Life gets busy, and as essential as sleep is, it can feel like it gets in the way. Sleeping every 48 hours rather than 24 may seem like a good idea if you don’t have enough time to achieve your goals.
In reality, sleeping every other day is harmful. The human body struggles to function at full capacity on four hours of sleep a night. Imagine how much damage you’ll do by skipping sleep altogether.
Conventional wisdom dictates that we should always strive to sleep for around eight hours every night, but this isn’t always possible for various reasons. Insomnia, shift working patterns, and health conditions can make this an unrealistic objective.
Even if you can’t sleep for a whole night, you should strive to get some sleep daily. Only sleeping on alternate days may seem like a great way to catch up on tasks and duties, but it’s an unsustainable lifestyle choice in the longer term.
Why Am I Only Sleeping Every Other Night?
If you only gain what would be considered sufficient sleep every other day, you likely have insomnia. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 30% of adults worldwide struggle with insomnia, either falling asleep or remaining asleep.
While insomnia is a common issue, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Sufficient daily sleep is vital, as the body must repair itself from the wear-and-tear of everyday life.
If you only sleep every other day, you deny yourself this critical time to recuperate, leading to ‘sleep debt.’ The more sleep debt you accumulate, the more consequences will arise.
If your sleep cycle of only resting every other day isn’t a choice but something imposed upon you by insomnia, you need to understand the cause.
Here are the most common explanations for only being able to sleep every other night:
Self-Trained Sleep Cycles
As much as the body needs daily sleep, it can be trained into expecting a different cycle.
For example, if you work unpredictable shifts, your body may not be accustomed to sleeping daily, so it’ll resist any attempts to sleep until a scheduled rest period.
The only way to manage this is to create healthy, reliable sleep routines for the mind and body. It would help if you rebalanced your waking and sleeping lives so that sleep can be obtained as and when necessary.
Confused Circadian Rhythms
Circadian rhythms within the body govern sleep patterns. These are our natural instincts, typically directed by the sun, that let us know when to wake up and sleep.
The circadian rhythms can lose balance when exposed to permanent artificial light or run at non-standard body temperatures. If you’re sleeping alternate nights, consider what you’re doing in the build-up to bedtime and if this can be changed.
Stress and anxiety are the most common reasons people struggle to sleep at night.
The British Journal of Health Psychology explains that stress at work is one of the leading causes of insomnia. Other causes of stress include family problems, worries about debt, and health concerns.
If you have a high stress level, your body remains hyperaroused, even when trying to sleep. This will cause you to lie awake at night, your mind racing with problems and their potential outcomes.
Even the most stressed person will likely manage to sleep every other day. Eventually, exhaustion will take hold, and your body will give out.
Stress puts pressure on the heart, earning it the moniker, the silent killer, and Chest links insomnia to heart disease. Unfortunately, insomnia also increases stress levels.
Is Sleeping Every Other Day Bad?
You may feel that sleeping every other day is okay when you’re young, but as The Lancet explains, sleep debt needs to be repaid, often in later life.
What Happens if I Sleep Every Other Day?
The longer you sustain a sleep pattern of only resting every 48 hours, the more problems you’ll encounter. Just one night with insufficient sleep is enough to derail most people and leave them unable to function at capacity.
If your sleep cycles are so erratic that you’re only dozing every other day, you’ll become a potential danger to yourself and others around you. The longer you go without resting, the greater the impact becomes on the body and mind.
