Too Sleepy To Function? Hack Your Body's Sleep Cycles And Wake Up Feeling Refreshed
You've been there. You sleep extra early (that is, before midnight) but when you wake up, you feel like you've been awake for at least 36 hours doing computational physics while running a marathon.
You hit the 8 to 10-hour sleep target for adults of your age, but you still feel beat. What could you be doing wrong?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the quality of sleep isn't only affected by how much of it you get, but also when you go to bed and what time you wake up. In short, timing matters, too. Take the time to understand the relatively simple science behind it: it all has to do with your body's stages of sleep.
The stages of sleep start off with you entering light sleep (when you're still easily woken up by creaking floorboards or a closing door), followed by deeper sleep (when it takes a good nudge to get you to open your eyes), then REM sleep (when you begin to dream). Just like your circadian rhythm, your body goes through this three-step cycle at regular intervals that last for an estimate of 90 minutes. It is recommended that adults complete five to six sleep cycles to feel their best the next day.
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Additionally, non-REM sleep is the most crucial phase as this is when your body repairs itself, allowing you to get the most rest. Waking up during your dreaming phase, however, is what makes you feel groggy, disoriented, and quite frankly, a little cranky.
So now that you know this, what can you do to make sure that you wake up at an optimum time to feel absolutely refreshed in the morning?
It's easy: Try using a sleep calculator.
A sleep calculator essentially asks you to set an alarm for the time you want to get up. It then tells you what time you should be in bed and sound asleep. Overall, it helps you time your sleep to make the most of your 90-minute sleep cycles so you don't wake up on the wrong side of the bed or in this case, during the wrong phase of your sleep cycle. It's a pretty nifty online tool for the person with an erratic schedule and irregular workdays!
Be informed though that the sleep calculator, like many health apps and tools, is imperfect. It's meant to be a guide rather than the ultimate rule-maker.
Following the logic of sleep cycle "hacking," you must also consider that you can't possibly expect to feel great when you sleep at 2 in the morning and wake up for work at 6 a.m. It is still highly recommended that you sleep early (that is, before midnight) as often as you can as your body naturally wants to rest the moment the sky gets pitch black.
And as we all know, stressors, diet, hormonal changes, and the amount of exercise we get all play a part in how well we sleep. The sleep calculator cannot control these factors. At the end of the day, you still have to help the tool help you to take advantage of its benefits!
Always remember that sleep is a crucial, yet often abused, contributor to our overall health. With or without a sleep calculator, never miss out on getting sleep!