The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep - Arianna Huffington via… Click To Tweet
How to Sleep More + 5 Tips
Do you remember a time when you got a really good night’s rest? No alarm clock needed? It’s glorious. And it should happen all the time. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of it. Is it because we’ve forgotten how to sleep? It’s estimated that 35.3% 1 of Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep per night. And that’s a huge bummer.
Sleeping doesn’t seem productive. What are you really doing?? But it’s important to your success and well-being. So what is sleep and why is it important? And given its importance, how do we get more of it?
WHAT IS SLEEP?
There are two main components to sleep 2: non-Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which has four stages, and REM sleep.
Stage one: right before falling asleep or light sleep
Stage two: disengaging from your surroundings, body temperature drops, and this the beginning of sleep
Stage three and four: your blood pressure drops by up to 30%, breathing slows, muscles relax, and there’s an increase in blood supply to your muscles
Your dreams occur in REM sleep. The first instance of REM happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The cycle repeats every 90 minutes and on a typical night, you can have about 4 -5 non-REM and REM cycles. Neat, huh?
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
The Center for Disease Control analyzed data from 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This data of over 10,000 respondents found that adults who slept less than 7 hours a night reported greater difficulty concentrating, remembering things, working on hobbies, driving, taking care of finances, and work. 3 They also reported much greater amounts of irritability and fatigue. What this tells me is that there’s a whole lot of angry people out there in the world…super.
A full night’s sleep, which is 7 – 9 hours for adults is a natural mood booster. Your brain forms new pathways when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake, you’ll feel more attentive and creative. Plus, getting enough sleep helps your body heal, prevents weight gain, and diabetes. 4
When you’re sleeping, your pituitary gland releases a growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth and repair. Beauty sleep is real. It’s science.
Your body also balances two hormones: ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (the full hormone). Less sleep increases ghrelin, your hunger hormone, causing you to eat more.
Insulin controls your blood sugar level and is also regulated during sleep. Not getting enough sleep increases your blood sugar level, thereby raising your diabetes risk.
HOW TO SLEEP: Catching Up on Sleep
Is it possible to catch up on sleep? Yes…yes, it is!
Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, regional medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers provides us with the following formula.5
If you missed less than 10 hours of sleep over your week, add 3-4 extra hours on the weekend and another 1-2 hours over the next week
If you missed more than 10 hours of sleep, plan a vacation with a light schedule and just sleep. No alarm clock. But take note of when you wake up naturally.
Once you’re all caught up, and want to avoid going into sleep debt, create routine (even on weekends) that works for you.
HOW TO SLEEP: Finding Your Optimal Number of Sleep Hours
Now that you’ve caught up on sleep. (Yay.) How much sleep do you really need? Sleep doctors say the average adult needs 7-9 hours, but how do you know where you fall within that optimal range?
Fortunately, there’s a way to find out. According to sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus’s calculations:
Your average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long and typically includes 5 full sleep cycles.
Step 1: 90 x 5 = 450 minutes, or 7.5 hours
Step 2: Starting at your wake up time, work back 7.5 hours to find your bedtime
Goal: to wake 5-10 minutes before your alarm. But, if you’re waking up earlier than your alarm, shift your bedtime a little later. And, if you’re sleeping through your alarm, you need to shift your bedtime earlier. Do so in 15-minute increments until you’re waking naturally just before your alarm.
HOW TO SLEEP: 5 Sleep Tips
- The most important tip is to schedule your bedtime and create a routine.
- Getting yourself ready for bedtime starts way early in the day. As in, that cup of coffee you had 4 hours before bed? That can make falling asleep harder. And, habitually drinking alcoholic beverages to help you fall asleep? That affects your sleep quality.
- An hour before bedtime, step away from your electronic devices and dim the lights. Our bodies are sensitive to light with short wavelengths, and the blue light given off of our electronic devices and light bulbs delay melatonin (which helps us fall asleep) release. Read more about the effects of blue light here.
- Turn down the thermostat (or crank the A/C) to maintain a bedroom temperature of about 60-65 degrees.
- Make your room as dark as possible. A cave, really. Blackout curtains, sleep mask, bring on the darkness. 6
HOW TO SLEEP: Useful Software
f.lux, a downloadable software program that slowly adjusts your computer’s blue light the closer it gets to your bedtime.
sleepyti.me, a calculator that helps you decide when you need to fall asleep in order to wake up in-between sleep cycles. Waking up during non-REM stage one light sleep is easier than during REM.
A good night’s sleep is one of the most productive things you can do for your mood, health, and well-being. Have you recently changed your sleep habits? What worked for you? I’d love to hear your sleep tips in the comments below.
- The State of Sleep Deprivation in America, National Geographic ↩
- What Happens When You Sleep?, National Sleep Foundation ↩
- Unhealthy Sleep-Related Behaviors – 12 States, 2009, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ↩
- Why is Sleep Important? National Heart, Lunch, and Blood Institute ↩
- Repaying Your Sleep Debt, Harvard Medical School ↩
- A Great Night’s Sleep Can Depend on the Visual Conditions in Your Bedroom Environment, National Sleep Foundation ↩