This is what happens to the body when deprived of sleep. You may not recognize these symptoms after one instance of missing a night of slumber. Still, the ramifications will become increasingly prominent if you attempt to maintain this as a lifestyle.
|24 hours without Sleep:||This has similar symptoms to consuming alcohol above the legal driving limit. As you enter a new day, having not slept the night before, you’ll feel physically clumsy and likely experience muscular tremors. You’ll feel tired, finding interactions with people stressful and irritating.|
|36 hours without Sleep:||Your brain and body will struggle to communicate, leading to slow reflexes and reaction times and a lack of motor skills. You’ll find it hard to absorb new information and will likely become increasingly forgetful. You’ll also see physical symptoms, such as increased inflammation and unabating hunger.|
|48 hours without Sleep:||You’ll be weary to the point that you start falling asleep on the spot for a few moments at a time, known as microsleeps. You’ll struggle to make decisions, be short and irritable, and lack strength and essential motor function.|
|72 hours without Sleep:||Microsleeps will start getting longer, potentially lasting several minutes at a time. You’ll likely begin hallucinating, lacking perception of your surroundings. Your thoughts will be disordered to incoherent, and you’ll likely depersonalize from experiences.|
Even if you’re busy, working late, or your mind is occupied, some sleep is better than none. Waiting 48 hours for your next rest isn’t an option.
How To Encourage Nightly Sleep
Even if you have convinced yourself that you’re doing fine with sleeping every other day, that’ll eventually change. As your sleep debt grows, so will the potential repercussions. So, you must find a way to sleep daily.
That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to go to bed and lay there, staring at the ceiling until morning. If you’re struggling with insomnia, consult a healthcare professional, as medication may be the only way to resolve your difficulty sleeping.
Before making this appointment, do what you can to encourage sleep. Before prescribing sleeping pills, most doctors and experts will suggest you try these four steps.
Create a Welcoming Sleep Environment
Your first step should be to make your bedroom as welcoming as possible. Try to avoid spending time in the bedroom unless you’re sleeping. If you psychologically associate the bedroom with wakeful activity, such as watching TV, your brain may resist sleep.
Get the most comfortable mattress and pillow that you can afford. Paint the walls a calming color that encourages rest – some shades are better for sleep than others. Above all, regulate the temperature.
The human body falls asleep considerably faster when temperatures are lower, so switch the air conditioning on or open a window. If that’s not an option, lower your body temperature with a shower or bath, and consider sleeping without a blanket.
Build a Routine
Building a routine surrounding the last hour of your waking night is known as ‘sleep hygiene.’ If you practice this routine nightly, it’ll eventually pay dividends. Your body and brain will receive messages related to sleep, encouraging you to sleep daily. The key aspects of sleep hygiene include:
- Minimize the use of screens at night. Reading a book is a better option.
- Lower your body temperature by wearing thinner clothing, showering, or soaking your feet.
- Keep lights low in the home – prolonged exposure to bright light confuses the circadian rhythms.
- Find a way to relax and unwind your muscles and mind, such as meditation.
You may have a few nights where the sleep routine achieves comparatively little. Remain patient, as this will help you transition from sleeping every other night to daily.
Make Lifestyle Adjustments
If you’re only sleeping every 48 hours, you’re likely making lifestyle choices that reflect a near-permanent state of exhaustion. Minimize your use of artificial pick-me-ups such as caffeine, and get some exercise every day.
This approach may lead to short-term difficulty, so clear your schedule. Take a day off work, and certainly do not attempt to drive a car or operate any heavy machinery.
Train your body to thrive on sleep rather than stimulants.
Sleep in Shifts
As a last resort, consider breaking your daily sleep up into chunks. If eight hours of unbroken sleep eludes you, acknowledge this without accepting it. You can still sleep every day without spending an entire night in bed.
Keep a sleep diary and acknowledge how many hours of sleep you typically manage to obtain. If you tend to cap at four hours, get the other four hours throughout the day as one long daytime doze or a series of short naps.
You should still look to eventually transition into one monophasic sleeping pattern where you sleep once daily for a prolonged period. However, managing to steal eight hours of sleep a day in any capacity remains preferable to only sleeping every other day.
Limiting your sleep to every 48 hours isn’t a sustainable lifestyle, regardless of how you feel at the moment. Eventually, this lack of sleep will catch up with you, as the body and brain need daily rest.