Getting sufficient sleep duration is certainly important for protecting your physical and mental health with current research from the National Sleep Foundation recommending 6-10 hours for adults, but its not the only factor we need to mindful of to feel our best.
What’s happening during those hours in bed is critical too and whether you feel adequately refreshed to take on the next day.
Transitioning through sequential sleep cycles across the night and spending enough time in each of the four distinct sleep stages is the key to achieving top notch slumber. Each sleep stage within your sleep
Scientists believe the most important sleep stage for restorative sleep is deep sleep or ‘slow-wave’ sleep, which accounts for around 13-23% of your total sleep and dominates the first part of the night.
As you progress through your sleep cycles (adults typically average 4-6 cycles a night), the amount of deep sleep reduces and you spend more time in lighter sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) or ‘dreaming’ sleep. REM sleep is believed to be essential for cognitive functions, such as memory and learning, making up roughly one quarter of your total sleep.
1. Regulate your wake up time as much as you can and boost your morning dose of daylight
Waking at a regular time week to weekend and with a good sunlight trigger optimises your circadian clock and helps you fall asleep faster the next night. In the darker winter months, a sunrise alarm clock can be a useful sleep aid.
2. Don’t go by the clock at bedtime
Before getting into bed, wait until you’re experiencing more than one drowsy cue, such as yawning, your eyelids getting droopy, your body feeling heavy or losing the focus to read, watch something or hold a conversation.
These internal cues indicate that your sleep pressure is reaching a peak and you’ve had enough hours awake in the day to build appetite to fall asleep without effort. More sleep pressure also deepens sleep and reduces night waking.
3. Leave your phone out of the bedroom
Screens emit blue light, which may program your brain for a daytime level of alertness but this isn’t the only problem for your sleep.
Smart phones are addictive and keep you wired, engaged and connected late into the evening displacing sleep time. The longer the use, the higher risk of poor sleep quality. A recent study found that just 30 mins of use in bed doubled the risk.
4. Nap sparingly
Occasional early afternoon power naps of 10-30 mins can be great for a little cognitive boost but you only need so much sleep over 24 hours, so avoid napping if this worsens your sleep the next night.
5. Limit alcohol
You may fall into deep sleep very quickly after drinking because alcohol is a sedative, but as your night progresses and it wears off, this creates an imbalance between deep and REM sleep resulting in poor quality, restless sleep.
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