Our bodies require sleep in order to maintain proper function and health. In fact, we are programmed to sleep each night as a means of restoring our bodies and minds.
But do we really need 7-8 hours a night?
Research has found that only a tiny percentage of people (under 5%) have been found to function adequately on under 6 hours a sleep a night, everyone else needs 7-8.5 hours a night of sleep.
However, it is not about how long you sleep for necessarily, but at what time you fall asleep. And this is all down to your sleep cycles.
Sleep cycles, on average, last around 90mins. If you are awoken during your deep sleep stage, right in the middle of your sleep cycle, you wake up feeling unrested, irritable and tired – sound familiar?
If you are awoken between each sleep cycle, during our lightest sleep stage, you feel like you have awoken naturally and feel more rested and calm, ready to face the day.
So, how does this work? The average person takes around 14 minutes to fall asleep and will need around 5 or 6 sleep cycles per night.
Mary* has her alarm set for 7am each morning, to get up for work. In order to get the best sleep possible, Mary will need to be in bed, lights out, by 9.46pm. Mary would naturally fall asleep by 10pm and have 6 full sleep cycles before her alarm awakes her.
If 9.46pm is too early or not convenient for Mary, she does have other bedtime options: 11.16pm, 12.46pm or 2.16am.
Give it a try and see if you wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed each morning!
Here are some more tricks to help you fall asleep naturally:
- Turn off phones, TV’s, tablets, etc a minimum of 1hr prior to bedtime. Research has shown that the ‘blue light’ that comes from these devices alerts signals in the brain to keep us awake – not what you want as you’re trying to sleep!
- And what are you supposed to do in the 1hr before bed?!
- Read a book
- Read a magazine or catch up with the newspaper
- Have a bath
- Get into a routine. We humans LOVE a routine (whether we admit it or not!). As babies, it was always bath, bottle, bed – and how well did we sleep? – like a baby!
By Liz Robertson, Fitness Instructor