ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — When it comes to getting a good night’s rest something called sleep drive is critically important.

Dr. Sandy Wang from Highland Family Medicine discussed what sleep drive is and how it impacts our rest Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

The conversation began by establishing a baseline for how many people struggle to get restful sleep.

How prevalent are sleep disorders?

The sleep association states “50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. 48.0% report snoring. 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month. 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month.” With the pandemic, sleep disorders are probably more prevalent as most folks are at home feeling stressed, sick, or lonely. 

Why don’t people sleep enough?

There is a multifactorial answer to this. Some people have underlying medical conditions like sleep apnea or snoring that are not addressed yet. Snoring is not a sign that you slept well, rather, it is a sign that your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, for example.

Then there is also the mentality of how much sleep is needed per person and not enough education on sleep hygiene. 

What is sleep drive?

Just like sex drive, your body has to want to sleep if you want a satisfying full night’s sleep. A lot of people are pressured by the idea that everyone has to sleep 6-8 hours a night and start going to bed super early but then either can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. The more they force themselves to that 6-8 hours, the more anxious they become, and sleep becomes then a stressful experience. In truth, everyone is different. if you’re not needing naps in the afternoon, then some folks live on five hours a night and others need nine. 

How do you improve sleep drive?

If your body doesn’t want to sleep forcing a shutdown is going to make things worse. Get up and do something else non-stimulating. People think meditation is doing yoga, but in truth, it’s anything that is repetitive and helps your brain slow down. Some people knit, color, sort things, but you want something slow and repetitive to turn your brain off.

Don’t read or watch stimulating material. Turn off phones two hours before you sleep to avoid texting/stimulation. Dim the lights. Make sure you’re away from your bedroom during this, so you dissociate stressful sleep and your bed. Also, make sure your bed and temperature are comfortable. Ideally, you want a cooler, dark, and non-stimulating room. Remove TVs, loud posters, toys, etc. 

What if those basic techniques don’t work? 

​Some sleep docs prescribe a sleep deprivation therapy that I sometimes do with my patients. They think we are nuts, but essentially, to reset your sleep drive, you deprive yourself of sleep for days in a row, and eventually, your body will want to sleep. For example, for the mild insomniac, you can consider sleeping at 2 a.m., getting up at six. do this for 3-4 days, and the sleep bank will be dry enough to have you sleep.

If you’re extreme, some folks pull an all-nighter for two days, and their button is also reset. Certainly, you do this based on the safety of your daytime job. If this compromises your job, do this over a weekend/holiday.