Because we are all really tiredness.
The past few months have been an exhilarating time for sports fans in Philadelphia. The Eagles are currently undefeated, the Union reached the MLS Championship and the Phillies reached the World Series for the first time in 13 years.
The latest accomplishment in particular has been a grueling road for fans, as we cheered on The Fightins nonstop for four straight weeks, attended every postseason game we could buy tickets for, partied in Broad Street, sang “Dancing On My Own” until I was sick, and I stayed up well past bedtime for those anxiety-inducing league games.
I remember doing all of that – minus singing the Robyn anthem on baseball sets – over a decade ago when the Phillies went to the World Series in 2008 and 2009. I was a keen student then , which could work on very little sleep. But now I’m in my thirties and I don’t party as much as I used to (okay, at all) and if I don’t get nine hours of sleep I feel like one of those era socialites Victorian girl who can’t get up from her couch passed out. And I feel for all the parents who woke up after midnight and were woken up at dawn by children this time around. It looks like a real nightmare.
The acute post-World Series exhaustion that almost all of Philadelphia is feeling right now has a lot to do with late start times that extended games past midnight, yes. But it also has to do with the fact that high-stakes sporting events often get our adrenaline pumping and activate our sympathetic nervous system (aka our flight or fight response), which can lead to a frequency elevated heart rate, increased sweating and difficulty. fall asleep and/or stay asleep through the night, says Philip Gehrman, associate professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
Emotions also play a major role, especially since we go through big ones like elation, frustration, panic, excitement, and disappointment within hours. (What a rollercoaster, isn’t it?) “These fluctuating emotions give us a sense of restlessness, which makes it hard for the brain to relax and lets you fall asleep peacefully,” says board-certified sleep medicine. Advocare Pulmonary and Sleep Physicians of South Jersey. “Even if you fall asleep from exhaustion, your brain still triggers emotions that can prevent you from entering a deep, well-rested sleep. If you are not settled, how can your brain and body be settled ?”
And then there’s the increase in screen time and alcohol consumption. The blue wavelengths from your TV can prevent your melatonin from being secreted, which naturally helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, Hamilton says. And drinking even one drink can disrupt your ability to achieve REM, the most restorative type of sleep.
You may be thinking to yourself, Ok, but the World Series is OVER and I’m tired right now. What can I do?! Bad news: There’s no substitute for getting enough hours of sleep to feel rested, says Gehrman. “You don’t catch up on sleep from hour to hour,” he explains. “If you lose four hours of sleep [one night], then you won’t get four more hours of sleep when you get the chance. Basically, sleep doesn’t work like a bank – you can’t take out a few hours and then replenish the deficit at a later date and expect to break even.
There are, however, some silver linings. After partial deprivation (which you’re probably going through this week), your sleep might end up being deeper and more intense. This “recovery sleep,” as Gehrman calls it, can help you feel a little more rested than you have lately. Hamilton adds that a short nap can relieve exhaustion, but limit the nap to 20 to 30 minutes. “Otherwise, you’ll slip into nocturnal slumber or enter deeper sleep stages that leave you feeling groggy when you wake up.”
Another tip: adjust your sleep schedule as you would for jet lag episodes. “Some people think going to bed two hours earlier than usual will help them catch up, but you’re confusing your brain and your circadian rhythm goes out of whack,” Hamilton says. Instead, go to bed 15 minutes earlier for a week at a time until you’re at your desired sleep time. Gehrman adds that you should pay attention to the time of day when you feel most tired and plan to get your body moving through exercise or a walk in the fresh air to temporarily counter exhaustion. And finally, adopt a nocturnal ritual without a screen. Put the phone away and turn off the TV, and grab a book, do your skincare routine, journal, or listen to some soft music before grabbing those much-needed Zs.
The Phils may have lost and we could all be in denial or crying for the foreseeable future, but something we don’t need to carry with us much longer is our exhaustion. Now go to bed, sleeping heads!