in general, the longer you’re awake, the sleepier you feel.
If you are having trouble sleeping, sleep pressure is a good thing! It builds up throughout the day to make sure that when you get into bed, you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night. As soon as you fall asleep, this sleep pressure starts to evaporate, so you want to make sure that you have enough sleep pressure built up to make it through the whole night.
Imagine a daredevil being shot out of a cannon. If he doesn’t have enough pressure built up, he won’t make it to the safety net and will land on the hard ground instead. If you go to bed without enough sleep pressure, you won’t make it until morning—you’ll wake up in the middle of the night.
After a night of poor sleep, you might wake up feeling sleepy, but as long as you don’t take any naps, you’ll be able to fall asleep quickly the following night. Sleep pressure helps you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night. It can also help you get more consolidated “deep sleep” that you may find more restful than what you’re getting now.
Why We Can Actually Stay Awake All Day
The second process in the two-process model makes you feel more awake and alert. Without it, you’d wake up feeling great and just get sleepier and sleepier throughout the day until you finally lost consciousness